by Eric Hays and Charles Nash
During the legislative session that began in January, CUCFA will be lobbying state legislators on at least three fronts: (1) Faculty Recruitment–if UC is to retain its identity as the world’s premier public university system, faculty salaries must be returned to parity much sooner than the ten-year horizon envisioned in the Mercer Report that was considered by the Board of Regents last November. Happily, several influential legislators are already aware that UC is losing faculty at an alarming rate and has great difficulty hiring competent replacements; (2) Graduate Student Fee Relief– non-resident graduate student fees are pricing UC out of the market for extremely talented (mainly foreign) students in all fields. According to the budget presently under consideration, UC would waive the non-resident portion of the fees for students who are advanced to candidacy, but by itself that measure is unlikely to have much of an immediate effect on the recruitment of the students in question; (3) Privatization–state budget cuts have virtually forced UCOP to turn to the private sector to try to maintain the stature of the institution. CUCFA is greatly concerned that too heavy a reliance on successful fundraising in the private/alumni sector could give the state an excuse to continue to underfund the university’s core needs.
From the university’s point of view, this session of the legislature has thus far been dominated by fallout from revelations concerning compensation practices at the highest levels of the UC administration, both in Oakland and on several of the campuses. The trouble began last November, when the San Francisco Chronicle began running a series of articles disclosing the various ways that high-level UC executives are being compensated above and beyond their published salaries. These articles were picked up and expanded upon by newspapers around the state-large and small–and clearly got the attention of faculty and legislators. In February the Senate Education Committee held two informational hearings on UC compensation practices (broadened to include other things, such as the settlement packages awarded to some departing executives) at which UC President Dynes, other university officials, and several regents were grilled and admonished by the committee members. The Committee will revisit the subject on March 22.
In the public comments portions of these hearings passionate representatives of all the labor unions in the UC alphabet testified that in every instance their salaries lagged significantly behind the prevailing wages for their trades or professions. Out of respect for these individuals CUCFA provided the Committee with a written statement rather than oral comments (see earlier post).
The Committee was particularly outraged because the same issues– inadequate policies, frequent exceptions to policy, and a general lack of transparency in executive compensation matters–had supposedly been addressed 14 years ago after Californians learned that the regents had approved a deferred compensation and retirement package for the departing UC President, David Gardner, that was worth close to $1 million. In 1993 the then-retired former Legislative Analyst, A. Alan Post, studied UC’s executive compensation policies/practices and produced a report full of recommended changes, many of which UCOP promised to adopt. In the current Senate Committee hearings President Dynes confessed that many of those changes had never been implemented.
Accordingly, several legislators are talking about forging a “hammer” they can drop on UC if it does not change its ways. To date, three bills speaking to UC’s executive compensation problems have been introduced. The first, SB 1117 (Denham, R, Merced ), threatens to revoke UC’s Constitutional autonomy if UCOP does not comply with a list of transparency and reporting requirements. We have told Sen. Denham’s staff that CUCFA will not support any bill containing such a provision.
The second, SB 1181 (Maldonado, R, Santa Maria), would have the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) publish a biennial report on Academic and Executive salaries in all three segments of California higher education, including data on the total compensation of executive-level and senior-level administrative positions on both the system and campus levels. If any segment fails to cooperate with CPEC the Legislature would appropriate no funding to that segment in either the Budget Act or otherwise. We cannot support this bill because it threatens to punish everyone on the UC payroll for the shortcomings of individuals over whom they have no control.
The third bill, SB 1571 (also by Maldonado), does not have a “hammer.” It would require all three segments to post on their respective Internet web sites their policies for setting and adjusting compensation for all their employees and to report the total compensation of executive-level and senior-level administrative positions on both the system and campus levels. This is a measure that CUCFA could well agree to support if it goes anywhere.
CUCFA distributed two letters at the first of these Senate Education Committee meetings, held on February 8, 2006. One was the text of a letter sent by CUCFA President Robert Meister to Gerald Parsky, Chair of the Board of Regents, dated January 16, 2006. In it Meister asked the Board not to continue with a planned reduction of regental oversight of UC executive compensation at a time when legislators and the public were demanding more stringent oversight of UC executive compensation policies.
The second, addressed to the Committee Chairman, Sen. Jack Scott (D, Pasadena), was signed by CUCFA Vice-President Charles Nash. It focused on the continuing erosion of faculty pay even in the face of these executive compensation excesses. The letter began: “Bluntly stated, the UC Regents’ announced goal of bringing all UC salaries to parity in 10 years is an invitation to a train wreck. The CPEC projections for 2005-06 noted that without increases, UC’s average faculty salaries would trail those of our national ‘Comparison-8’ institutions by approximately 16% at the Full rank, 19% at the Associate rank and 14% at the Assistant rankŠ The so-called ‘compact’ between the state’s public universities and the Governor will do nothing whatever to address this problem. Their agreed-upon budget growth rates of 3-4% per year cannot close the gaps evident from the CPEC study noted above because historically, the salaries of the comparison institutions have been increasing by slightly more than 4% annually.”
Just before the window for introducing new legislation closed, several bills were introduced that could in one way or another affect UC’s ability to establish or collect (mainly undergraduate) student fees. The bill texts are available on legislative websites, but because most of them have yet to be assigned to committees no legislative staff analyses have been posted to date. CUCFA generally steers clear of student fee issues, but as these bills work their way through the system one or more of them might give us a chance to discuss the recruitment problems posed by UC’s high non-resident graduate student fees
Defined Contribution Plan
One of our highest priorities during the past year had been monitoring Assemblyman Keith Richman’s efforts to impose a defined contribution plan on all future public employees in California, including the University’s. Richman (R, Granada Hills), with the backing of Governor Schwarzenegger, threatened the legislature with a ballot initiative if it failed to enact his proposal. Ultimately, that particular bill went nowhere because it arguably failed to protect police and firefighter death benefits, and the public employee unions used that flaw to scuttle it.
As promised, Richman has introduced a new, “improved” bill, ACA 23. Media reports say that because of the political fallout from last year’s voter rejection of all of Governor Schwarzenegger’s so-called reforms – including Proposition 75, a union dues political contribution-signoff bill that CUCFA actively opposed–Richman is finding the environment for his proposal much tougher this year. For example, the CALPERS Board recently voted to oppose it. We will obviously continue to monitor this bill and any others in a similar vein that may emerge as the legislative session proceeds.
Student Bill of Rights
Various bills branded “Student Bill of Rights” legislation, introduced by conservative lawmakers around the country, have been formally opposed by the AAUP as unnecessary intrusions into faculty/student relations. Last April, a version of such a bill (SB 5, Morrow) failed in California’s Senate Education Committee. Senator Morrow has introduced a new bill on the same subject, SB 1412. As one of its objectionable provisions this new bill would require all meetings pertaining to faculty hiring, promotion, and tenure to be audiotaped, with the audiotapes being made available for review by “appropriate authorities” for compliance with state and federal laws and systemwide or campus policies. We will closely monitor the progress of this bill and actively oppose it at every turn.
Bills to Watch
One fairly common legislative tactic, sometimes occasioned by the existence of rigid procedural deadlines, is the introduction of “placeholder bills” that later on get heavily amended-sometimes beyond recognition. One such bill could be AB 2179 (Leslie, R, Roseville). It proposes to change postsecondary education funding, but says neither how nor when. A similarly vague bill (SB 1819, Figueroa, D, Fremont) expresses the intent of the Legislature to enact some as-yet-undefined additional legislation related to college textbooks. (Legislators have been harshly critical of the rapidly-increasing cost of textbooks, the inescapable bundling by publishers of supplementary material such as CDs and Solutions Manuals, the frequency with which new editions are introduced, etc.)
SB 724 (Scott), which allows California State University a limited ability to grant doctoral degrees, was signed by the Governor last September 22. On February 23, 2006, the CSU Chancellor’s office announced that in 2007 the system will begin offering the independent Ed.D. degree on seven of its campuses, with six more to follow in 2008.
AB 992 (Spitzer), Law Enforcement Surveillance, which CUCFA opposed as it was originally written, is now officially dead.
Eric Hays is the Director of External Relations for the Council of UC Faculty Associations. As such he closely monitors the day-to-day activities of the Legislature as they pertain to higher education in general and UC in particular, and reports regularly to the CUCFA and California AAUP leadership. Charles Nash is Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, UC Davis and the CUCFA Vice President for External Relations. These individuals attend legislative hearings and meet frequently with key legislators and their staffs to inform them of faculty concerns. As circumstances may require, CUCFA may also be represented by James W. Bruner, Jr. and Joanne Bettencourt, lobbyists with the firm Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, LLC.