California State University trustees will consider freezing state-funded pay for new campus presidents next week, but with a catch: Raises could still come from foundation accounts.
CSU trustees have come under fire in recent months for giving raises to newly hired presidents as state funding has shrunk and fees have soared, particularly last year when they granted new San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman a $100,000 raise from $300,000 to $400,000.
In January, the board agreed to limit raises for campus presidents to 10 percent above what the outgoing leader made. Trustees in the past have argued that such pay is necessary to attract the most qualified candidates to run CSU campuses.
But the 23-campus system continues to face pressure from state leaders and employee unions demanding more action.
Faculty members, currently in a contract dispute over several issues, are voting on whether to authorize a strike later this year, with results of the vote due Wednesday.
Since 2007-08, CSU tuition has risen from $2,772 to $5,472, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.
The new proposal would freeze use of state funds for pay hikes until 2014 but allow campuses to tap foundation money when "deemed necessary to retain the best leader."
California Faculty Association President Lillian Taiz questioned the idea of allowing donors through a foundation to supplement university pay.
"If a public employee is getting paid by a private source, who do they work for?" she said.
In the San Diego case last year, half of the $100,000 raise came from a university foundation. CSU foundations raise money in a variety of ways, ranging from donations to campus bookstores.
The latest plan comes as the CSU system could fill seven vacancies in the next year, according to CSU spokeswoman Claudia Keith.
Despite having changed the policy in January, "some of the board members were expressing that they wanted to look at the policy once again," Keith said. "So they started thinking about so many of the presidential vacancies and hiring coming up, and this seems thoughtful and reasonable."
Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said the "policy rings hollow." Yee has proposed legislation prohibiting CSU presidential salary hikes in times of state budget cuts or tuition hikes, but his bill has stalled.
"They are still going to be taking money from our students and giving it to top executives," Yee said. "Just because it's foundation money doesn't mean the money couldn't have been used to offset some of the financial difficulties CSU students are having."