SACRAMENTO – This week State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson called for a freeze on executive compensation when hiring for five open California State University (CSU) campus president positions.
Torlakson – an ex officio trustee of CSU – released the following letter addressed to CSU Chancellor Dr. Charles B. Reed and Chair of the Board of Trustees A. Robert Linscheid, with copies sent to the entire Board of Trustees.
Dear Chair Linscheid and Chancellor Reed:
At a time when virtually every Californian is being called on to make economic sacrifices, I feel compelled to express my opposition to your recent decisions to approve the maximum allowable pay increases for the incoming presidents of California State University (CSU) campuses at Fullerton and East Bay.
As I understand it, the executive compensation policy adopted recently by this board states that incoming campus presidents are to receive no more than a 10 percent increase above the pay level of the predecessor. This policy was designed to create a ceiling for compensation during a time of crisis. Instead, it appears that it is also being used as a floor.
We cannot make these decisions in a vacuum, unaware of the challenges facing our state. We must be ever mindful of the financial emergency at every level of California’s educational system. Our K-12 schools have seen cuts of nearly $22 billion over the last four years. Tens of thousands of teachers and school employees have been laid off, and many more are at risk over the next few months. Our nationally recognized early learning programs have been cut deeply, and are in jeopardy of being dismantled entirely.
As Trustees, we know that state support for higher education has been sharply reduced over the last few years, including the $750 million reduction in CSU’s 2011-2012 budget. With $200 million in additional cuts proposed should the Governor’s November initiative fail at the polls, we face the very real potential of a 35 percent reduction in state funding to the CSU in just 18 months’ time.
Unfortunately, students and their families have borne the brunt of these reductions, with tuition fees rising more than 300 percent in the last decade. In addition, Trustees are proposing to freeze spring 2013 enrollment, forcing as many as 16,000 students to delay their dreams of a CSU education.
With the system expected to face campus president searches for at least five additional campuses (San Bernardino, California Maritime, San Francisco, Stanislaus, and Monterey Bay), it is essential that we demonstrate careful and thoughtful stewardship of the system’s scarce resources and negotiate compensation packages accordingly. To do otherwise would be a disservice to students, faculty, university employees, and the taxpaying public.
I would add that the Trustees’ willingness to increase executive compensation is in stark conflict with the recently ratified collective bargaining agreement between the CSU and the CSU Employees Union, which provides no immediate salary increases for more than 15,000 classified staff members. If we have no resources to compensate those who are already hard at work providing for the daily operations of our campuses, how can we justify greater compensation for those who would lead them?
I urge my fellow Trustees to seriously consider the long-term fiscal consequences of executive compensation practices that are at odds not only with the state’s fiscal condition, but with those of the students and families we serve.
As an important first step, I propose placing an immediate freeze on any increase in executive compensation. Specifically, I suggest that the five open campus president positions be filled with candidates willing to accept the base pay of their predecessors, with no increase for a specified minimum period of time.
The students we serve and the public that supports our system enjoy no immunity from the consequences of the Great Recession, which has left millions without work and millions more working harder for less. Why should those we select to lead our campuses be any different?
The CSU Board of Trustees is expected to take up the issue on May 9 and the agenda is expected to be posted in the coming weeks on the Board of Trustees' Web page, http://www.calstate.edu/bot/agendas/ .