Raising concerns for Dirks

CAMPUS ISSUES: UC Berkeley chancellor-designate Nicholas Dirks should not have been given a pay increase above his predecessor’s salary.

The UC Board of Regents has forced UC Berkeley’s next chancellor into an awkward position.

Earlier this week, the regents inappropriately awarded Nicholas Dirks, who will replace Robert Birgeneau as chancellor in June, a $50,000 pay increase above his predecessor’s salary. While the extra funding for Dirks’ pay will not be drawn from public funds, university officials say, the salary boost nonetheless makes a statement that he is somehow exempt from the cutbacks seen elsewhere in the university.

Officials also pointed out that UC executive compensation is significantly lower than at other universities, and while a desire to compete on that front is understandable, it does not justify paying Dirks more in this instance. There are many other important reasons why Dirks would want to lead a public campus — compensation should not be a deciding factor.

And despite any well-intentioned reasons to pay the next chancellor more than the current one, students, faculty and staff members at UC Berkeley will inevitably be skeptical, if not upset, over the regents’ decision. This could, in turn, make it difficult for Dirks to be an effective chancellor once he starts because some students, faculty and staff members will already view him in a negative light. He has a significant amount of difficult work ahead, including guiding the campus through an ongoing period of fiscal volatility — a pay raise will not help him bring people together.

UC Berkeley community members are especially conscious of wealth divides, as seen in last year’s Occupy Cal demonstrations. Paying the new chancellor more money can easily come across as another example of the rich getting richer, no matter the source of the money, while others struggle. It is especially concerning to see that juxtaposition at this university, where tuition has skyrocketed and the quality of a UC education is threatened as funding becomes scarce.

The raise will also likely cast a negative image of the university in the public eye. Not even a month after voters passed Proposition 30, thereby taxing themselves under the impression that it would avert debilitating cuts to the university, raising the UC Berkeley chancellor’s pay gives the impression that the university’s priorities are not in order. Taxpayers’ agreement to pay more partially to alleviate pressure on the cash-strapped UC system is not the right time to increase executive compensation.

Of course, Dirks himself is not to blame for all this — it was the regents who approved his compensation package. However, because of the many serious drawbacks to his raise, Dirks must realize how much it would mean to the campus community if he returned the extra $50,000 to benefit students, faculty and staff members on campus. Taxpayers and students have been asked to pay more in order to support public education, and more belt-tightening for the university is feasibly in store.

Because of this, as Gov. Jerry Brown pointed out during the meeting, UC leaders “have to demonstrate that they are sacrificing.” Dirks should strongly consider leading by example.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • IsThatAllYouGot?

    “UC Berkeley community members are especially conscious of wealth divides, as seen in last year’s Occupy Cal demonstrations.”

    Yeah, well, despite the idiotic occupy movement (was there a point to it?), this is America and our society allows people the opportunity to make as much or as little as they choose. Whoever said life’s fair, was lying to you.

    The UC Regents approved the package. That right there should be ’nuff said’. If someone was going to be upset, they should have been upset at the UC Regents meeting when the new chancellor’s appointment was brought to a vote.

  • calwatcher

    Intrepid reporters of the Daily Californian: Check on Birgeneau’s pension arrangement, and you will find that the new Chancellor is not making more, when you consider total compensation. Birgeneau was granted a special exception to include his full base salary in his retirement calculation. Look up your own news story at the time of his appointment. Dirks and everyone else (except President Yudof, who also worked a special deal for himself) is held to IRS limits on the amount of compensation that can be used to calculate pension benefits.

  • Current Student

    The truth is that there are dozens of professors (maybe more) who have the same competency to be the chancellor at a top tier school like Berkeley. The money being spent on Dirks is buying us absolutely nothing more than we could get with a lower priced chancellor.

    His salary isn’t being set by market forces, but by the good old boys network in higher education administration. The true “market value” is substantially less than what either Dirks or Birgeneau were paid.

  • Henry S

    Berkeley has one of the _lowest_ ratios between chancellor and faculty salaries in the country:

    http://chronicle.com/article/President-Versus-Professor-Pay/131915/

    The editorial board missed the point here.

  • I_h8_disqus

    I think the editorial board has this one wrong. There is so much more to this than the salary amount. A top quality chancellor will easily save the university much more than his salary, and he will also increase the quality of the university. if you want to save a buck, then buy the store brand at Safeway. Don’t try to nickle and dime on the most important job at the university. Sure some might grumble about the salary, but those people don’t have the intelligence to be involved in the conversation. The last thing we want is an occupy level of ignorance making salary decisions about the chancellor.

    • Gluttonous Dirks

      How is affirmative-action supporter Dirks supposed to be a top quality chancellor? You must be joking.

    • bill

      This is exactly right. It is amazing to hear how little people understand about compensation in the context of much greater value – particularly when it comes to the top job on campus.

      • libsrclowns

        But, but, but, it’s not FAIR.

  • dude

    He’s getting paid WAY below market value, not to mention below his last salary at Columbia (despite significantly increased challenges, roles, and responsibilities).

    If money was all important, he would never have come to Berkeley in the first place. About 50% of PUBLIC universities in the country pay more. His compensation package is pretty mediocre.

    If the campus continues to move in this direction, we’ll be forced to deal with the bottom of the barrel, leadership wise….you need a minimum amount of capital to attract the best talent.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      And all that best talent has made so much difference lately that the administration hired an outside consulting firm, paying them several million dollars to tell them to move all HR operations to Riverside, and all IT operations to 4th Street in Berkeley.

      That’s not even addressing administrative bloat, which despite the penny-pinching efforts of Operational Excellence (focused on downsizing the lowest-paid employees, naturally) continues to occur.

    • A UCB alumnus and staff member

      Actually, he turned down a $1M offer from another university to take the position with Berkeley. And he didn’t even bring that up during the salary discussions.
      That’s how much class he has. And that’s how much he wants to be here.
      He is not here for the money.

      • Go Dirks

        Please give a source for that to pacify Dirks-haters like Nunya Beeswax.

        • A UCB alumnus and staff member

          I was told by a very high level person who would know. Don’t know if that has been published anywhere. I’ll leave it to the parties involved to put more info out there. They may or may not want to, considering how it wasn’t even brought previously.
          I’m not the only one that has heard this. And I bring it up only because I don’t like to see unfair criticism based on partial information.

          • Gluttonous Dirks

            LOL. You are making shit up. Gluttonous Dirks would leap for a higher paying job if he were offered.

            So you claim you’re a staff member. What’s your name, UC staff member? Who’s this “very high level person” who would know about this?

            Fucking liar.

          • A UCB alumnus and staff member

            I’m sorry that you are so upset, but rudeness and personal attacks don’t help to make your point. I value my privacy and have nothing to prove. I put the information out there. You can investigate on your own if you really are interested in the truth. Actions speak louder than words. In time, we all will see what the new chancellor will do. Trash talk is unnecessary.

          • Gluttonous Dirks

            Don’t make wild claims (like Dirks was offered a $1 million job) that you can’t substantiate. It’s idiotic how you will go to such lying lengths to protect your greedy buddy Dirks.

        • Nunya Beeswax

          I don’t hate him. I’m just skeptical about the assertions that raising administrators’ salaries (which increase at a faster rate than any other university employee’s) is some kind of magic bullet for making the University better. I’ve been working on campus for 14 years, and the pattern seems to be that “top talent” trades up to UCB from a school that paid them less, and after 4 or 5 years (tops), they zip away to a job elsewhere that pays them more–often after having leveraged substantial increases by threatening to go work for another institution.

          Now of course, personal cupidity is not necessarily to blame for that; it could be that the compensation isn’t felt to be adequate for the pressures of the job. But friends who work at other academic institutions have seen the same phenomenon. What it looks like is the same career-building that goes on in large corporations, where VP-level administrators participate in a revolving-door round robin of positions, seeking ever higher and higher compensation, not staying in any one place very long. That doesn’t seem to be a very good way to helm the “best university in the USA,” but what would I know? Because obviously, I have neither an engineering degree nor a fondness for Ayn Rand.

          • libsrclowns

            It’s not FAIR….alert Obama and his fairness police.

          • Nunya Beeswax

            Oh, go fuck yourself.

      • dude

        That’s great to hear, thanks for letting us know. I’m sure he could get many $1 M offers if he wished. What’s scary to me is how little UC is willing to pay for this position.