New CSU president salary cap created by Trustees

Brett Johnson

California State University’s Board of Trustees adopted a policy limiting salaries paid to its newly hired presidents on Jan. 25, but some of Sacramento State’s faculty and students find the change to be too little, too late.

The approved policy will put a salary cap on new presidents of CSU campuses to 10 percent of their predecessors, with a maximum of $325,000. If the policy is still in effect when a new president is hired at Sac State, that president could only be paid $29,500 more than President Alexander Gonzalez’s $295,000 salary.

The CSU’s trustees, who were criticized for approving a $400,000 pay package for San Diego State University’s new President Elliot Hirshman last year, formed a subcommittee on presidential compensation. The subcommittee brought the policy to the full board, which unanimously approved it.

“The trustees acknowledged the current financial situation and wanted to place a limit on presidential pay,” said Erik Fallis, CSU spokesman. “This will allow us to move on to more important matters, such as the $750 million cut to base state funding of the CSU system.”

Legislation introduced by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, aimed to limit executive pay based on the amount of state funding the CSU was receiving. The bill also included compensation coming from auxiliary organizations or private sources, and the policy does not.

Another piece of legislation, introduced by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, required the CSU trustees’ decisions on executive pay be made in open session rather than behind closed doors. The salary cap recommended by Lieu’s bill also took into account auxiliary compensation.

Kevin Wehr, president of Sac State’s chapter of the California Faculty Association, said he believes putting a cap on the money campus presidents can receive from auxiliaries is a necessity.

“The policy the Board of Trustees adopted is definitely an attempt to inoculate against other legislation, which goes a lot further than this policy does,” Wehr said.

Hirshman receives an annual $50,000 supplement to his $350,000 salary from school auxiliaries. CSU presidents are also either provided with housing or paid an additional housing supplement, which can range from $50,000 to $60,000 annually.

“Most campus auxiliaries aren’t supplementing presidents, and it’s not like UC or private universities, where these organizations are paying tons of money,” Fallis said. “There’s always going to be the exception that a few presidents receive some pay through auxiliaries.”

Regardless of the trustees’ policy not including auxiliaries, Lieu, who was once a critic of the CSU’s stance on presidential compensation, has complimented the effort to make a change.

“These three changes are significant reforms that will help rationalize CSU executive compensation decisions,” Lieu said in a Jan. 25 press release. “I commend the Board of Trustees for moving in the right direction.”

Still, Wehr said the trustees have illustrated a skewed sense of priorities by addressing presidential salaries at this time.

“From excessive tuition increases taking its toll on students, to students not being able to enroll in classes they need to the faculty’s collective bargaining; there’s so much going on that’s so crucial to the future of the CSU,” Wehr said.

Fallis said the decision was set to be discussed during a meeting in Long Beach Nov. 16, but the meeting was cancelled due to “violent protesters” after the announced increase of tuition for CSUs for the 2012-13 academic year.

“This was the first time the board has been able to meet as a whole,” Fallis said. “It’s possible that if our building had not been vandalized that day the policy could have been adopted a lot sooner … Unfortunately, this issue has distracted us from other important things.”

Sac State student Jen Eden, first-year mechanical engineering graduate student, said policy changes such as this sidestep the real issue – the allocation of funding in the CSU system.

“You have 30 students on a waitlist for one class and there’s not enough funds to open up another classroom? That’s a problem,” Eden said. “The money used for these lavish presidential salaries should be going towards classes.”

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected].