CSU trustees gained additional attention this week when they also voted to increase the salary for San Diego State University's new president, Elliot Hirschman, by 33.3% from what his predecessor made. Hirschman will earn $350,000 a year, receive another $50,000 from school's private fundraising arm, live in campus housing and get a $1,000 a month car allowance.
Governor Brown voiced his strong disapproval to the salary hike in a letter sent to trustees before they voted. State Senator Ted Lieu fired off his response today, in which he said he is mulling over introducing legislation to cap such salaries.
“You cannot behave like Wall Street and give unsustainable salaries to your executives,” Lieu wrote. “I flat out reject the argument that there was no one else in the world good enough at a $300,000 salary such that you had to give a $100,00 raise.”
While he is certainly looking to score political points, is Lieu on to something? For years, corporate executives and boards have insisted that hefty salary increases and compensation packages are necessary to attract and keep good talent, even as salary and benefits for rank and file workers have declined steadily.
Is this indeed true? And should this practice be embraced and emulated in the public sector (that part of our economy where services are provided for by the government and paid for by taxpayers)? Are there potentially destructive consequences to the economy and society from an ever-widening income gap between boss and worker and public servant and the people he/she serves? If so, what are they? What is the message this action sends to the students and their families struggling to secure and pay for a spot in California's public colleges and universities? Or is this mostly an unwarranted distraction from the issue at had, the severe underfunding of higher education in a state that claims as it public education mission to prepare all students for college?
Just a hint of the questions we take on in class. Discuss.