A new committee of California State University’s governing board said Monday that it will consider such options as a state-funded salary cap in response to recent criticism of the hiring and compensation of campus presidents.
“It wouldn’t preclude the system from alternatives such as foundation funding and grants to supplement compensation,” said Cal State Trustee Steven Glazer, a member of the panel. “There are pros and cons of establishing a maximum ceiling but it would allow us to report to our big bosses — the taxpayers — that only a certain amount would be provided from state coffers.”
The committee also said it would look at tying salary to performance, essentially a merit system that would reward presidents for meeting or exceeding goals in such areas as graduation rates and fundraising.
The hearing in Long Beach of the trustees’ special committee on presidential selection and compensation drew little attendance and no public comment. But trustees acknowledged the intense scrutiny brought about by recent salary decisions.
At its July meeting, the board approved an annual salary of $400,000 for Elliot Hirshman, the new president of San Diego State, at the same time it increased annual student tuition by 12%. Hirshman’s salary, $350,000 from the state with an annual supplement of $50,000 from the campus foundation, is $100,000 more than his predecessor’s.
The actions drew a scathing rebuke from lawmakers — several of whom are drafting legislation to enforce stricter compensation policies for Cal State — as well as from Gov. Jerry Brown, who criticized university leaders for recruiting highly paid, outside candidates.
Committee members addressed the latter point, saying that they will seek ways to groom current campus executives for the top jobs and facilitate their candidacies. In a presentation, Chancellor Charles B. Reed said that nine of the 23 current presidents had been promoted from within the system.
But Reed also told the committee that Cal State needs “to amend or have alternatives to our recruitment and selection process if we are going to grow more of our own.”
Committee Chairman Lou Monville said trustees recognize California’s tough fiscal condition; the recently approved state budget slashed funding for the California State University and University of California systems by $650 million each, with additional reductions possible.
“We’re very sensitive to concerns raised by the governor and Legislature to issues of compensation, but we’re also sensitive to making sure we bring in the best and brightest,” Monville said during a break in the meeting.
But Kim Geron, a political science professor at Cal State East Bay, said the trustees were tone deaf.
“They don’t seem to be addressing what the real concern is about,” Geron said. “The point is, these are public servants and why should they be making more than the chief justice of the United States?”
The committee is scheduled to meet at the chancellor’s office in Long Beach on Aug. 24.