Opinion » Shredder

Systems suck



California State University presidents received a 7 percent raise in 2022.

If you're Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong (aka one of the highest paid campus administrators in the entire CSU system), that means you're now making about $38,000 more per year than you were before.


That raise is almost equal to what CSU San Marcos lecturer Jennifer Kady Stanton makes per year—and it's certainly more than what she actually takes home after taxes. The 3 percent raise she and other faculty members received in 2022—which meant a little more than $1,000 extra per year—doesn't really compare to Armstrong's windfall, even though the CSU Chancellor's Office Strategic Communications and Public Affairs Manager Hazel Kelly might try to lead you to believe otherwise.

Comparing the highest paid person on a university campus to some of the lowest is like comparing apples and oranges. Meanwhile, CSU Chancellor Mildred Garcia is bringing home almost $1 million a year—a 27 percent raise over the last chancellor. I guess that's like comparing steaks to cauliflowers. Kelly assured New Times, it's "still well below what several other public university system leaders make."

Oh, good.

According to CalMatters, from 2010 to 2019, compensation for college presidents across 49 states increased 56 percent. An analysis by two professors at George Mason University found that the average college president's salary increased from $543,000 in 2010 to $715,000 in 2019.

One of the reasons: Campuses are looking for candidates with corporate leadership experience and those people are used to larger salaries. Oh, OK! I guess our taxpayer- and tuition-funded public institutions better give it to them then.

It's definitely working in the corporate world—which likes to keep low-wage workers low and the top brass high—so let's do the same with a government-funded system. That makes the most sense.

Stanton said she understands that the CSU is trying to ensure that the chancellor's pay is equal to that of similar positions, but nobody in a public education system should make that much.

"They are all wrong. Just because everyone else is doing it too doesn't make it right," she said. "This is taxpayer money, and they're all wrong. They're operating like CEOs for taxpayer-funded public universities that are required to operate as close to free as possible by law, and instead they're acting like CEOs are."

They are all wrong! Stanton's been lecturing in the CSU system for 10 years. She takes home less than $4,000 a month, she lives in a tiny studio apartment with her daughter in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, and she's struggling to get by. She's not saving any money. She can't put down roots. She's barely making ends meet.

"You know, [CSU executives] get these huge top 1 percent salaries when lecturers are at the bottom of the line and hold the university up by working five different jobs," Stanton said. "We're running all over the state just to try and stay out of living out of their car, and some of them aren't even succeeding with that."

The chancellor gets an annual housing allowance of $96,000, and a monthly car allowance that's equal to that 3 percent raise Stanton got in 2022.

Sweet. I bet CSU lecturers feel super valued—especially based on what the CSU "gave up" to them after January's system-wide strike.

The California Faculty Association (CFA) and the CSU came to an agreement after one day of a planned weeklong strike. That 12 percent raise faculty was holding out for? They got 5 percent retroactive to mid-2023 and another 5 percent starting in mid-2024 (if the CSU budget allows it). That's not the same as a 10 percent raise. And it's definitely not 12 percent.

So the lecturers who provide the main service that students pay to go to college for—getting educated—have a much lower value to the CSU system than campus administrators. That's clear. And those administrators are paid so much because they're supposed to develop more financial opportunities for the CSU system and keep costs down for students so that public universities are accessible to all.

Why, then, is tuition going to increase by more than $1,000 per student in the next five years—bringing in another at least $485 million in revenue for the CSU system?

It seems to me like this system is absolutely not working. Not for the faculty—51 percent of CSU instructional faculty are part-time (meaning, they don't make much)—and not for the students. It seems to be working for the top administrators though, who are making out like bandits.

While faculty like Stanton place blame for their predicament squarely on the shoulders of both CSU administration and their union, CFA Bargaining Chair Kevin Wehr believes faculty should take their angst out on administrators, who were "condescending" during contract negotiations and didn't really give the CFA the time of day.

"The problem is management," he said. "If you think that we can do better, then you should get involved and help us do better."

I think that might be exactly what's happening.

Even though three-quarters of the CFA's members ratified the agreement it reached with the CSU system on day one of a planned five-day strike, it doesn't mean the "overwhelming majority" were happy with it, as Wehr insinuated.

Systems must always change from within. Δ

The Shredder hates the system. Send picket signs to [email protected].


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