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Chancellors not for sale

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JULY 27, 2015

The UC Board of Regents’ vote last week to increase the salaries of 15 executive administrators was unnecessary, placing precious UC funds into the hands of those who already earn many thousands of dollars beyond a living wage.

The reasoning behind the salary increase is that in order to attract the best candidates for administrative positions and remain competitive with similar institutions that pay their top administrators significantly more, the University of California needs to raise administrators’ salaries. In fact, UC Irvine’s former chancellor Michael Drake left the campus in 2014 to join Ohio State University, which doubled his base salary to $800,000.

We want to attract innovative and qualified executives to our university, but we also want executives who believe more in the UC public mission than they do in the promise of a fat paycheck. If adding $15,000 to a base salary of half a million dollars were what it took to keep Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in California Hall, then he probably wouldn’t deserve to be our chancellor.

Administrators working in the public sector of higher education should recognize not only that funding is more susceptible to economic ups and downs but that available funds should be applied toward serving the public, not paying top-end salaries.

Although past Senior Editorial Boards, citing pragmatic market considerations, have favored salary increases for top administrators, we believe that the most recent salary bump is utterly needless and hardly makes our chancellors’ salaries more competitive with those offered by private institutions. These employees already receive exorbitant salaries and other nonmonetary benefits. For the work they’re doing, they don’t need more money.

As we’ve stated in previous editorials, we value the quality of our administrators but must not prioritize administrative pay over the other pressing interests of those in the UC community. With tuition increases a constant threat and with scant compensation provided to other vital campus members, such as lecturers, the regents should not endanger our relationship with potential funders or the state by further investing in the livelihood of those who already make more than enough to live very comfortably.

One might say the university should be paying top dollar to attract the brightest minds, but that is not feasible for the UC system, and we philosophically don’t agree with the idea that the head of a public educational institution should be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That money should go toward improving students’ learning and college experiences, hiring the best faculty and sustaining the support staff who ensure that the UC campuses run smoothly. Indeed, the university’s announcement that it will raise workers’ minimum wage to $15 per hour reflects a sound investment in the UC community. Those extra dollars should go a long way toward improving the lives of many workers and their families. This increase, however, falls short of affecting all workers, in part because it excludes those who work less than 20 hours per week.

This gap in the wage boost is just one of many pressing issues the university needs to address before it revisits chancellors’, hospital leaders’ and other executives’ salaries. Rather, the university should focus on recruiting high-achieving faculty members and administrators who see that the value of their work extends beyond the value of the dollar.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

JULY 27, 2015