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December 04, 2012 11:00 AM More for Less in University of California Compensation

By Daniel Luzer

With California’s higher education system pleading poverty, now’s probably not the best time to ask for a raise. Last month California State University’s incoming chancellor, Timothy White agreed to get paid 10 percent less than his predecessor. While his total compensation package was still north of $400,000, the gesture did seem appropriate for a time of austerity.

That made it a little awkward when the University of California’s governing board approved giving the new chancellor of UC Berkeley a $50,000 pay raise. So the state’s governor and lieutenant governor are opposing the increase. According to an Associated Press article by Lisa Leff in the San Jose Mercury News:

Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom voted Tuesday against giving the new chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley a $50,000 pay raise over what his predecessor earns, saying salary increases for public officials are inappropriate given the state’s bleak financial condition.
The two politicians said during a meeting of the University of California’s governing board that they fully supported the selection of Columbia University Dean Nicholas Dirks as Berkeley’s 10th chancellor, and they joined the rest of the board in approving his appointment.

Brown and Newsom would not, however, approve paying Dirks $486,800 a year. The outgoing Berkeley chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, earns $436,800 annually. Several regents pointed out that the new money wouldn’t come from taxpayers but, rather, “would be funded by private donations to UC Berkeley’s foundation.”

One regent had another concern. According to the article,

“On this particular compensation, I would just point out that we are dealing with the No. 1 public university in the world,” Regent George Kieffer said. “The compensation for this chancellor is below that of all the major universities in the country it competes with and many of the universities it does not compete with.”

Well yes, but if he will take the job for less than the amount of money paid to other heads of equivalent state schools there is no need to pay him more. If you can get the same quality for less money, isn’t that a good thing?

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer