New CSU presidents to get max pay increases

After CSU trustees approved a large pay increase for the new San Diego State University president last summer on the same day that they raised student tuition, the university system faced a chorus of criticism from legislators, the media and the public. Trustees approved a base salary for SDSU President Elliot Hirshman of $400,000, including $50,000 from the university foundation. That's $100,000 more than his predecessor's salary.

In response, the CSU trustees in January approved a new executive compensation policy [PDF] that limits new presidents' base pay to no more than 10 percent above their predecessors.

In a pay package [PDF] slated for review at this week's Board of Trustees meeting, newly appointed CSU Fullerton President Mildred Garcia will get $324,500 in base pay, plus housing and a $12,000-per-year car allowance. That's exactly 10 percent more than her predecessor, Milton Gordon, who in 2011 had a base salary of $295,000.

It's also 10 percent more than Garcia earned in base pay at her previous post as president of CSU Dominguez Hills, according to CSU's executive compensation summary [PDF].

Leroy Morishita, the new president at CSU East Bay, will get $303,660 plus $60,000 per year for housing and a $12,000 annual car allowance. That's 10 percent above predecessor Mohammad Qayoumi's base pay in 2010, as well as a 10 percent raise for Morishita, who had been serving as interim president in Qayoumi's stead since July.

"I don't think we are surprised, but to suggest that their new process is going to keep a lid on executive salaries -- we can see already it's simply not the case," said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, the union representing 23,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches who teach in the CSU system.

"Anytime the California State University says executives can get a raise up to but not to exceed 10 percent, you know how much they're getting," Taiz said. "They're going to max out."

CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said the university needs to compensate Garcia and Morishita for the increased responsibilities they have. CSU Fullerton, where Garcia is taking the reins, has more than double the enrollment of CSU Dominguez Hills, for example.

He said questioning executive pay increases in light of rising student tuition was an apples-and-oranges argument. "It's such a small part of our budget; it's more symbolic than anything," he said.

But Taiz questioned that reasoning.

"I would think it would also be symbolic to say, 'These are hard times, we are not giving our folks in the trenches anything, so we're not giving you anything,' " she said.

Several lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at further reining in executive compensation at CSU and other state agencies. Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, introduced SB 967, which would prohibit the governing boards of CSU and the community colleges from providing raises for top executives during bad budget years or within two years of a student fee increase. It also would limit the pay of an incoming executive to no more than 5 percent above his or her predecessor. AB 1787, by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, would freeze compensation for public employees making more than $100,000.

The CSU Board of Trustees meets today and tomorrow [PDF] in Long Beach.

Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

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