Chutzpah on display

When it comes to their own self-interest, it’s apparent that the higher-ups in the California State University system still don’t get it. Take, for instance, Charles Reed, the chancellor of the CSU system, who is determined—despite current enrollment and budget constraints—to hold on to a perk known as the executive-transition program, otherwise known as the “silk parachute” for retiring executives.

In a nod to faculty discontent and public outrage about underhanded compensation packages for administrators, CSU’s top dog recently expressed a willingness to cut back on some of those same perks for new hires coming into the system. But Reed simultaneously vowed to fight to protect unproductive pay and privileges for retiring managers, himself included.

That’s a whole lot of chutzpah on display, especially since the main argument CSU execs have made in defense of these nefarious compensation packages is that they need to sweeten hiring contracts in order to compete with the pay in the private sector. Let’s get this straight: The fat fish who no longer needs to be chummed into the net will keep their bonuses and other goodies, while the fresh catches now being fished for in the sea of recruitment no longer will be offered the bait that brought their predecessors on board?

Will the quality of academic managers really decline as a result? Will the candidate pools dry up when new hires are forced to settle for a measly few hundred-thousand dollars a year in just plain salary? If you believe the answer is yes, then there’s a bridge we want to sell you back in New York City.

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been thrown at deans and chancellors throughout the University of California and CSU systems, all of it fudged and hidden from strict accounting or accountability. These are taxpayer dollars that don’t enhance the quality of education a single iota. In fact, some of these perks have been used in ways that discredit the very notion of academic rigor. The executive-transition program has allowed a whole bunch of retiring CSU execs to get a year’s pay for doing little or nothing, and when academic administrators get paid at inflated management rates for a brief return to the classroom, the departments they are shuttled into lose any claim on quality control of instruction in those various disciplines. For instance, Manuel Esteban, former president of CSU Chico, got a transition year at full pay, and that year was supposed to freshen him up for a return to the classroom. But once he’d taken the money, he ran, and never put that expensive “retraining” into practice.

Such programs are little more than scams, the kinds of hustles that would put the sleaziest used-car dealer to shame.

SN&R has spoken out on this subject many times before and so have many other media outlets. Apparently, though, the word has not yet gotten through to these academic administrators who most need to hear it.