EDITORIAL: A betrayal of the true mission


Courtesy of The California State University

The California State University has announced it will not raise tuition for the 2018-2019 academic year.

There is a serious injustice when university executives are taking pay raises while students are struggling to pay rising tuition and thousands more are denied an education because of funding woes.

If the tuition increase passes, and students are asked to once again to shore up the deficit with their own money, the only decent course of action for the CSU executives would be to refuse their 2018 raises to show that they have some skin in the game.

It is an insult to all of the nearly 500,000 students in the CSU system for Chancellor Timothy White, the executives of the system and university presidents like Sacramento State’s Robert Nelsen to accept these raises while students already burdened with excessive costs will have to give more.

In addition to the financial burden placed on existing students, 31,400 applicants were denied entry into CSU schools last academic year. That equates to an entire Sacramento State’s worth of worthy students rejected because the system is ill equipped to take them.

This is, in no uncertain terms, a failure of the CSU’s own mission statement “to encourage and provide access to an excellent education to all who are prepared for and wish to participate in collegiate study.”

Yet despite failing their mission, the system’s leaders continue to reward themselves.

Chancellor White’s raise of 2.5 percent will bring his total base pay to $450,345, and Nelsen’s will bring his to $324,029. The average CSU executive will make $333,447.

The CSU’s justification for these high salaries continuing to get higher is just as ridiculous as the idea of raises are themselves.

“Much is expected of university presidents,” said Elizabeth Chapin, spokesperson for the CSU. “With thousands of students, hundreds of faculty and managing multimillion-dollar budgets, running a university is like running a small city.”

Does that explain why the mayor of New York City, who is tasked with running the largest city in America by population, makes just half of what Chancellor White will make at a paltry-by-comparison $225,000?

In fact, the mayor of San Francisco, the highest paid mayor in America, doesn’t even come close to White’s salary, clocking in at $297,387.

The CSU is full of justifications for executive and administrative pay levels, but was criticized last year in a state audit of the system that said the CSU overhires and overpays managers.

“As a small fraction of one percent of the CSU’s total budget, preoccupation with the compensation of the CSU’s leaders is misplaced,” Chapin said.

Yes, CSU executive compensation only makes up a small portion of the CSU’s overall budget. But what it does show is a dangerous misalignment of priorities and a thorough disregard for the hardships endured by students burdened with increasing tuition costs, as well as increased costs of class materials and outside expenses.

It shows that, during lean years, students are expected to bridge the funding gap, while those running the system — who have failed to prevent the funding gap in the first place — continue to reward themselves with lavish salaries and benefits.

None of this is to say that these executives don’t care about students. President Nelsen has been extremely vocal in his support for disenfranchised communities since Donald Trump was elected president, and has received mainly support for his comments.

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Nonetheless, to make students pay more for their education while also voting to increase executive pay showed true contempt for the educational mission of the CSU.

But it’s not too late to refuse these raises, or even vote to abandon them. That would at least show good faith to nearly half a million students.

And yes, we want to be able to attract the best leadership for the CSU system. But what should attract the best leadership is a passion for education — not a half million dollar salary.

After all, compassion and dedication to the educational mission is what attracts our outstanding professors and other staff — who actually do deserve a raise.