Thursday, December 30, 2010

We're Going to Sue

Anyone living in California probably knows about the latest flap with the University of California, the 36 highly paid executives who claim they're going to sue the University if they have to retire on a mere $183,750 a year.  For the uninformed, here's the link to the original article.

I'm a U.C. Berkeley alumna, a life member of the alumni association, and I've been donating money to various university related causes most of my working life.  A few years ago, though, I quit donating to the University directly.  This was about the time we started hearing jointly about University executive salaries above $400K, and tuition increases.  (Are you listening, Mr. Yudof?  It was about the time you came on board, and your salary was the trigger.)

I now donate only to the University Library fund (directly) and to the Alumni Association.  A letter writer to the editor in the S.F. Chronicle the other day said she was going to quit donating to the Alumni Association over this flap, but she's got it wrong - the Alumni Association has nothing to do with what University execs get paid.  But this incident has confirmed my conviction that the University (as opposed to the university library) will not get One Dime of my money as long as it has people like these executives running it. 

I understand that there is or may be a contractual issue here, and frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.  These people have completely forgotten - as has the California Legislature - what the University of California was supposed to be about.  It was supposed to be about educating the children of California - NOT educating the children of California who can afford to pay $12,150 per year in tuition and campus fees.  Those kids were supposed to go to Stanford.

The argument for these absurd pension demands - indeed, the argument for the absurd salaries - is that "without higher pensions, U.C. could lose good people."  Baloney.  Horsepucky.  If the Regents chose to fire these prima donnas and advertise their jobs at salaries of $250K with comparable pension, they would be buried under a stampede of intelligent, competent, imaginative and capable people dying to get the jobs.  Especially if they limited the offer to people resident in California for at least 2 years.  University Regent Dick Blum described the litigants as "some of the University's most valuable employees."  More baloney.  These people are department heads - they are meeting attenders and paper pushers whose teaching duties, if any, are secondary.  The university's most valuable employees are the faculty and library staff who teach and support the students.

What really fried my bacon was this insistence that $187,750 a year is not an adequate pension.  Ladies and gentlemen, I retired  3 years ago, taking a lump-sum pension (that is, the entire present value of my pension) which didn't even approach that amount.  My husband is still working, but when he retires he'll get a pension that doesn't even approach that amount, and yet we expect to live very comfortably in retirement.  If you require $300,000 per year to live on in retirement, you need some training in money management, not to mention common sense.

This demand is pure extortion.  Pay us, and let the janitors and department secretaries starve in the gutter when they retire, or we'll sue you.  The University should fire these people and hire competent replacements at half their salaries.  I'm betting that the University would be at least as well managed as it is today.  Of course, that's a very low standard to beat. 

In Matier & Ross' column on Monday, Regent Blum was asked what the Regents would do if the Legislature failed to restore the $450 million it pulled out of U.C.'s budget in 2010.  Mr. Blum's response?  "Try to run the place more efficiently."


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