The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons...  ...Woody Allen, Without Feathers, "The Early Essays"  (1976).

Commentary of the Day - October 27, 1999:

How Not to Close a Salary Gap :

The California State University system (of which Krispy Kreme U is a part) fell on hard times in the early nineties.  In reality times have almost always been hard for the CSU.  Unlike the University of California system which depends on the state for only a small fraction of its funding, and the community colleges, which have some independent taxing authority; the state university system in California is almost entirely dependent on the largess of the legislature for its funding, and those guys are notoriously tight with a buck when it comes to education funding.  But thanks to a major recession and the incompetence of our former governor Pete Wilson, California fell on really hard times in the early part of the decade, and the state university system suffered mightily.

By the way, Pete liked to refer to himself as the "education governor".  In a sense he was right.  We elected him twice, and we got an education.  Under Wilson funding for the state university system contracted while the funding for the state penal system grew at a record clip.  By the end of the Wilson years, prison guards with high school diplomas were making more than college professors with Ph.D. degrees, and we had a whole lot more folks in the Graybar Hotels up and down the state than we had in college.

In any event, salaries and wages in the CSU fell far behind those in comparable institutions of higher education throughout the United States.  Thousands of staff people were laid off along with additional thousands of faculty (mostly part-time "freeway fliers"), and our full-time faculty did without salary increases for several years.  By the time that the economy in California began to improve, the salary gap between faculty in the CSU system and faculty at comparison institutions ranged from 15% to 25% depending on rank.  In some community college districts and, indeed, in some high school districts in the state the top faculty salaries actually were higher than the top faculty salaries paid in the CSU.

Since the economy started to improve in California a few years ago, our illustrious Board of Trustees set about to rectify matters on the salary front.  Led by Chancellor Barry Munitz, who is now the highest paid CEO of a nonprofit organization in the country, they secured a munificent 5% average raise for the faculty.  Now at the same time, these Board of Trustee folks recognized that the salaries of the administrators in the system also were lagging.  Why in 1997 the average presidential salary at the 21 campuses was a measly $141,439 not counting a housing and car allowance.  Hardly enough to live on!

When Munitz bailed out to head the Getty Trust, he was replaced by our current Chancellor, Charlie Reed.  Now Charlie got off on the wrong foot.  He managed to offend just about everyone in the system, with the possible exception of a few of the less sensitive campus presidents.  In the process, he attempted to hold down general salary increases to about 2.5%, while putting another 2.5% into "merit pay".  At the same time, he encouraged the Board of Trustees to stick with their program to bring presidential salaries in line with the rest of academia.  The Trustees outdid themselves.  In the last three years they have managed to raise the average presidential salary in the system a whopping 39%.  That works out to an average three-year raise of $54,607.  The biggest raise, $70,560, went to Robert Maxon, who is president over at Long Beach State.  Our prez, Milton Gordon, got a measly $49,692 increase during the same period.  (We are trying to figure out what he did, or maybe didn't do.)

Now the Irascible Professor does not begrudge the presidents, and our Chancellor (who makes a thin $285,360 a year) their salary increases.  I mean, after all these guys (and gals) have to live!  If they didn't have their free houses and cars (those presidents who don't get a free house thrown in, are given from $20,000 to $32,000 in a housing allowance so they won't feel deprived), why they probably wouldn't even be able to afford a gardener.

Nevertheless, perhaps the Board of Trustees could work up a little sympathy for my colleagues who are at the bottom of the heap.  A new faculty member here at Krispy Kreme starts at about $45,000 a year.  While this might not seem like a bad salary, the average cost for a well-used house here in Orange County is about $225,000, so the chances are very good that someone who comes to Krispy Kreme U to actually do useful work (read that teach) as opposed to someone who comes to administrate (read that push more and more useless pieces of paper) will never be able to afford to own a house in which to raise his or her family.

It seems to the Irascible Professor that the Board of Trustees started at the wrong end of the personnel roster when it began to close the salary gap.  But then what would he know, those geniuses over at system headquarters in Long Beach get the big bucks to figure out these things, and maybe they were getting worried that there would be a shortage of applicants for all those vacant presidential positions!


The Irascible Professor invites your comments.
©1999 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.