Leadership & Governance

After Outcry Over Raises, Cal State Trustees Take Another Look at Policy on Presidents' Pay

May 08, 2012

Future presidents of California State University campuses will earn no more in base salary than their predecessors, unless the individual institutions can raise nonpublic funds for increasing their pay, according to a revised policy approved Tuesday by a committee of the Cal State system's Board of Trustees.

The policy, which will go to the full board for approval on Wednesday, came in response to public criticism of several pay packages given to new presidents within the cash-strapped system. The board approved a policy in January that limited salary increases for new presidents to 10 percent above the pay of their predecessors, but public outcry continued when, just two months later, the trustees awarded the maximum possible raises to two new presidents. They included Mildred García, who will earn $324,500 as the next president of the Fullerton campus; and Leroy M. Morishita, who will earn $303,660 as the new president at East Bay.

Under the revised policy that the committee approved on Tuesday, campuses could still provide raises of up to 10 percent for new presidents, but only if the money came from private foundations, as opposed to tax or tuition dollars.

Lou Monville, a board member and chair of the Special Committee on Presidential Selection and Compensation, said the new policy strikes the right balance between addressing public concerns and allowing campuses to remain competitive when hiring new leaders.

"We have a policy that is transparent and accountable to taxpayers," he said. "The actions our committee took this morning, and the board will hopefully ratify tomorrow, will continue to make that policy responsive to the needs of CSU and the taxpayers of California."

The board came under fire last summer, when trustees approved a $400,000 salary for Elliot Hirshman, former provost of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, as president of San Diego State University. Mr. Hirshman's salary was 33 percent higher than that of his predecessor.

If adopted, the board's compensation policy would place an additional fund-raising burden on any of the 23 campuses where new presidents are awarded raises.

There is great variation in the maturity and success of fund-raising operations across the campuses. The Channel Islands campus, for instance, averaged $2.3-million in gift commitments from 2009 to 2011, university data show. Over that same period, San Diego State received $64.8-million in commitments.

While acknowledging the differences in past fund-raising performance among campuses, Mr. Monville said he did not think the new policy placed less wealthy campuses at a disadvantage.

"The foundations are going to have to be willing to step up and participate, and will have to raise those dollars to do so," he said. "In all of the cases before, regardless of campus size, large or small, when we've asked them to assist, they've been willing to do so."