Daily 49er

Board of Trustees reviews pay policy, faces criticism

Officials discussed swirling controversy surrounding executive pay.

Kasia Hall, City Editor

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The second Board of Trustees meeting on executive compensation and hiring practices, motivated by public outrage and legislative action, was met with a chicken on Aug. 24.

On July 12, the Cal State University Board of Trustees approved

San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman a $400,000 salary — $100,000 more than his predecessor. During the same meeting, the Board also approved a 12 percent fee increase.

Nearly 50 people of various organizations sat in the gallery, a significant increase from the first special Board of Trustees meeting regarding executive compensation on Aug. 8.

In addition to the spectators in the gallery, a person dressed in a chicken suit spent the morning outside the Chancellor’s office with a sign that read, “It’s chicken brain to raise Cal State U executive pay.”

Before discussing the construction of new guidelines of executive compensation, the Board reviewed what factors should be taken into consideration when determining executive pay. According to the report by Chancellor Reed, factors include: market competition, performance, length of executive experience, system and national policy experience, mission, scope, size, complexity and programs of each campus.

The current compensation policy was last updated in 2007.

The Board also discussed current legislative action in reaction to the most recent compensation decision the Board made. All legislation must be acted upon before Sept. 9 before legislators adjourn for the year.

“The timing of the legislation before us is difficult,” Board member Lou Monville said. “I don’t think that this Board can have meaningful dialog is such a compressed amount of time.”

Four bills were written during the extraordinary session that was designed by Gov. Jerry Brown to address the fiscal emergency. Most of them would prohibit the Trustees from approving higher compensation for CSU executive officers in a year where tuition has been increased. One bill, AB 39 x1, would cap campus presidents’ salary at $300,000 a year.

The Board discussed a new method for selecting presidents and is currently rewriting policy. The proposed new policy would eliminate candidates’ campus visits and eliminate a second review panel.

However, some Board members were concerned the change wasn’t doing enough.

“Besides the issue of the campus visit is there anything else we are doing here that would expedite the process in any way?” Steven Glazer asked.

The answer to his question was no.

The Board decided that in order to make changes to compensation policy, it would segment the universities by size and then compare salary practices to other public universities of similar size.

The Boards decision to have this comparison ready by November did not impress the spectators in the gallery.

“Staff is being asked to do more for less but executives are supervising less and now, for more,” Steve Teixeira, a member of the Academic Professionals of California said.

The public comments portion of the meeting continued to get heated as Kevin Wehr, an associate professor of sociology at Sacramento State compared the hiring practices of ENRON to those the that the Board were discussing.

“I’d like to remind you that, a regent is someone who does the bidding of a monarch, whereas a trustee is someone who acts in the public trust,” Wehr said. “The decisions you made in July really seemed like a violation of the public trust to us.”

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