A state audit released Thursday found that California State University has been hiring managers and providing them raises at a rate that "significantly outpaced" other employees.
It also raised concerns about budget oversight at the largest public university system in the nation.
The audit, titled "California State University: Stronger Oversight is Needed for Hiring and Compensating Management Personnel and for Monitoring Campus Budgets," specifically found that between fiscal years 2007-08 and 2015-16, the number of full-time equivalent "management personnel" — which includes administrators, supervisors and other professional staff — grew by 15%. Over the same period, the number of faculty rose by 7%, while non-faculty support staff rose 6%.
The audit found that the six campuses it reviewed could not justify the growth in new management personnel. One campus, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, increased pay for at least 70 management personnel in 2016 who either had outdated performance evaluations or no evaluations on file.
Most of the campuses reviewed also could not demonstrate that they were adequately monitoring their budgets, the audit found.
"Although we did not identify instances of a campus exceeding its budget, when campuses do not have written budget monitoring policies and processes and do not document their periodic budget reviews, they reduce assurance that they spend state funding efficiently and appropriately, and they unnecessarily increase the risk that they may overspend their budgets," State Auditor Elaine M. Howle wrote in a public letter addressed to the governor and state Assembly and Senate leaders.
In his response to the audit, Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White noted that the report did not mention other groups — such as academic student employees, and academic and healthcare support — that grew more than management personnel.
White also noted that management personnel is a very broad label that encompasses a wide range of employees — many of whom provide direct support to students to help increase graduation rates.
"Lastly," he noted, "it is important to recognize that CSU's management staffing levels and administrative costs are much lower than other similar higher education institutions both within California and nationally."
Some faculty and employees were troubled by the findings of the audit, which was pushed by the Cal State employees union and requested last year by Assemblywoman Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego). Weber said in a statement that she wanted the audit "because there is evidence of a huge growth in middle management and increase in executive compensation."
"I have serious concerns about whether these personnel expenditures are justified through improved instruction and services for students," said the lawmaker, who was a faculty member and department chair for almost 40 years at San Diego State University.
Those concerns were echoed by Lillian Taiz, a recently retired Cal State L.A. history professor and the political action chairwoman for the union representing the 23-campus system's faculty. Taiz noted the system's budget woes, which prompted the Board of Trustees last month to step up calls for more state funding and make the controversial decision to increase tuition after a six-year freeze.
"We're all here fighting for more resources for the CSU, and there's an obligation to account for them appropriately and to use them appropriately," Taiz said. "And when something like this comes up, it's not good for any of us."
Cal State has vowed to double its four-year graduation rate from 19% to 40% by 2025, but it doesn't make sense to hire more managers "to come up with new initiatives and projects, when we're not even done doing projects from the last set of managers," Taiz said. "There's one method to graduate more students in four years: Hire more folks to teach the classes that they need. It's not rocket science. A whole bunch of additional managers is not going to solve that problem."
In an additional statement addressing these concerns, Cal State spokeswoman Toni Molle said that "hiring talented staff is central to the mission of the university."
"In addition to faculty," Molle said, "many other staff and administrators are involved in the development and implementation of programs and the delivery of services that support the success of CSU's 479,000 students."
The university, she said, "is committed to being responsible fiscal stewards of public funds, and we are pleased the state auditor confirmed campuses operate within budgeted resources… We will work with the state auditor to ensure that audit recommendations are implemented in a timely manner."
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