Education Committee approves CSU trustee reform, but kills bill to curb executive pay hikes

SACRAMENTO – While students and faculty can claim victory today after the Senate Education Committee approved legislation to reform the composition of the California State University Board of Trustees, it was also a disappointing day as the same committee voted against a bill to prohibit pay hikes for top administrators during bad budget years or within two years of a student fee increase.

“It was a mixed day for students, taxpayers, faculty, and workers,” said Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), who authored the two bills.  “While I am pleased we are one step closer to bringing real reform to the CSU, I am extremely disappointed that the committee protected the university’s top 1 percent at the expense of students.”

Reforming the CSU Board of Trustees

On a 6-2 vote, SB 1515 would designate seven of the 25 trustees to be students, faculty, or workers from within the university system.

Currently, only one appointee must be a faculty member and two must be students.

Yee’s bill would double the number of student trustees to four and would also ensure at least two faculty members and one non-faculty employee serve on the Board of Trustees.

“For too long, we have seen the Board of trustees fighting for their top executives, but not fighting for those who truly make CSU great – the students, faculty, and workers,” said Yee. “No longer will the Board of Trustees be an exclusive club of just wealthy Californians, but instead it will be representative of the entire CSU community.”

“The CSU Board of Trustees has been far too isolated from the real world consequences of their decisions,” said CFA President Lillian Taiz, a professor of history at Cal State Los Angeles. “We need a board of trustees that provides voices to those in the trenches and knows what it is like to be a student, staff member or faculty at the CSU. Senator Yee’s bill is a significant move in that direction and we urge its support.”

“The demonstrations that occurred last year on campuses throughout the state speaks volumes about students’ frustrations and their need to be heard,” said Sadaf Malik, a senior biology student at San Francisco State University. “As constituents of these universities, it is our right to have a seat at the table and that quality higher education is protected for all of California’s current and future students.”

Under present law, 19 of the 25 trustees are appointed by the Governor. While Yee’s bill would designate seven of the appointments for students, faculty, and university workers, the Governor would continue to appoint 19 members.

Committee condones CSU’s bad behavior

Despite overwhelming bipartisan support from student groups, university faculty, labor unions and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Yee’s SB 967 to prohibit executive pay hikes at CSU and UC failed today in the Senate Education Committee.

A couple weeks ago, the committee approved a competing bill (SB 952-Alquist) that only prohibits hikes for the next two years and then allows double digit pay hikes indefinitely, regardless of the economy or student tuition.  In addition, SB 952 would allow CSU to give exorbitant increases using foundation dollars – which are generally used for student scholarships and other student services – whereas Yee’s SB 967 prohibits hikes regardless of the source.

“By killing SB 967, the committee is condoning CSU’s bad behavior,” said Yee. “CSU students and California taxpayers deserve better than the status quo.”

Recently, the CSU Board of Trustees approved 10 percent pay hikes for two of their six-figure executives – $324,500 plus housing and a $12,000 per year car allowance for the next CSU Fullerton President and $303,660 plus $60,000 per year housing and $12,000 per year car allowance for the new CSU East Bay President.

At the same trustee meeting, CSU Trustee Roberta Achtenberg said, “I’m just sorry we can’t pay them more.”

“Unfortunately, SB 952 codifies this abhorrent practice of catering to university elites,” said Yee. “Rather than approving SB 967 and putting a stop to these exorbitant pay hikes, the committee instead has ensured in perpetuity that students suffer and executives get rich.”

In 2009, Yee passed a nearly identical bill to SB 967 to stop executive pay hikes – SB 86 – but the bill was vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This past year, the Trustees raised fall tuition twice – by 9.6 percent and then again by 12 more percent.

“Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before CSU gives yet another executive pay hike and another scandal plagues our great university,” said Yee. “I will not give up this fight for our students, faculty, and California taxpayers.”


Contact: Adam J. Keigwin,
(916) 651-4008