Sunday, August 13, 2017

Seriously, let's do a test and see what happens

Testing, testing.
The San Francisco Chronicle is running an editorial complaining about the "perks" that were part of the pay package for former UC-Berkeley Chancellor Dirks. It is reproduced below. The editorial notes that his salary was below average for such positions. The argument, nonetheless, is essentially that his overall pay package looks bad to the public.

Thomas Edison, who you see in the picture, was noted for practical, pragmatic experimentation. If you have an idea, see what happens if you try it. You know that electricity can make a wire glow, but it typically burns up after a short time. Still, if you try different materials and techniques, maybe you can make a light bulb.

So here is a test. (And keep in mind that this blog - including in its post of yesterday - has been critical of Dirks.) At some point in the future, one of UC's campuses will need a new chancellor. We don't know which, but one will come along. Let's form a recruitment committee consisting of Jerry Brown (even if he is no longer governor), Gavin Newsom (the lieutenant governor, member of the Regents, and reportedly the leading candidate to succeed Brown), and a member of the Chronicle's editorial board. All these folks have expressed the same opinion on chancellor's pay. So let them choose a pay package that they think won't look bad to the public and go recruiting with it. Let's see who they get. If they come up with a great candidate, the Regents can approve the appointment. Who knows, maybe there is a great candidate out there who will work for whatever they offer, maybe just for the prestige. Or maybe there isn't. We'll see.

The editorial:
UC Berkeley perks are part of the problem

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board, August 11, 2017

Former UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks worried in the Washington Post last week that the battles over provocative speech that defined the end of his tumultuous tenure were “part of a broader assault on the idea of the university itself.” He argued that this especially threatens “public universities such as Berkeley that already grapple with precipitous declines in state funding” and contributes to a “loss of faith ... in values and institutions.”

Speaking of precarious faith in and financing of public universities, it also emerged last week that Dirks will receive the bulk of his half-a-million-dollar administrative salary during a year off before resuming his work as a history and anthropology professor. 

Granted, Dirks’ well-compensated leave is far from unprecedented in academia, and it amounts to a small fraction of the campus’ nine-figure budget deficit. But such perks help make California’s premier public university system look a lot tougher on student and family budgets than it is on its own.

A long-standing University of California policy gives chancellors returning to faculty posts a year off at full administrative pay after five years. Having served about four years as chancellor at a salary of $531,900, Dirks is eligible for a year’s leave at 82 percent of that, or $434,000. He is expected to use the time to attend conferences, deliver lectures, write a book about (what else?) higher education, and make the presumably jarring transition from administration to faculty, whereupon his salary will plummet by nearly half.

University of California spokeswoman Dianne Klein said the benefit helps Berkeley compete for qualified administrators even though its chancellor salary ranks in the lower third of members of the Association of American Universities, an invitation-only group of elite private and public research institutions. And the job is a tough one, especially for Dirks, who besides right- and left-wing agitators contended with budget deficits and a spate of sexual harassment cases. 

A university survey of other institutions found that most provide paid leave to top administrators returning to faculty jobs. The terms vary, however, and UC’s are among the most generous of the bunch. Moreover, the university has granted extended vacations even to administrators who have resigned in scandal in recent years. As a public system under the social and financial pressures Dirks noted, the university should reconsider what it can afford.


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