An Injustice to Fix an ‘Injustice’

873

“I’ll keep being the best advocate I can for the UC,” UC President Janet Napolitano promised in her most recent newsletter on Sept. 24 — published just five days after the UC Regents awarded 20 percent pay increases for the three lowest-paid chancellors. UC Regent Russell Gould said the raises were passed to “correct injustices,” but this action is a greater injustice to the students these chancellors serve.

As the lowest-paid chancellor in the UC system, UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal’s salary was raised to $383,160 from $319,300. Over $60,000 will be awarded to Chancellor Blumenthal, not as an incentive to do more work or take on more responsibilities. Another UC Regent, Bonnie Reiss, said the “Board of Regents feels it’s still not enough” and said the raises will continue.

But when asked why this decision was made now, UC President Napolitano expressed “there is never a good time” to take money out of the UC budget for pay increases.

Why now, when money is needed more than ever — for AFSCME, for financial aid, for more classes, for advising and for resources students who are studying at a UC deserve. While AFSCME workers strike for fair wages and TAs for manageable class sizes, the UC is prioritizing chancellors’ pay over more critical issues.

In the newsletter, UC President  Napolitano said, “These committed public servants — gardeners, cooks, custodians, administrative assistants and policy analysts to name just a few – are essential to the smooth functioning of the University. Their work may not be glamorous, but without it our shared efforts to carry out the UC’s missions of teaching, conducting research and serving the public would falter.”

UC President Napolitano calls UC staff “public servants,” and that staff includes UC chancellors. As public servants in the UC system, more than anyone the chancellors should not be after more money, but rather improving their respective campuses and looking for innovative solutions in the midst of a budget crisis. Instead of using the nearly $200,000 from the three chancellors’ raises to hire six or seven part-time staff, the UC Regents decided to tack it on to their already healthy salaries.

UC President Napolitano and the UC Regents justify the raises by emphasizing the importance of chancellor retention and competitive pay. We understand retaining UC chancellors is crucial to each campus moving forward, but that hasn’t been an ongoing problem at the UC — the average duration of a chancellor’s tenure is eight years. Chancellor Blumenthal and UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang, the two most underpaid, have served the UC for eight and 20 years, respectively.

UC Irvine’s previous chancellor, Michael Drake, is the UC’s main defense for the raises. After serving the UC for nine years, Drake recently took over as the chancellor at Ohio State University, where the base salary pay is the nation’s highest for a public university at $851,303 — nearly triple his pay at UCI. The UC Regents should not base their decision to spend $200,000 out of the UC’s tight budget on his departure, when that money could be funding students and their resources.

The UC Regents also argue that the 10 UC chancellors are paid lower than those at comparative universities. At a press conference with student newspapers from various UCs, UC President Napolitano said their salaries were more like that of “middle managers at a tech firm in San Francisco.” She said she will continue to support the increases until the chancellors’ salaries are “somewhere around the middle” in comparison to universities like the UC.

But as chancellors at a public university, it is expected they will not make a salary close to what they would make at a private company. The UC is not a money-making machine, rather a system to provide quality education to the public at a reasonable price.

The UC has never been an average public education system. It houses some of the most competitive and innovative public universities in the nation and its reputation as an educational powerhouse still strives despite budget woes and looming tuition hikes. Even under the leadership of historically underpaid chancellors, the UC has and will continue to improve. These raises are not, as the UC claims, helping our situation in a time when the money is needed for more imminent problems on campus.

The UC chancellors have a responsibility to do whatever it takes to better their campus and their students, but the regents need to remain accountable for that mission. They are there to serve the students first and foremost, not themselves and not the chancellors.

UC President Napolitano said she is “UC’s No. 1 advocate,” but the decision to use dwindling UC funds to boost the highest-paid executives is not in students’ best interest.

If UC President Napolitano really thinks “there’s never a good time to do it,” then why do it at all?