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University of California regents drew criticism from Gov. Jerry Brown today as they hired Nicholas Dirks to be the next chancellor of UC Berkeley and agreed to pay him a salary $50,000 higher than outgoing chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

"The $50,000 increase above the incumbent, even though that incumbent has not received a pay raise, does not fit within the spirit of servant leadership that I think will be required over the next several years," Brown said during a telephone meeting of UC's governing board of regents.

Brown, who sits on the board but rarely participated in meetings until voters approved his Proposition 30 tax increase this month, voted against Dirks' compensation package which includes:

  • An annual salary of $486,800, of which $50,000 will be paid by private donors
  • An annual auto allowance of $8,916
  • A house on the Berkeley campus
  • Moving expenses
  • A one-time relocation bonus of $30,425 paid in installments over four years

Brown said UC needs to create a "new paradigm...which is a university that functions at a lower cost ratio than currently is the case."

"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," the governor said, adding that he would continue to press UC "for greater efficiency, greater elegance, modesty."

"We are going to have to restrain this system in many, many of its elements and this will come with great resistance," Brown said.

Regent George Kieffer said the salary was appropriate for the leader of the "number one public university in the world" and that UC has demonstrated a commitment to keeping salaries down. UC officials provided a salary survey of the nation's top universities showing that its chancellors are paid in the bottom third of the group.

"We've already begun to attempt to draw down this disparity in incomes and this growth of compensation at the executive level," Kieffer said.

Regents today also appointed Jane Close Conoley as the interim chancellor of UC Riverside, following Chancellor Timothy White's departure to head the California State University system. Conoley will receive an annual salary of $245,600 - more than $79,000 less than White received in that job. Brown voted in favor of her compensation package.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, responded to the news of Dirks' salary by saying that next week he will re-introduce a bill to prohibit executive pay hikes at UC and CSU during bad budget years or when student fees increase. A similar bill has failed twice: last year it didn't get out of the Senate education committee and in 2009 then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.

"UC and CSU are public institutions designed to serve California's students and not to be a cash cow for wealthy executives," Yee said in a statement. "I am committed to passing legislation to stop these egregious compensation practices and restore the public trust."

3:30 p.m. This post was updated to include response from Sen. Leland Yee.



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