The University of Wall Street

March 27, 2009

THE SAN Francisco Chronicle has reported that the Board of Regents of the University of California (UC) recently decided to award a series of massive raises and perks to already highly compensated administrators, including paid administrative leaves (i.e., an extra year of vacation) for two people making more than $300,000 a year. The chief financial officer of the UCLA Hospital System was awarded a 22.3 percent raise--from $310,800 to $380,000--which was called a "pre-emptive retention" bonus!

This is an outrage! While increasing student fees by 10 percent year after year; while pushing through heavy budget cuts to university operations; while using the budget crisis as an excuse to freeze pay for campus workers, the administration sees fit to give themselves king-sized raises.

Why? Addressing whether or not it would be wise to cut UC executive pay during this budget crisis, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau told the San Francisco Chronicle, "Further reductions of senior administrators' salaries would make us less able to compete with other universities...seriously damaging our ability to attract outstanding people."

Sound familiar? It's exactly the same pathetic excuse that AIG executives made to justify the $165 million of taxpayer-funded bonuses handed out recently to top executives--that they have to hand out big bonuses to retain and attract top talent. Clearly, though, this method of attracting talent is more like using chum to attract sharks that end up tearing into you as well.

AIG executives engaged in reckless speculation that drove the company, and the wider economy as well, into the deep mess that it's in now. Similarly, UC administrators and executives, as well as those at the California State University system, have year after year overseen a decreasing quality of education, decreasing access, increasing student costs and a generally disastrous trajectory for higher education in California.

President Barack Obama claimed that it was "hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses." I have the same question about the UC executives. All of these people, including Birgeneau and all the regents, should be forced to return their ridiculous raises, fired immediately, and investigated for corruption.

The administrators of California higher education continue to give students a reason to get organized--it will take nothing less than a wave of student protests, sit-ins and strikes to toss these bums out and put control of public education into the hands of educators and students.
Sid Patel, UC-Berkeley alum, San Francisco

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