Recent UC Chancellor Pay Raises Are Excessive and Irresponsible

Just last week, the UC Board of Regents granted pay raises of as much as 20 percent to several UC chancellors. And in light of recent financial reports stating that the University of California lacks the budget to improve academic quality as well as important undergraduate and graduate student issues, it’s hard to find these hefty pay raises acceptable. Instead of significantly increasing the salaries of a few top-ranking executives, it would have benefited UC students more to see that money address faculty-to-student ratios, overcrowded campus housing, outdated technology, transportation subsidies, lower tuition and facility maintenance.

We’re not under the naive impression that UC chancellors will not or should never receive pay raises, but increasing six-figure salaries by 20 percent is extreme. Additionally, offering a starting salary of more than $90,000 above their predecessors’ to a brand-new chancellor, as in the case of UC Irvine, seems both excessive and desperate. UC President Janet Napolitano reasons that these exorbitant pay hikes are due to the fact that UC chancellors apparently have the lowest salaries among the 62 leading research universities in the Association of American Universities. However, in reality, UC chancellors’ base salaries trail by just 7 percent on average when compared only to the public universities on that same list.

There’s no arguing that high compensation packages can attract top administrators, but indulging in an escalating salary competition sets a dangerous precedent for our process of securing future campus leaders. The regents justify the pay hike for the chancellors at the Irvine, Merced, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Riverside campuses by citing the departure of the most immediate chancellor of UC Irvine Michael Drake last June. Drake had spent 30 years working within the UC system before accepting his new position as president of Ohio State University with a base salary of $851,303, over double his previous salary at UC Irvine. The UC system would be fooling itself to attempt to compete as we cannot afford to pay each chancellor such steep salaries at all 10 of our campuses. It would be impossible for the UC system to keep up in a salary race without taking a serious financial toll on its students, faculty and staff.

Even though the UC system may be competing for world-class administrators from public and private colleges with more funding or larger endowments, it’s clear that we have still found excellent administrators who have proven that they are motivated by more than pay. Our very own chancellor Pradeep Khosla took a $35,000 pay cut to come to UCSD and will now see a 4.8-percent increase in salary. This is still much less than the newly appointed UC Irvine chancellor and lower than the annual salary and additional compensation Khosla received in 2010 from Carnegie Mellon University. Additionally, during his time here, Khosla has shown notable fundraising efforts and successes in increasing the amounts of scholarships for first-generation college students.

The UC system is a public university system, and many of our campuses rank among the best in the country and the world. Our administrators’ salaries may not be the highest, but this does not mean our stellar programs and universities cannot draw the right leaders who believe in our system’s values.

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