Andrew Epperson | Mustang News

A new California State University (CSU) audit shows Cal Poly disproportionately increased the number of administrators and their wages compared to faculty without justification.

Eighty-three administrators and management personnel were hired in the past eight years without adequate justification, according to the audit. While the purpose of hiring more personnel was clear — to improve housing, increase graduation rates, increase Title IX staff or meet other student needs, the audit focused on the lack of a numeric approach to decide how many staff members are needed to improve student success.

In 2016, 70 administrators received raises totaling more than $175,000 annually without written evaluations on file, breaking California Code of Regulations 5 CCR § 42722.

Armstrong explains
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong described the decision to hire more administrators and management personnel (MMP) as needed. He said each decision was thought out and debated, but did not have a formal process or paperwork to provide as evidence.

“Those are discussions we’ve had in the past,” Armstrong said. “We didn’t necessarily do an analysis.”

He also said Cal Poly has been very successful in reaching its goals, mentioning increasing graduation rates, student enrollment and being ranked first in a 2015 U.S. News and World Report for efficient universities in the Western region.

He could not show that the number of administration hirings directly caused the increase in graduation rates. Members of the Graduation Initiative leadership team attributed the increase in graduation rates to the use of PolyPlanner, the creation of degree flowcharts and a push in advising.

In order to hire more tenured faculty, a department has to convince its dean that a new hire is necessary. The dean must then convince the provost of the faculty member’s need and the department has to have a nationwide search.

The audit acknowledged Cal Poly’s successes, but argues CSUs need a numerically-based formal process for hiring management personnel and administration in order to ensure money is spent efficiently. Armstrong said administrators were rebounding from recession-era cuts, but information from the 2008 Cal Poly Fact Book combined with the audit, indicates there was not a significant cut of administrators. There were 166 administrators in 2007, one year before the recession hit. According to the audit, it increased to 168 the next year and then 183 the following year.

Armstrong said he was aware that the 70 administrators lacked evaluations and he knew it was against the California Code of Regulations to raise their pay. According to him, campus did not provide raises to anyone for the past seven years and he felt they should receive raises in 2016.

“The data is really clear,” Armstrong said. “For seven years, the MPPs and most faculty and staff received no raise, zero. Zero raises. That data is pretty clear.”

While it appears raises are evident in chancellor’s office data and the SacBee state working database, university spokesperson Matt Lazier clarified in a follow-up email that Armstrong meant there were specifically no General Salary Increases (GSIs) in the past seven years, which are pay increases across the board to all employees within a classification.

“The CSU General Salary Increase (GSI) ceased for MPP employees beginning in the 2008-09 academic year. During that year, faculty received $1.6 million in CSU funds for increases, while MPP did not receive any increase,” Lazier said. “The following year, 2009-10, all employees were put on furlough, which equated to a 10 percent pay cut. The were no GSI increases again for MPP until the 2013-2014 academic year, when the campus received a 1.34 percent GSI.”

Individual raises were given out between 2009 and 2016 to some administrators. Beyond that, as Lazier said, there was a GSI in 2014, so there were multiple raises for administrators during the seven years before the 70 administrators received their pay increases in 2016.

“Many supervisors across campus did not feel the evaluations were necessary since they could not be tied to a pay raise,” Lazier said. “The university was not as diligent as it should have been about having annual performance evaluations on file.”

Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) employees go through evaluations to get raises and faculty members go through a collective bargaining process.

Armstrong said that campus will be in compliance with Section 42722 from now on.

Lack of budget oversight
The auditor also said Cal Poly lacks budget oversight policies. Armstrong said there is a budget oversight process and that it is very thorough. He pointed out that Cal Poly has operated within its budget, which is backed up by the audit.

Cal Poly does not have written budget oversight policies, and relies on an informal policy to review division and department budgets. The CSU system is exempt from normal state budget regulations and Executive Order 1000 gives all responsibility of financial oversight to the president of each CSU. Without a formal policy, Armstrong delegates all budget oversight to each individual division or department.

“I am not aware of the audit saying that we aren’t following our budget or don’t have proper procedures there,” Armstrong said.

“Campuses do not adequately oversee their budgets” is written in red lettering on the first page of the audit. “None of the campuses were able to provide us documents such as policies or procedures that they provided as guidance to their divisions and departments for performing budget oversight.”

The audit did not accuse Cal Poly’s budget of any wrongdoing, only a lack of oversight.

The state implements 16 performance measures to check if each CSU’s budget makes any improvement to student success. This includes enrollment, degree completion and graduation rates.

Less admin and more professors
In 2015, the Academic Senate passed a resolution that echoed some of the claims made by the audit in regards to administration hiring. It asked for a temporary freeze on administration recruitment and individual salary increases until tenure density and the student-to-faculty ratio increased.

Tenure density is the percentage of professors among all instructors. The Senate asked for a 75 percent tenure density and an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The Academic Senate also asked for state funds to not be allocated more towards administration than instruction and a transparent budget allocation.

Though Armstrong received the resolution and agreed that increasing tenure density and faculty pay was a goal, tenure density has continued to decrease and 16 more management personnel have been hired since 2015. There is a transparent budget allocation available here. Armstrong said he has fulfilled some aspect of the resolution by increasing pay to all faculty. In 2015, he began an equity pay program.

Striking for less admin
It almost took a CSU-wide faculty strike.

The California Faculty Association (CFA), the teacher’s union, has also tracked administrative numbers since 2010. Jere Ramsey, San Luis Obispo’s CFA faculty rights head, made worksheets detailing the increase in administration spending — $12 million since 2010, $3 million of which is from the CSU Operating Fund and could be spent on faculty according to data from the Chancellor’s Office. Ramsey has been distributing the worksheets to administration and faculty.

“Every time [spending on administration] goes up, that’s another class students don’t get,” San Luis Obispo CFA head Graham Archer said. “Every $5,000 is a course.”

According to Al Liddicoat, associate vice provost for academic personnel, the main reason tenure density decreased was a lack of money. With $175,000 being spent yearly on administrators who received raises without being evaluated, Archer pointed to administrative bloat.

In 2009, a fact-finding arbitrator between the CFA and CSU said the CSU system can and should increase salaries of faculty members after they were cut, which the CSU system did not carry out.

ASI President Jana Colombini said there “should be no negative connotation to staff members getting raises.” Some of the spending on administrators was done through the Student Success Fee, she pointed out, which the ASI Board decides to allocate where they want. Other hirings were in response to student demands, including the new Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Jozi De Leon.

Colombini, an agricultural sciences senior, thinks there is some administrative bloat, but not in every salary increase or new hire. Still, she said, she believes everyone should get evaluated before getting a raise above the GSI. According to her, ASI employees work especially hard because they know they will be evaluated and the fact that 70 administrators were not ­— and still got a raise — was irritating.

She also said Armstrong’s salary is decided by the Board of Trustees, outside of his control, and that he has donated $529,750 of his own money back into
the university.

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