The Cal State University trustees approved salary increases for three campus presidents on Tuesday.
Technically there’s a freeze on all executive compensation for Cal State’s 23 campuses because the system’s finances are in such bad shape, meaning that state money can’t go to raises for campus presidents. But, nevertheless, trustees approved a raise for three university presidents — drawing on money from independently-run foundations.
"So again, that’s not taxpayer funds," says Mike Uhlenkamp with the Cal State chancellor's office. "It’s private funds that [are] generated by the fundraising arm of their respective university."
Uhlenkamp says the university system wants to remain competitive in a national marketplace for talent "whether it’s for a president, a faculty member or a staff member."
"So we need to be able to recruit and retain the best and the brightest individuals," he said.
The presidents of Cal State Northridge and San Bernardino received the maximum 10 percent bump allowed under the system’s new pay policy, bringing their total pay up to $324,500 and $319,000. San Francisco State’s new president got a 9 percent boost, for a total of $325,000.
The Cal State system enacted its salary freeze and limits on foundation contributions in May, amid heated criticism by faculty and students who’ve seen regular tuition increases and fewer course offerings.
Yesenia Ramirez, a social work major at Cal State L.A., protested the raises outside the closed-door meeting.
"I have friends who are international students who are losing visas, who are losing financial aid," said Ramirez. "If we don’t have our 12 units, we lose our financial aid. And for the majority of us, people of color, low-income students, that’s the only thing we have."
After the vote Pat Gantt, president of the California State University Employees Union, called the decision "insensitive, rude, ill advised, and poorly timed." In a statement, he went on to add:
"It's insulting to employees, students, and the public to keep hiking presidential pay, no matter where the funds come from, at a time of ever more draconian cuts to services and hikes in tuition...Legislation is in the pipeline to curtail their ability to keep hiking executive salaries, and apparently that's the only way these tone-deaf adminstrators will finally get the message."
In November, the Cal State system faces another $250 million loss in state support if voters reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure to raise taxes for public education. That may result in more rounds of tuition hikes for students and cuts to faculty salaries and benefits.