Regents pass exec pay raises

    The UC Board of Regents approved what it called “modest” annual merit increases for senior management officials on Nov. 19, despite questions of unreported cash compensation given to top executives raised by recent articles in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Payroll records obtained by the Chronicle show forms of compensation aside from salary totaling $871 million in bonuses, relocation packages and various other forms of cash payments over the past year. The figures had not been previously disclosed to the public. The bulk of the last year’s extra compensation, roughly $599 million, went to more than 8,500 employees who each received at least $20,000 over their regular salaries, and the amount was more than enough to cover the near 79-percent hike in student fees over the past five years.

    UC Students Association President Anu Joshi said it was possible that the lack of transparency was intentional.

    “I think that [the Board of Regents] knows that California families are struggling because the UC isn’t affordable,” she said. “So they do not want to disclose that they are increasing salaries of the top executives.”

    Joshi also said that she did not think that students would be bothered by the pay hikes as long as they did not come at the expense of higher student fees. UC President Robert C. Dynes justified the salary increases of about 2.5 percent as necessary to maintain the quality of the university.

    “UC must be able to offer competitive compensation packages in order to recruit and retain the caliber of talent we need to keep UC and its contributions to society strong,” he stated in a press release. “While compensation or benefits for certain employees may look high or inappropriate to some, they reflect very real marketplace demands and still continue to lag the market in many instances.”

    Some of the compensation figures are reflective of one-time payments and do not necessarily suggest ongoing compensation, the release stated. However, the university should have a certain degree of transparency when it comes to salary levels, according to Dynes.

    “While the Chronicle omitted or mischaracterized some important facts, the stories also point out the need for us to consider whether we need to improve some of our public disclosure policies and internal practices,” Dynes stated in a letter to UC students.

    Robert Weinreb, a professor in the UCSD department of ophthalmology, was ninth in a UC ranking of highest paid employees, according to a new UC Web site that tracks employee compensations. State funding provides a portion of Weinreb’s salary, while awards in the form of contracts, grants and professional fees pay for the rest of his salary.

    A study on UC compensation, conducted by Mercer Consulting, found that current UC employee cash compensation is 15 percent below the comparative market level. However, the study did not take into account the one-time unreported payments disclosed by the Chronicle.

    On the basis of the study, the regents also approved a university objective of bringing all employees’ compensation to a market-competitive range within 10 years. UC employees this year are receiving average 3.5-percent salary increases, in addition to a proposed 4-percent average increase for 2006-07. The regents postponed the third component of the plan, which would have used private funds to supplement executive salaries.

    While Mercer’s study used other “market-competitive” universities for comparison, many were well-funded private campuses on the East Coast, such as Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Yale and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A few of the public universities included in the study were University of Texas, University of Illinois, Urbana and University of Michigan, all of which admit more international students than compared to the University of California and thus collect more revenue.

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