Trustees will vote on salary of new SDSU president

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The Cal State Board of Trustees is set to vote Tuesday on approving a $400,000 annual salary for its new San Diego State University president.

If approved, Elliot Hirshman's pay, which includes a $50,000 boost from the campus' nonprofit foundation, would be well above the nearly $300,000 former SDSU President Stephen Weber was paid per year and just below Cal State Chancellor Charles Reed's salary of $421,500, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“It's outrageous,” Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, a member of the Assembly's higher education committee, told the newspaper. “At a time then they are raising student fees, it's not acceptable. For those of us who fight for every nickel to help our kids, they make it very difficult.”

On the same agenda, the board will consider increasing tuition by 12 percent annually, or $294 a semester in the fall. That would follow previously approved 10 percent increase, The Times reported. Over the past decade, tuition has tripled to $4,884 annually for undergraduates.

The recently passed state budget reduces spending at Cal State schools by about $650 million. The San Diego campus, with about 35,000 students, is one of biggest of the system's 23 campuses and one of its leading research institutions.

San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi makes $353,200 annually; Cal State L. A. President James Rosser, $325,000; and Cal State Long Beach President King Alexander, $320,329. Several state university presidents also get housing allowances of about $50,000 per year.

The median total compensation for public college presidents in 2009-10 was $375,442, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Still, Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association, questioned the wisdom of paying Hirshman about $100,000 more than his predecessor.

“It is complete arrogance and tone deafness to be doing something like this while students are being knocked sideways by pretty staggering fee increases year after year,” Taiz, a history professor at Cal State L. A., told The Times “For those of us who have been struggling and working on helping the public understand the value of higher education and investment in higher education … it doesn't send the right message.”

Some students plan to protest at the board meeting.

“I think the salary they're talking about is ridiculous,” Funmilola Fagbamila, 20, said, adding that she plans to be at the demonstration. “I definitely think administrators have not shouldered their share of the cuts.”

Hirshman declined comment to The Times.

At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where Hirshman held the No. 2 position, he was paid $267,000 annually.

The SDSU pay package includes a $1,000-per-month vehicle allowance and reimbursement for moving costs, as well as for expenses incurred in selling Hirshman's home in Virginia. In San Diego, he will live in a house provided by the university.

A study commissioned by the chancellor, however, found that Cal State presidents are underpaid compared to their peers, receiving on average of 52 percent of chief executives at similar institutions.

Current presidents have not received a raise since 2007. If they had, their salaries would be more in line with Hirshman's proposed pay, said Cal State spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.

“The chancellor and trustees on the search committee have come to the consensus that he is going to be someone who is a leader for that university and for that community,” Uhlenkamp said. “We're not going to get people at bargain basement salaries to move across the country to fill those roles.”

In January, the Board of Trustees agreed to pay the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's new president, Jeffrey Armstrong, $350,000 in state-funded salary, plus a $30,000 annually from the campus foundation. That prompted a lawsuit from the faculty association, charging that the meeting in which the salary was approved violated open-meeting laws because it exceeded the high-end of the previous salary range — $228,584 to $328,200.

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