From kitchen tables to Capitol offices, two decisions California State University trustees made earlier this week have left Californians seething.
The same day the board raised tuition for the second time in a year, it awarded the new president of San Diego State a salary $100,000 higher than his predecessor's.
Students decried the move. Professors spouted off on Facebook. Newspaper editorials across the state blasted the university for being tone-deaf and out of touch.
And now lawmakers are tapping into the outrage.
At least three state legislators are working on bills that would curb executive pay at CSU.
Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, has drafted Senate Bill x1-25, which would prevent CSU from giving administrators raises above 10 percent in any year the university increases tuition for students. It would include sitting executives and new hires.
"Top-level CSU employees ought not to be given raises on the backs of higher student fees," Alquist said. "That's unconscionable."
Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who wrote a letter to CSU trustees this week asking them to rescind the $100,000 increase, said he plans to introduce his own bills on the matter next month.
One would say CSU can't increase administrator salary when there is a tuition increase or for two years following. Another would place a cap on how much CSU can pay its executives, tying it to "some rational compensation level," Lieu said.
"The majority of the CSU board of trustees is out of touch with reality, and that's why we need legislation to take discretion away from them," he said. "Because they apparently aren't using it correctly."
Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, wants to reintroduce a bill he wrote last year that would prevent CSU from giving executives raises in any year state funding decreases, said his spokesman Adam Keigwin.
The bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but "is one that there's certainly still a need for," Keigwin said.
CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith said compensation matters are better handled by university trustees than the Legislature.
"That's part of their fiduciary responsibilities as the governing board," Keith said. "And it's important that be maintained as part of their overall responsibilities for running the California State University and its campuses."
She said CSU has been responsible in its compensation practices, holding presidents' salaries at the same level since 2007. The previous San Diego State president's salary was "artificially low" because CSU hasn't awarded presidents raises in four years, Keith said.
A report CSU commissioned earlier this year found that CSU pays its presidents about 50 percent below market.
Trustee Roberta Achtenberg acknowledged "there is never a good time to set compensation . But we have a responsibility to choose excellent leadership for each of our campuses and the system and to compensate them appropriately."
Gov. Jerry Brown doesn't typically comment on legislation until he acts on it. But a letter he wrote to CSU trustees this week may be giving legislators some hope for their bills.
On Tuesday morning, the day of their vote, Brown asked trustees to reconsider plans to pay Elliot Hirshman, the new San Diego State president, a $400,000 salary.
"I fear your approach to compensation is setting a pattern for public service that we cannot afford," Brown wrote.
The CSU board responded to the governor's concerns by establishing a committee to examine the process for selecting and compensating campus presidents. It includes Steve Glazer, an adviser to Brown, who was among the trustees who voted against Hirshman's compensation package.
"My hope would be that we reform the way in which we find the very best people, (but) at more affordable salary ranges," Glazer said.
Hirshman's salary makes him the highest-paid campus president in the CSU system and tops his salary at his last job as provost of University of Maryland, Baltimore County by $133,000.
He replaces Stephen Weber, who earned an annual salary of $299,435 at the end of his 14-year tenure at the helm of San Diego State. The campus foundation, funded by private donors is paying $50,000 of Hirshman's salary.
But that didn't dull the criticism Tuesday, when trustees raised fall tuition by 12 percent, a hike that came on top of a 10 percent increase approved last year. Combined, the two increases bring undergraduate tuition at CSU's 23 campuses to $5,472 a year.
University of California regents also met this week. They too raised tuition on the same day they gave some executive raises.
The UC Student Association issued a statement criticizing the $27,500 raise for Vice President Patrick Lenz. But generally the UC decisions have not sparked the outcry that has ricocheted about CSU.
That may be because two of the executives who got raises this week are paid by UC's hospital system. And Lenz, who is paid by state funds, got a raise of 10 percent.
Or it may be because a 10 percent raise poses less of a public relations problem, said Steve Maviglio, a Sacramento Democratic communications specialist.
"$100,000 is a dramatic number compared to 10 percent," he said.
In terms of publicity, Maviglio said CSU would have been better off taking up the salary issue and the tuition increase on different days.
"If I had to deliver that news, I wouldn't put those two things together," he said. "It made it look like they were hurting the most vulnerable while rewarding the rich."