Illustration by Patrick Yeung.

Full-ride scholarships to a UC for 196 students. Fifty-five thousand textbooks. Health insurance for 454 families (maybe the ones who make less than living wages cleaning the bathrooms in your dormitory). The salaries of 40 well-paid professors (maybe the ones who lost their jobs in the languages, community studies or American studies programs). For $5.5 million, the UC could have any one of these things — not to mention beginning to pay off its $22 billion deficit.

But for 36 UC executives, that money would be better spent on retirement benefits. Their annual salaries — which exceed a quarter of a million dollars — just aren’t enough. The group demands full-salary retirement benefits instead of pensions based on a $245,000 federal cap. These proposed benefits would cost the UC $5.5 million annually.

Those leading the charge say the UC broke a promise. Politicians, unions and the University of California Office of the President, however, say the UC just can’t afford to pay the extravagant pensions these executives demand.

The Master Plan was developed to provide a public research university system that any qualifying student could attend regardless of income or socioeconomic background, free from tuition. That is not our reality.

It is the responsibility of UC employees to advocate for and protect students and educators’ best interests.

While the 36 UC executives threatening to sue may have legal grounds, they are morally corrupt.

You can’t put a price tag on accessibility or progress, but an annual $5.5 million toward the university could help put the UC back on track to being one of the leading public universities in the world and improving the lives of tens of thousands of students.

Christopher Edley, Marie Berggren and J. Thomas Rosenthal are just three of the 36 petitioning for full-salary retirement benefits. In 2009, Edley, Berggren and Rosenthal earned $336,511, $637,824 and $729,186, respectively. Edley is dean of UC Berkeley Law School, Berggren is chief investment officer, vice president of investments and of Office of the President and acting treasurer of the regents, and Rosenthal is chief medical officer at the UCLA Medical Center.

The letter-writers claimed it would be “unprecedented” for the university to not provide the benefits discussed in the past.

But the reality is that the UC has broken many promises in the last decade. In November, the UC Board of Regents voted to increase out-of-state student enrollment. Programs are being cut and class sizes are growing. Union employees work for less than living wages. Professors and teaching assistants are out of work. And students are running out of patience.

But not once during rallies have students or workers called for increased spending for executives. And we’re the ones paying administrators’ salaries.

This time at least, the UC is protecting the integrity of the university. Promise or no promise, the priority of the UC is to provide high-quality, accessible higher education to California’s students, not to pay for tropical vacations and extravagant retirements.


Salary information provided by and a UC salary database compiled by Bay Area News Group.