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New SDSU President's $400K Salary Is Raising Eyebrows

Reactions from Aztec students, staff and alumni vary about President Elliot Hirshman's recently approved salary package. One student calls it "adding insult to injury."

New San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman has been in office for little more than a week, and his salary increase has confused and upset some students, staff and alumni.

The California State University budget has been cut regularly for several years, including the upcoming 2011-12 academic year in which another $650 million has been cut. This cut is expected to raise tuition fees by 12 percent.

However, despite this cut, the CSU board of trustees approved a $400,000 salary for Hirshman—an increase of $100,565 from what predecessor Stephen L. Weber made.

“Frankly, I think it's ridiculous,” SDSU student Ariana Torres said. “When UCs and CSUs raise tuition on students in a time where classes and faculty are being cut, giving the new president a raise of that amount only adds insult to injury.”

Another student agreed that raising the SDSU president's salary was not the best decision for the board to make.

"I think his salary seems almost extravagant especially when considering the systematic slashes in school programs," SDSU student Osmar Abad said. "We've been advised to load up on as many classes during the summer sessions as the fall will be severely cut. ... I think he needs to set an example. If Jerry Brown is willing to take a pay cut in his public capacity as the governor of the state, as a leader representing another public institution, Mr. Hirshman would be virtuous to follow his lead."

Not only students, but alumni are finding Hirshman’s salary increase hard to justify.

“As an Aztec alum and small business owner, I'm a bit confused as to how the Board of Regents and state came up with that number,” former SDSU student David Oates said. “When I have a budget shortfall, I don't give myself or other executives a pay raise. They may have good reasons, mind you. But from an outsider, I’m having a hard time understanding it. I hope they explain it in detail. If not, I'll naturally think harder when they call my house to ask for a contribution.”

But SDSU alum Sean Upton, who now works for a private university, said the salary seems “largely reasonable, if that salary is justified based on return on investment in terms of donations to the school, and is sufficiently appropriate compared to other post-secondary public [campuses].”

He added: “Most current college students ... tend to have no idea how much of their education is paid by the state, which usually reinforces the perspective that the biggest tragedy of budget cuts is the hike in fees, when availability, access, quality for students and a secure culture of research and learning for faculty are much more impacting with immediate and lasting damage.”

However, Peter Herman, a professor in the SDSU English Department, called the salary “outrageous.” 

“We are told endlessly that in a time of crisis, everybody must do much more with much less, that everybody must sacrifice. Evidently, that does not apply to the top level of CSU administrators.”

He added: “The fact-finder’s report last year said that the CSU never claimed that they did not have the money to pay faculty the raises stipulated in the previous contract, but instead, they referred to ‘other priorities.’ Now we know what those ‘other priorities’ are.”

SanteeMom July 15, 2011 at 10:39 PM
oops, "could go to" not "good go to"
Crystal Sudano September 20, 2011 at 10:56 AM
Excuse me but very quick point. The Educational Master Plan that was adopted by the voters of California says that the wanted Public Education to be FREE. There IS a provision within the Master Plan that says IF there isnt adequate funding (state revenue) generated in order to accomodate the Plan that "fees" could then be charged to the students (not "tuition") because the Master Plan which is the "Law" prohibits "tuition" being charged to students accessing the public school system. Soooo if there isnt enough funding from revenue to follow the law, making public education free for students, then there isnt enough funding from revenue to pay top dollor to a university president either. Oh and the standard answer.... "... in other states they pay xyz..." Look around.... we are NOT in another state... we are here in California. Ca. is broken and I can assure you tying to keep up with the Jones in another state is not going to solve the problem for our state. Basic checking account logic? You dont go around spending money you dont have.
Crystal Sudano September 20, 2011 at 11:16 AM
One more thing...its not 400k...its 350k 50k is being "donated" by the SDSU Foundation. Which is wierd. One of the men who sat on the hiring committe for the president ALSO is also a board member of the SDSU Foundation. SDSU President ALSO recieves 60k as his housing allowance, also recieves 1,000 a month for auto expenses. (12,000) He is entitled to full health, dental, and visual benifits for the rest of his life. He gets an unbelievable retirement package. The new SDSU President negotiated that he would be able to seek an honorary docterate degree from one of the colleges at SDSU. Why is this a big deal? Because when you retire the higher your educational Degree the more you get paid. I assure you 350k is just a small drop in the bucket....
Komfort September 20, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Think of all the firefighters we could have for that kind of money! It would be 5.7 at the average pay of $70,000. Bless our heroes! Wait, come again? They trade days off and average $120,000 using an overtime scheme? Be nice. They deserve the Fire Castle, and we owe them. I remember it every time I see the “boot” out. http://lgcr.sco.ca.gov/CompensationDetail.aspx?entity=City&id=11983742100&year=2009&GetCsu=False
A. Kemalyan December 04, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Let me just say this: the President of the United States is compensated with $400k annually with an additional $50k expense allowance. I'm not sure that anyone could make a case where it is justifiable to pay the president of a single CSU a salary so comparable to that of the US President's. As a current SDSU student myself, I can personally attest to Hirshman's "qualifications" as they relate to "run a tight ship and keep costs and spending down" everyday when I watch the construction of the $104,000,000 Student Union building that is funded by none other than the all-elastic Student Fees. Cheers.

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