Cal State’s Phony Pay Cap
FEB. 16, 2012
By JOHN HRABE
The Cal State University Board of Trustees has been busy. When they aren’t raising student fees or blaming the State Legislature for budget cuts, the board is searching for a new president of San Francisco State University. Earlier this month, the Trustees formed a search committee to find a replacement for outgoing president Robert Corrigan, who has led the college since 1988.
Search committees can be a hassle. The Board of Trustees should save the time, money and effort of a formal presidential search committee and just offer the job to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
I know what you’re thinking, “Why on earth would the second-in-command of the world’s hottest IPO want to take a boring government job?”
She’d be getting a pay raise.
Under the Cal State’s new compensation policy, the new San Francisco State president will be entitled to a 10 percent raise above the previous president’s base pay. They could offer Sandberg up to $328,623.90 per year. Her current base salary at Facebook is just $300,000 per year. Sure, Facebook offers her other perks and bonuses. But, Cal State University presidents earn those, too. Each Cal State president is eligible for up to $60,000 per year in a housing allowance and $12,000 per year for a car allowance.
Sandberg could probably still keep all of her Facebook stock options. Why not just cash those out now with the IPO? Don’t forget as a state employee she’d qualify for a great public employee retirement package. The shrewd Harvard Business School graduate would have the best of both worlds, stock options and a public employee pension.
But, wait there’s more! If Sandberg can’t be enticed by a lousy $30,000 raise, the Cal State Board of Trustees could sweeten the pot. Cal State’s carefully worded compensation policy has a few loopholes. According to the CSU’s press release, it approved “a new policy limiting the amount of compensation paid by state general funds for newly-hired CSU presidents to no more than 10 percent above the previous incumbent’s base pay.”
Keywords to remember: state general funds, newly-hired and base pay.
The board could offer Sandberg a higher salary through other non-general fund accounts, university foundations or performance bonuses. They could also throw in other perks and benefits in addition to her base pay. The CSU board has already used our tax dollars to research the ways to do it. In March 2011, the board commissioned a study of the perks given to other college executives. Among the benefits listed in the Mercer study:
- Paid Administrative leave
- Club dues and memberships
- Entertainment fund
- Estate planning
- First-class travel
- No-interest mortgage loan
- Spousal benefits
- Tenured professorships
These loopholes aren’t hypothetical either. The CSU system already supplements the salaries of four university executives through non-profit foundations. That’s money that university foundations could be spending on scholarships, financial aid or academic research.
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed takes away $30,000 ever year from academic research by the California Faculty Association. San Jose State’s Mohammad H. Qayoum receives $25,000 per year that could be spent on financial aid for poor and working class Spartans. Cal Poly’s Jeffrey Armstrong gets the $30,000 every year that could go towards Mustang scholarships. San Diego State’s Elliot Hirshman pillages $50,000 that could be spent on one crazy, blowout party in OB (that’s Ocean Beach, for you squares in Sacramento). Each would be a better use of the money.
California’s unemployment rate in December was 11.1%. Out of the 2 million unemployed Californians, is there not a single qualified executive that could be hired for less money?
About the only person in Sacramento calling out the Cal State Board of Trustees for its phony compensation policy is State Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.
“UC and CSU are public institutions designed to serve California’s students and not to be a cash cow for executives,” Yee told the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Nanette Asimov.
It’s time that Republican legislators followed Yee’s lead and championed real limits on the pay of these public employees. Or, at the very least, go poach a top-executive like Sandberg by offering that fat government pension.
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