Monday, December 3, 2012

Dirks' Perks Irk

Much of the news media coverage of the appointment of the new UC-Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks involved the fact that his salary would be $50,000 more than that of his predecessor (albeit an increment paid by private funds).  

You can find the salary comparison used to justify the pay level to the Regents at:

The governor, the lieutenant governor, and one regent was unhappy with the salary and the news media picked up the complaints.  See, for example:

Probably, however, if there was to be controversy, it might have been over an item in the footnotes (which apparently news media reporters and maybe regents don’t read).  Given all the concerns about unfunded liabilities in the retirement system – including the 100% unfunded retiree health plan – it is a bit surprising (no?) to find this item in the pay package in footnote M:

Item M. As an exception to policy, eligibility to participate in the University’s insured retiree health-care plans on an accelerated eligibility schedule (subject to changes in the law), receiving 50 percent of the maximum University contribution after completing five years of service. For each additional year of service completed, the percentage will be increased by ten percent, thereby making Mr. Dirks eligible for the maximum University contribution upon completing ten years of service.

We’ll eventually get the audio for the special regents meeting at which the pay package was approved.  Did the governor – with his concerns about the “wall of debt” faced by the state – get beyond the $50,000?  We’ll have to wait to hear. [UPDATE: I am told by someone who heard the meeting that there was no discussion/debate concerning the footnoted items.]

There is an interview with the incoming chancellor in the Daily Cal (the Berkeley student newspaper) – which includes an audio recording - at:

It is unlikely that we’re going to turn the corner and go back to where the great Master Plan started and the kind of funding schemes that were envisioned as fundamental to the success of that Master Plan. It’s a different reality, and we know now that a lot of other things are possible that weren’t even thinkable in those days — from the use of digital technology, online education, to the role that private support will necessarily play in the great public universities. This is certainly something that is not happening only at the University of California … Unless I’m reading the tea leaves wrong, I think we’ll be very happy if we can maintain the level of state support, at least the level of percentage of revenue that we currently have…  (W)e have that same set of challenges in private universities too. We don’t take funding for things that we don’t accord great priority to, that we don’t actually give credence to as part of an academic planning process. So when we go out and engage in a campaign, we map opportunities for fundraising right onto a strategic academic plan that has already been formulated as something that is an organic outgrowth of a whole variety of constituents on campus who have been part of that process … There are all sorts of safeguards, all sorts of protocols that we’ve used in private universities and that are used here to ensure that undue influence from donors doesn’t in fact change the academic mission of the university.

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