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  • pringleBy Brendan Pringle, Foundation Activist at Cal Poly State University-San Luis Obispo

    The Cal State University professors can whine all they want about administrative greed and about the impact of cuts to education, but the students are the ones that ought to be complaining.

    The U.S. Department of Education reports that approximately “8 percent of students who entered repayment of their loans defaulted on them,” and youth unemployment remains excessively high. Yet, no one wants to try to solve this rampant problem at the university level.

    Do Higher Teacher Salaries Help Students?

    The California Faculty Association (CFA) continues to demand its promised salary increase under the notion that it will help the students. But is a salary increase really going to make the quality of education any better for the students? 

    In CFA’s defense, administrative greed is absolutely disgusting and must be checked. Just last February, the CSU Board of Trustees voted to increase the salary range by $20,000 for campus presidents without any public notice. In addition, administrative salaries have risen at a much higher rate than that of faculty salaries.

    However, pensions have remained untouched for all CSU employees, while other state employees had to step up their pension contributions from 5 to 8 percent. Shouldn’t all government employees have to pay their “fair share”?

    When College Costs Go Up, College Executives are Rewarded

    Meanwhile, California legislation seeking to end the absurd inflation of university executive salaries enters the legislature with a lot of steam, but eventually putters out when the vote comes along. One such pending bill would prohibit pay raises for top state university administrators when student fees are increased or during bad budget years. It would also bar new executives from receiving more than 5 percent of their predecessor’s pay.

    This would be a good start, but only makes a dent in the problem. Universities create new administrative offices and vice presidents year after year. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to simply hire more assistants or secretaries if the burden is too great? Administrative cronyism creates unnecessary offices so that favored professors may receive higher pensions after retirement.

    At least salaries are transparent, but employee benefits and reimbursements are often hidden from the public eye. A recent public audit of former CSU Vice Chancellor for Information Technology David Ernst’s expenses between July 2005 and July 2008 revealed that he received a total of $152,441 in reimbursements.

    Apparently, Ernst was reimbursed for $39,135 in unnecessary travel expenses (he reportedly spent $475 a night at a Shanghai hotel), $26,455 in meal expenses and $43,288 to make the trip from his home in the Bay Area to his office in Long Beach, “despite university policies to the contrary.” During this audit, Ernst “learned his lesson” and left the CSU system. He now works for the University of California system.

    The Future is Bleak

    Still, the CSU system thinks it’s “‘impractical’ to establish defined limits for reimbursing the costs of lodging.” Thus, the CSU’s outrageous blind spot remains an easy target for any and all with administrative clout. If this takes place at California public universities, I can only imagine what happens at school systems with larger budgets.

    The next time you hear about another tuition increase, consider all the waste that is factored into this hefty price tag. Without any notable resistance, it’s bound to get worse. University salaries will continue to skyrocket while the quality of education will continue to plummet. Until college graduates start to find work and stop defaulting on their loans, universities shouldn't live like fat cats.

    Brendan Pringle is a Foundation activist at Cal Poly State University-San Luis Obispo

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