California state senator introduces bill requiring presidential salary discussion to be public

CALIFORNIA — A bill introduced in the California State Senate would require the state’s public university governing boards to hold public meetings whenever changes are considered or made to university presidents’ salaries.

Introduced by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) last month, the bill would make discussions public regarding state universities’ presidential salaries, which are set by the California State University Board of Trustees and the University of California Board of Regents.

Yee said while tuition levels have spiked, public university presidents have received unwarranted compensation and raises.

“As long as the top executives continue to receive excessive payouts, we will be unable to keep our universities affordable or attract the most qualified faculty,” Yee said in a release. “We should be investing in instruction, not creating a get-rich factory for executives.”

The bill faces a vote March 28 by the Senate Education Committee. It would also allow for more time for public comment during meetings and require advisory group meetings regarding labor issues — currently held without notice and behind closed doors — to be made public.

Staff labor unions and faculty leaders support the bill, which they say would give them greater opportunities for input while considering the performance of university leaders.

“Instead of helping students get an education, the administration caters to elite executives who get huge pay raises and golden parachutes,” John Travis, president of the California Faculty Association, said in a statement.

A California court ruled in August 2006 that while the University of California Board of Regents can discuss administrator pay in private, but no decisions can be made. A lawsuit filed by the San Francisco Chronicle to stop the board from making those decisions while in closed sessions.

As a state representative in 2006, Yee introduced similar legislation, but it did not garner enough to receive a vote from the state assembly.

Yee also introduced legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in August 2006 explicitly prohibiting censorship of college student newspapers.

Adam Keigwin, Yee’s communications director, said because the current bill addresses only executive compensation and labor issues, it has a better chance at becoming a law.

Keigwin said unlike other public bodies in the state, California’s state university governing boards can discuss university executive salaries behind closed doors.

“No other public board…could conduct their business in this manner,” Keigwin said. “These are taxpayer dollars — the general public has the right to know.”

By Jared Taylor, SPLC staff writer