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Cal State panel approves pay hike for two university presidents

March 20, 2012 | 11:50 am

Photo: Dr. Mildred Garcia, right, is congratulated during her inauguration to the position of president of California State University, Dominguez Hills on May 2, 2008. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times A California State University panel voted Tuesday to increase compensation for the new presidents of the Fullerton and East Bay campuses, focusing renewed scrutiny on the executive pay issue.

Meeting in Long Beach, the Committee on University and Faculty Personnel approved 10% pay hikes for incoming Fullerton president Mildred Garcia and East Bay president Leroy Morishita, by a 6-2 vote.

Garcia will make $324,500 and Morishita $303,660, plus other benefits.

The compensation packages must still be approved by the full board, which will convene later Tuesday afternoon.

The pay hikes are in line with a new policy adopted in January to cap the pay of executives at 10% above that of their predecessor, with a limit of $325,000 in public funds.

The move followed intense criticism of Cal State's compensation policies when trustees approved an annual salary of $400,000 for the new president of San Diego State -- $100,000 more than his predecessor -- at the same July meeting at which tuition was increased by 12%.

Trustee Steven Glazer lauded the qualifications of Garcia -- currently president of Cal State Dominguez Hills -- and Morishita, but argued that double-digit pay hikes set a bad example during a time of financial crisis.

Cal State officials announced Monday that it will freeze enrollment next spring and wait-list all applicants in fall 2013 pending the outcome of a proposed tax initiative on the November ballot.

Should it fail, the system could be hit with a $200-million funding cut in the middle of the 2012-13 academic year.

"We have to look beyond qualifications," Glazer said. "We need to set the right tone and example of shared sacrifice. We should freeze compensation at current levels until there's an improved economic situation."

But other committee members said that Cal State executives are underpaid compared to their peers at other colleges and universities.

"I'm just sorry we can't pay them more because of the policy we adopted," trustee Roberta Achtenberg said.

The controversy over compensation is not likely to abate any time soon, as several lawmakers have introduced legislation to limit pay increases.

The Senate Committee on Education this week is scheduled to consider a bill, SB 967, by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), that would prohibit pay raises for university administrators during bad budget years or within two years of a student tuition increase. It would also limit pay hikes for executives to 5% more than their predecessor.

"It's pretty simple, when students are suffering, CSU should not be handing out pay hikes for executives," Yee said.

Tuesday was the first trustees meeting since former chairman Herb Carter failed to win reconfirmation in the state Legislature. Carter had authored the pay policy that limited presidents' compensation. The new chairman is A. Robert Linscheid, who was the vice chairman of the 25-member board.


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Photo: In May 2008, Mildred Garcia, right, was inaugurated as president of Cal State Dominguez Hills. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times