Courtesy of SF Sentinel

Senator Yee (D-San Francisco) is aiming to stop pay hikes for top executives in the CSU and UC systems in years when tuition has been increased or state funding has dwindled. SB 967, introduced on Jan. 17, seeks to stop incoming executives from receiving significantly higher salaries than their predecessors, capped at 105 percent of their predecessor’s salary.

According to Adam Keigwin, chief of staff to Senator Yee, the content of SB 967 should be considered by the University of California regardless of whether the bill succeeds. As an autonomous entity, the University of California would not be forced to accept the provisions of the bill if it were passed. Instead, the state leaders could only request that the UC implement such an initiative on their own. If passed, however, SB 967 would be backed by the force of the law at CSU campuses. Last year, when the president of San Diego State was hired, he received a salary $100,000 higher than his predecessor, who was paid $300,000. This pay increase was made during the same year that the CSU Board of Trustees raised the fall tuition by 12 percent.

In July of 2011, the UC Board of Regents raised tuition by 9.6 percent on top of an 8 percent increase already approved for the fall quarter, while giving the head of the UCSF medical center a pay increase of nearly $200,000 (bringing his salary to $935,000 a year) and a retention bonus of a million dollars to be paid out over 4 years. These salary adjustments have been a source of fierce criticism among members of the UC community who have to face the consequences of dwindling resources and elevated costs.

“[Yee] waited until Governor Brown took office, and didn’t initially introduce it in hopes that CSU and UC Regents had learned their lesson and realize what they had done was wrong,” said Keigwin. “And then low and behold, last year they decided to do it again. Obviously, they don’t seem to get it and that’s why Senator Yee introduced the bill again this year.” Yee’s office remains optimistic that the bill will get Governor Brown’s signature should it make it to his desk.

Senator Yee introduced a similar version of this bill three years ago, although it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The bill had nonetheless garnered overwhelming bi-partisan support from the floor.
“I agree [with the bill]. There should be more policies like this to make it more of a public education system and less of a business. The students should have more of a say,” said recent UC Riverside graduate Lindsey Jefferson.

“I think they should include deans in the description, they’re executives. Is it UC’s job to maximize profit or are they just supposed to provide this public good?” asked Steven Levkoff, an economics professor at UC Riverside. “It’s their job to provide public education, but they should also be responsible for doing it in the most cost effective way. It’s the executive’s job to lobby the state for funding.”

As defined in the bill, “Executive officer” includes, but is not limited to, the chancellor of the California State University, a vice chancellor of the university, an executive vice chancellor of the university, the general counsel of the university, the trustees’ secretary and the president of an individual campus.
“I do think it’s a smart decision to cut top executive’s pay when they’re increasing our tuition,” stated Morgan Fujimoto, a second-year student at UC Riverside.

When asked if he supported the bill, third-year student Amir Ahmadi said, “Education is the most important thing in this country, but apparently, trying to make a profit and distributing money to other branches like military and government expenditures is more important. So my answer is hell yes!”