The University of California Board of Regents today approved the hiring of Columbia University Faculty Dean Nicholas Dirks as the new chancellor of UC Berkeley, a widely lauded selection, but one whose $50,000 pay increase over his predecessor was opposed and criticized by Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
That $50,000 bump will be paid for by private donors through the university’s foundation, but the fact that Chancellor Dirks will be receiving a $487,000 annual salary and a bevy of perks from an underfunded university system that has put the squeeze on faculty and students in recent years still looks really bad.
During the conference call meeting, Brown said the big raise “does not fit within the spirit of servant leadership that I think will be required over the next several years,” according to an account by the Sacramento Bee.
Brown referred to the recent narrow passage of his tax package, Prop. 30, which helped avoid deep trigger cuts to education. “I’ve just come through a campaign where I’ve pledged the people that I will use their funds judiciously and with real stewardship, with prudence,” Brown reportedly said, later adding, “We are going to have to restrain this system in many, many of its elements and this will come with great resistance.”
Matt Haney, executive director of the UC Student Association, praised Brown’s stand. “We would echo those sentiments. At a time when students are paying more and getting less, and the people of California expect the UC to use its money on its most critical priorities, such as serving the students, it’s not the time to be giving more to those at the top,” Haney, who is also a newly elected member of the San Francisco Board of Education, told the Guardian.
Especially irksome to Haney is the fact that it didn’t appear Dirks really needed the extra money to bring him here, calling it a reflection of the mentality of the corporate titans that comprise the Board of Regents. “It’s another indication of the tone deafness of UC management and that’s a big concern,” Haney said. “It’s a reflection of a philosophy that’s problematic and that students have been critical of for a long time.”
While Haney acknowledges $50,000 isn’t a huge amount of money compared to the UC’s needs, he also said that this gesture is more than merely symbolic, noting that it feeds public perceptions that the UC is being wasteful and that could hurt the system’s ability to get needed resources from the Legislature or voters.
Brown also said that he wants the UC to demonstrate “greater efficiency, greater elegance, modesty.”
Dirks is a career academic and professor of anthropology and history, and you can see and hear from him in this You Tube video: