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L.A. Now Live: Discuss UC Berkeley chancellor pay raise

The UC Board of Regents on Tuesday approved a $50,000 -- or 11.4% -- pay raise to the incoming UC Berkeley chancellor despite strong opposition from California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Times higher education reporter Larry Gordon will join L.A. Now Live at 9 a.m. to discuss the decision to pay Nicholas B. Dirks $486,000, which is more than the current campus head. The extra money will come from private donations, the regents said, and is $14,000 less than his current salary as a high-ranking administrator at Columbia University.

Brown, who is a regent, described Dirks as an excellent choice but said he would not vote for the salary given the austerities that the state and the 10-campus UC system still face. The university must look for more efficient ways to teach and operate and "the leaders have to demonstrate that they are also sacrificing," Brown said.

The $50,000 increase, even though it won't come from public coffers, "does not fit within the spirit of servant leadership that I think will be required over the next few years," the governor said.

Brown also cited voters' recent approval of his Proposition 30 tax increase, which spared UC from deep budget cuts. During the campaign for the measure, the governor said, he promised voters that he would "use their funds judiciously and with prudence."

Brown, who rarely attended regents meetings before the election, has since become a dramatic presence and voice against UC status quo. Since last summer, he has criticized raises for Cal State executives and suggested that all public colleges promote less expensive insiders instead of shopping for high-priced "hired guns" from across the country.

Besides noting that Dirks will take a pay cut from being Columbia's executive vice president and dean of its arts and sciences faculty, UC leaders said his UC Berkeley salary will be much lower than that of leaders at many other prestigious public and private universities.

"I try to get the very best person I can in this job to navigate the university through some very complicated times," UC system President Mark G. Yudof said.

Yudof said he and Brown do not see "exactly eye to eye" on Dirks' pay, but Yudof said he and the governor agree on nearly all other issues, including efforts to keep tuition from rising.

The regents first debated the issue privately Tuesday in a telephone conference call linking those in Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles. After the call went public, three regents voted against the pay increase — Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Charlene Zettel — and 11 others voted for it. All 14 voted to appoint Dirks.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a frequent UC critic, issued a statement suggesting that Dirks follow the example of Timothy P. White, who recently asked for a 10% pay cut from the salary paid his Cal State predecessor. Yee said he would reintroduce legislation to limit executive pay raises in public higher education.

When he starts at the 36,000-student UC Berkeley on June 1, Dirks will receive free campus housing, along with $121,700 in relocation fees paid out in installments over four years and other benefits.

 
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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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