Commentary: California's university system must re-evaluate administration salaries

This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee. Call it a super-sized ratchet effect. Even during a major economic downturn and state budget crisis, executive compensation at the University of California — and other public university systems — only goes up.

Here's a prime example. The current chancellor at UC Davis, Larry Vanderhoef, earns a base salary of $315,000 a year. The just-named new chancellor, Linda Katehi, will earn a great deal more, $400,000. She also will get a $100,000 relocation allowance, moving costs, a car allowance of almost $9,000 a year and free housing.

Katehi made a generous $356,000 as provost at the University of Illinois but did not get free housing. While she is clearly well-qualified for the Davis job, UC had 600 applicants for the post. That makes it hard to see why such a lavish pay package was called for.

This kind of pay at a public university would be excessive even during flush economic times. But during an economic bust, it's unconscionable. It comes as students in the college class of 2009 can expect lower wages for a decade.

On top of Katehi's pay is a generous package for Vanderhoef, who is returning to the faculty. He will take a one-year sabbatical to develop a biology course and write a book about UC Davis.

Administrative salaries have become so much higher than faculty salaries that administrators find it difficult to return to teaching after an administrative stint. So instead of giving Vanderhoef a faculty sabbatical salary in his year off, UC will give him his executive salary of $315,000 (plus an office and travel budget of $39,000 and an assistant).

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.