Just Trying to Say that We Don’t Care

In a response to a recent demand from the administrative staff at the University of California (read this and this), a new article was posted on Chris Newfield’s blog that we thought we should share:

(via Remaking the University):

UC”s latest image disaster came in the form of what I dearly hope is UC’s final 2010 appearance in the California press.  Today’s San Francisco Chronicle headline reads, “Highest-paid UC execs demand millions in benefits.” This refers to a demand by 36 senior executives that the Regents authorize UC to “calculate [their] retirement benefits as a percentage of their entire salaries, instead of the federally instituted limit of $245,000. The difference would be significant for the more than 200 UC employees who currently earn more than $245,000.”

The salaries and the payouts are explained in this graphic. A $400,000 salary with the cap yields a pension of about $184,000 a year, but is bumped to $300,000 a year without.

I have never seen comments on any SF Chronicle story like the ones prompted here. There were 750 when I started this post. There will be over 800 before I finish.  I would guess that 740 of them are negative, except that I haven’t found a supportive one yet.  Hundreds are furiously hostile. In the poll, only 5% think that the higher pensions should be granted if the university incurred a legal obligation to pay them.  Nearly two-thirds take option 3, which is that the letter writers be fired.

The symbolism of the pension spike is way beyond the actual money: UC’s top officials, the ones who set the policies that affect the state, display selfish greed, total oblivion to the public mission, and a tight focus on lining their already bulging pockets. It confirms the majority suspicion that universities like UC care much more about the “bottom line” than about education (Question 6).  People don’t see anything in this kind of effort that universities are supposed to be about.  There is in the background a sense of the university’s abandonment of the state’s suffering middle class, and of course nothing for the poor who still want to send their kids to college. Tuition has tripled over the decade, debt goes up incessantly, public pensions are under attack exactly because of $300,000 payouts,  thousands of students show up to UC every quarter with nothing but borrowed petty cash, and yet what they see senior executives spending their time on is maximizing their personal take.  As one commenter said, “oink oink oink. I know this is a dumb question but what happened to the UC system’s mission of educating students?”  And these aren’t even the commenters who are angry that UC has good pensions to begin with.

(Read the rest of the article).


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