About to Topple

One, UC President Mark G. Yudof said that next year, the UC system will face a $1-billion budget gap and will institute layoffs, course reductions and enrollment cuts of 20,000 to 30,000 over the next decade. Two, the board decided to dole out more than $4 million in incentive pay and raises to their very own executives.

Now, amidst protests over accessibility and the diminishing relevance of the University of California, is not the time for our highest-ranking employees to be getting raises.

So, how are these raises being funded? About $1.2 million, or 30 percent, is coming straight from taxpayer revenue, while the other 70 percent is coming from areas like medical center income and parking tickets. (So now, with our campus’s recent $15 hike in parking ticket costs, take pride in knowing that a portion of the revenue is helping to bloat a top-paid executive’s salary.)

The regents’ argument isn’t new: Despite the budget crisis, the UC system has to remain competitive in the educational job market. If the university were to lower salaries, the best and brightest applicants would start looking at other, better-paying prospects.

If the $4 million were going to keeping and recruiting qualified professors and faculty members, this board might be more supportive. But when the $4 million is primarily going toward raises for administrators like UC Berkeley’s new vice chancellor for administration and finance, and others who have negligible visible impact on the quality of our education, the raises are difficult to justify. It won’t matter if we have the best administrative talent on top if there aren’t qualified students and professors below them.

The purpose of the UC system is to provide as many qualified students as possible with the highest possible quality of education. It is the regents’ duty to uphold and continuously work toward this end. Offering raises of as much as $41,000 per year to over 1,500 UCSF employees and university executives for reaching a performance target represents an even further shift away from prioritizing student needs.

While $4 million is, in the end, a meager sum in light of the university’s $20-billion deficit, to offer a small group of our highest-paid executives raises in the name of “preemptive salary retention” is to symbolically de-prioritize both student needs as well as the needs of other important — but sometimes less noticed — employees.

According to Lakesha Harrison, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (a union that represents UC employees that make less than $40,000 a year), even a three- to four-percent salary increase wouldn’t mean much for low-income employees in light of a large increase in health care costs and a requirement that they fund pensions will be taken out of their paycheck.

UC employees like custodians and groundskeepers are being slammed with higher costs that outweigh benefits, while the chief financial officer of the hospital system at UCLA are receiving a raises from $380,000 to $420,000 a year.

In any case, the message following last week’s announcement of the raises is clear: The regents are more concerned with appeasing their administrative staff than ensuring quality, accessible undergraduate education.