CSU students seek answers to managerial salary raises

Sean Keister

Students and the administration have varying opinions on the issues of managerial salaries under increased tension due to the debate over managerial salaries at Sacramento State.

It was April 14 when students assembled in Sacramento Hall to address Sac State President Alexander Gonzalez about their concerns. They came in with a list of three demands and asked for his input on the three issues.

The first of the students’ demands for Gonzalez was a moratorium on managerial raises and salaries. They insisted that funding should be focused on instruction and student services.

Gonzalez responded in a press release to the students demands.

“I only have control over raises at Sacramento State, and even then, our campus must still abide by collective bargaining agreements negotiated between the California State University system as a whole, and bargaining units for faculty and staff,” Gonzalez said in a press release. “Additionally, compensation for campus presidents is set by the CSU Board of Trustees.”

He said he will bring up this issue the next time he is in Long Beach to meet with CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and the board.

Senior sociology major Amanda Mooers was one of the organizers of the protest. She said the reason they were protesting managerial salaries was because in 2009-10, the CSU spent a total of $6.7 million in raises to administration and managerial positions.

“As students receiving that information, we felt that the budget crisis is at the worse that it’s ever been and it was a poor decision to give raises at that time,” Mooers said. “So we felt that it was important for our administration to make it clear that that kind of decision wouldn’t be made again.”

Gonzalez said in his press release over the past three fiscal years, 19 managers received salary increases at Sac State. Ten of the positions are reimbursed or were not paid for with student fees or the state general fund.

He said there were four reclassifications when deciding when to distribute raises. They were only granted in recognition of significant changes in job assignments, promotions to higher levels in the management plan, to help alleviate salary equity issues, or in order to recognize assumption of additional duties due to reorganizations for efficiency and reassignment of duties.

Senior biology major Khoa Nguyen thinks if anyone should get a raise it should be teachers.

“Faculty should be the ones getting paid, not the administration,” Nguyen said. “I’m sure what they do is important, but we’re facing a half a billion dollar cut.”

Lori Varlotta, vice president of Student Affairs, said staff raises, like faculty raises, are prescribed by collective bargaining agreements negotiated between labor unions and the CSU chancellor’s office.

Varlotta said Gonzalez would not provide any general salary increases at the managerial level unless specifically authorized by the Board of Trustees.

She said the administration and everyone involved feels the same way as the students.

“We’re all in this together; nobody in the CSU – faculty, staff, students, administrators – wants the state to cut its support to higher education,” Varlotta said. “Many of us here at Sacramento State, including the president, have worked hard to ensure that the Legislature and the public at large have a clear understanding of the public good that we provide as an institution.”

She said if the cuts go beyond what Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing, the results would be crushing.

“The proposed $500 million cut to the CSU is scary enough,” Varlotta said. “If this cut goes deeper to a billion dollars as some are projecting, it will be downright devastating to everyone involved in the CSU system. Such a cut would bring state funding back to 1996 levels, at a time when the system is educating about 100,000 more students. To me, that’s the real issue – and it’s a sad one.”

Varlotta said it might surprise students to learn that the proposed $1 billion cut would amount to 35 percent of what the CSU now receives from the state – a cut that she said would be simply devastating.

“I think it’s important to note that the demands presented during the demonstration may not reflect the demands that are most commonly on students’ minds,” Varlotta said. “I’ve spoken to many students who view the major issue at hand to be one that focuses on that giant threat of a $1 billion cut.”

She hopes any cuts end up being no more than the already high amount in the governor’s proposal.

“Under that scenario, we would face a $500 million cut,” Varlotta said. “In this case, the plan is to try and weather that reduction without further increases in student fees or drastic cuts in enrollment.”

Gonzalez said the administration has been extremely frugal with increases that do fall under campus control.

“All Sacramento State administrators, including me, took reductions under last year’s furloughs like faculty and staff, except for some public safety and health employees. This amounted to about a 9.2 percent salary reduction.”

Sac State spokeswoman Kim Nava said students’ concerns of the salaries of the administration might be too much, considering it would do little to help budget cuts.

“The deep budget cut issue is a complex one, and no one single solution can solve it,” Nava said. “A moratorium on managerial raises wouldn’t begin to cover the drastic cuts the system is facing.”

She said managerial salary adjustments are much lower versus faculty salary adjustment.

Nava said over the past three years, salary adjustments for managerial salary increases and reclassifications came to a total of $159,512, with 19 managers receiving an increase in salary.

Of that amount, $60,720 was reimbursed or paid from non-General Fund sources, meaning no state funds or tuition fees were used.

Gonzalez said during the same three year period, managers were awarded $38,300 in bonuses, and of that amount, $22,000 was paid from non-General Fund sources.

Nava compared this to faculty adjustments over the past three years, where she said 210 members of the faculty received promotions and salary increases at a total cost of $1,087,179. She said in addition to that, 215 full-time professors received a total of $622,970 for post-promotion increases, and 196 members of the faculty received negotiated salary equity increases.

Gonzalez said the demand unfairly punishes the managers by denying them benefits others on staff receive.

“The demand imposes unrealistic restrictions on only one group of employees – managers,” Gonzalez said. “It would deprive them of the same opportunities for promotion or reclassification or salary adjustments that remain available for faculty and staff.”

Nava confirmed this, saying managers would not have the same opportunities afforded to faculty and staff.

Calvin Rusch, junior government-journalism major, said he understands the administration’s point of view, but does not think raises should be considered under the current budget crisis.

“I think within the CSU institution, to be cutting aspect revenue or funding, increasing the expenditures, you have to really look at the value of the service you’re providing,” Rusch said. “Yes, definitely they do have a roll in what they are doing but their raises are coming at the expense of what could be maintained as a quality of education.”

Nava said it might surprise students to learn that the university’s prudent planning over the last few years has left Sac State in good shape to deal with the next round of cuts.

“We didn’t commit the current year’s budget restoration to permanent spending, so future cuts won’t be as large,” Nava said. “We have managed our enrollment effectively, so we are not too big or too small, and we kept many positions vacant, and moved others to non-state-funded sources.”

Nava said the university has set up a committed group of experienced individuals from across the campus called the University Budget Advisory Committee. It is composed of faculty, staff and student representatives and works on solving problems such as avoiding cuts across the board, improving graduation rates and taking a strategic approach to reduction, with the idea in mind that the current budget challenges will likely be in play for the next two to three years.

“The point still stands that no single solution can solve the budget problem,” Nava said.

Rusch said if any administration raises were given it would not make sense to him given the grave budget situation.

“Why should they continue to be given increases when everything else in the school system is being degraded,” Rusch said. “In some sense financially, and in California as a whole, families are getting less money, and there are state services being cut. I think a sharing of the burden of the economic downturn is a smarter option versus giving select people an immunity of the recession.”

Mooers said students have to start holding executives accountable for the things they say they will do.

“It’s past the point where we can just assume our executives are making the best decisions,” she said. “We have to be at the forefront of that decision making process, so that we can make sure those decisions are made in a way that benefits us all, not just one group.”