New San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman has been in office for little more than a week, and his salary increase has confused and upset some students, staff and alumni.
The California State University budget has been cut regularly for several years, including the upcoming 2011-12 academic year in which another $650 million has been cut. This cut is expected to raise tuition fees by 12 percent.
However, despite this cut, the CSU board of trustees approved a $400,000 salary for Hirshman—an increase of $100,565 from what predecessor Stephen L. Weber made.
“Frankly, I think it's ridiculous,” SDSU student Ariana Torres said. “When UCs and CSUs raise tuition on students in a time where classes and faculty are being cut, giving the new president a raise of that amount only adds insult to injury.”
Another student agreed that raising the SDSU president's salary was not the best decision for the board to make.
"I think his salary seems almost extravagant especially when considering the systematic slashes in school programs," SDSU student Osmar Abad said. "We've been advised to load up on as many classes during the summer sessions as the fall will be severely cut. ... I think he needs to set an example. If Jerry Brown is willing to take a pay cut in his public capacity as the governor of the state, as a leader representing another public institution, Mr. Hirshman would be virtuous to follow his lead."
Not only students, but alumni are finding Hirshman’s salary increase hard to justify.
“As an Aztec alum and small business owner, I'm a bit confused as to how the Board of Regents and state came up with that number,” former SDSU student David Oates said. “When I have a budget shortfall, I don't give myself or other executives a pay raise. They may have good reasons, mind you. But from an outsider, I’m having a hard time understanding it. I hope they explain it in detail. If not, I'll naturally think harder when they call my house to ask for a contribution.”
But SDSU alum Sean Upton, who now works for a private university, said the salary seems “largely reasonable, if that salary is justified based on return on investment in terms of donations to the school, and is sufficiently appropriate compared to other post-secondary public [campuses].”
He added: “Most current college students ... tend to have no idea how much of their education is paid by the state, which usually reinforces the perspective that the biggest tragedy of budget cuts is the hike in fees, when availability, access, quality for students and a secure culture of research and learning for faculty are much more impacting with immediate and lasting damage.”
However, Peter Herman, a professor in the SDSU English Department, called the salary “outrageous.”
“We are told endlessly that in a time of crisis, everybody must do much more with much less, that everybody must sacrifice. Evidently, that does not apply to the top level of CSU administrators.”
He added: “The fact-finder’s report last year said that the CSU never claimed that they did not have the money to pay faculty the raises stipulated in the previous contract, but instead, they referred to ‘other priorities.’ Now we know what those ‘other priorities’ are.”