Incoming California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy White is taking the public education system’s budget problems to heart, demonstrated last week by asking for a 10 percent cut in his salary.
White, who will become CSU chancellor at the end of this year, asked the CSU Board of Trustees to cut the state-funded portion of his salary from $421,500 per year to $380,000. The Board of Trustees agreed.
White said one of his top priorities was managing resources and budget to maintain a high quality of education in the CSU, in a press conference call in October, when White was named as the chancellor-designee.
“We have our work cut out but I am enormously optimistic,” White said. “We just have to find our way here in a difficult economy.”
White’s request to the Board of Trustees is a first gesture of that commitment, CSU media relations specialist Erik Fallis said.
The chancellor-designee made the personal request to reduce his salary (which was originally set at the same amount current CSU Chancellor Charles Reed made) as a gesture of appreciation for the sacrifices other members of the CSU have made under budget cuts, Fallis said.
“He thought it was important given what faculty, staff and students have had to endure,” Fallis said.
The salary cut, which amounts to $41,500 in an approximately $4 billion operation, will not do much to change the financial situation of the CSU, however, Fallis said.
Instead, the move is a mostly symbolic one, Fallis said.
“The same financial challenges we had the day before he made this request are the same the day after,” Fallis said.
The announcement of White’s salary cut comes six months after the California Faculty Association (CFA), a union of California instructors, voted to strike to protest breakdown in contract negotiations over faculty salaries.
The CFA argued that administrators’ salaries, like Reed’s and several CSU presidents’, were unnecessarily high while faculty were not receiving any raises.
White’s request to cut his salary will not affect other administrators’ pay, though, and was done as a personal gesture, Fallis said.
“He made no request of anyone else,” Fallis said. “This is simply his gesture as he comes into the CSU system.”
Faculty members at Cal Poly welcome the gesture nonetheless, Cal Poly CFA chapter president and mechanical engineering professor Glen Thorncroft said.
White’s recognition of faculty’s concerns before taking the position of chancellor is a sign that he’s “getting off on the right foot” with the CFA, Thorncroft said.
“I think it’s a great signal,” Thorncroft said. “I think it’s a symbolic gesture that means a lot to the faculty.”
The CFA had in the past voted to strike in protest of the lack of pay raises, as well as suing the CSU for raising executive salary pay ranges by allowing Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong a $350,000 per year salary.
The CFA lost its suit against the CSU last year, when a court found that the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act had not been violated in determining President Armstrong’s salary.
The CFA remained unhappy with pay levels, however, and faculty members at California State University, Dominguez Hills and California State University, East Bay held a strike last November.
Incoming chancellor White’s decision to take a salary cut could be a sign that the uneasy relationship between the CFA and CSU is changing, though, Thorncroft said.
Though White’s request for a salary cut will not affect the salary of other CSU executives like Armstrong, Thorncroft said he believes it is a signal to CSU presidents that the public education system is changing with the new chancellor, he said.
“I wouldn’t doubt that presidents are seeing this also as a signal of a paradigm shift in the CSU,” Thorncroft said.