Chris Gateley / Mustang News

Following the state audit of the California State University (CSU) system released in April, it was revealed that Cal Poly gave general salary increases (GSI) to administrators without evaluations on file.

According to California state regulations, these administrator salary increases violated state law as they were not supported by merit-based evaluations.

President Armstrong was criticized by faculty for the unjustified administrator salary increases during an Academic Senate meeting about the results of the audit on May 9.

In 2015, the Academic Senate called for a hiring freeze on management positions until tenure density among faculty reached 75 percent and the student-to-faculty ratio reached 18:1. Meanwhile, tenure density — the proportion of professors to all faculty members — currently sits at 59.2 percent.

Along with commitments to review the training and monitoring system for salary increases by the Chancellor’s Office, Armstrong stated that the Chancellor’s Office will keep evaluations on file for future salary increase decisions in accordance with state regulations.

Administrator salary increases at Cal Poly

From 2015 to 2016, all but three of Cal Poly’s 202 administrators received a 2 percent salary increase, according to salary data obtained by the California Faculty Association (CFA) from the Chancellor’s Office. This was confirmed by Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier who stated administrators did indeed receive a 2 percent GSI in that time frame. 

GSIs, or automatic adjustments, are salary increases given to all members of an employee group without consideration of merit-based factors.

Of the three administrators to not receive an increase, one did not receive it because he retired before the end of 2016. Another moved from from a level three administrator to a level two administrator.

Lazier later clarified his earlier comment and said he misspoke when he referred to the administrator salary increases as GSIs and denied that they were.

“Oftentimes increases, merit or otherwise, are referred to broadly as a GSI, because that is common language on a university campus,” Lazier said.

However, according to the audit of the CSU system conducted by the California State Auditor, it was found that Cal Poly “lacked adequate procedures for justifying compensation increases for management personnel” and that “state regulations expressly prohibit the chancellor and presidents from granting general or automatic salary adjustments to management personnel.”

In 2014, another GSI was provided to administrators, Lazier told Mustang News. Administrator raises distributed in 2016 and 2014 were funded by an increase in the administrator compensation pool through the CSU system. The compensation pool is a pool of money intended to fund merit-based salary increases.

Total spending on administrative pay has increased by $13 million since 2011, a percentage change of 70 percent.  The change in administrative spending between 2015 and 2016 due to the salary increases was $1.1 million.

Some of that may be due to an increase in administrators being hired. However, while defending his administration to the Academic Senate on May 9, President Armstrong stated that some of the growth is attributed to spending through the Student Success Fee that students vote on.

According to Armstrong, a number of new administrators are reclassified faculty and staff. Further, many belong to departments such as the Title IX office, Disabilities Resource Center and Career Services. However, the audit did not dispute the necessity of administrators in specific departments but criticized a lack of analysis in the decision to increase salaries.

California Code of Regulations on administrator salary increases

In an explanation of why Cal Poly broke state law by providing raises to administrators without evaluations on file, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said he chose to give raises to “all administrators, across the board.”

Such automatic adjustments, or GSIs, are given to all members of an employee group without consideration of factors such as performance. According to California Code of Regulations Title 5 Section 42721, administrators are only supposed to receive merit-based salary increases based off of criteria such as productivity and quality of work.

“Adjustments of salary or perquisites or both salary and perquisites of a Management Personnel Plan employee shall be in accordance with a merit evaluation plan developed and administered by the appointing power,” the regulation said. “Adjustment of the salary range of an employee’s grade level shall not automatically affect the employee’s salary.”

In the state auditor’s report, it recommended that the Chancellor’s Office “Ensure that its own divisions and departments and campuses create, implement and adhere to a written merit evaluation plan for management personnel in accordance with state regulations.”

After a dialogue with the auditor, the Chancellor’s Office stated it “will implement a training program designed to ensure that campus faculty follow outside employment reporting requirements and provide recommended compliance monitoring protocols.”

Armstrong told the Academic Senate that the campus will be adhering to California regulations by having evaluations on file while deciding administrator raises in the future.

The auditor has reviewed the CSU’s progress on its recommendations and will do so again in October 2017 and April 2018.

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