The City College of San Francisco board approved an initial 10 percent wage hike for 55 administrators Thursday night but held off on approving larger raises until an audit was conducted.
The hefty raises proposed by Chancellor Mark Rocha, which included a 90 percent increase for a dean at the college, ignited public outcry earlier this month.
The hikes were opposed by the college’s faculty union and students, who have seen their class offerings trimmed significantly over the past year as the college worked to close a $32 million budget deficit. City College Trustee Ivy Lee also criticized the process in which the raises were proposed for lacking transparency and two weeks ago called for an independent audit of Rocha’s proposal, urging her colleagues on the board to await the audit’s results before approving the increases.
Lee has also called on the college to hire an independent budget analyst and controller to monitor and vet the college’s spending moving forward.
“I really believe that government cannot govern in the dark. Trust cant exist when the process lacks integrity,” said Lee on Thursday, adding that she is supportive of granting the full raises retroactively, depending on the audit’s results. “This scrutiny and analysis I believe should be applied across the board to our entire budget — not just this instant situation of the administrative salary schedule.”
On Thursday, Rocha presented the college’s Board of Trustees with a modified plan that proposes an “immediate across the board annual base salary increase” of 10 percent for all administrators. Not included in the modified plan were raises for Rocha, three senior vice chancellors and the college’s general counsel.
The initial pay hike, which is retroactive to July 1 and includes a 3.26 percent state cost of living increase that is paid to all City College employees, was approved with a 5-1 vote by the board, with Lee delivering the only dissenting vote.
While the two-pronged plan also dictates that the fully revised salary schedule can only be approved and implemented after an independent audit is completed, Lee rejected the compromise.
“Every dollar that we have to spend has to be spent in the best interest of students of this college,” said Lee. “Administrators are part of college and community that serves students. I believe that. We should have 100 percent confidence that we are justified in spending money on these increases. That is why I want an independent analysis before we take action.”
While her colleagues on the board agreed that the audit is necessary and unanimously voted to approve it, they said that a “modest” raise was necessary to retain the college’s leadership. Rocha has said previously that the college lost 19 of its administrators last year.
“We have lost 25 percent of our administrators in last year, in one year. I feel there is an urgent need for us to adequately compensate the administrators that are still here,” said Board Vice President Trustee Tom Temprano. “I think this proposal is imminently reasonable — it’s a modest increase with COLA [a cost of living raise] factored into it.”
Temprano acknowledged the “frustration in the process thus far” felt by other stakeholders at the college.
“I want to take some responsibility for that myself. We as a board have a responsibility to ensure that the processes are transparent and conducted in a way that allows for adequate public input and respect for all involved,” said Temprano. “It feels like over last month that has not been the case.”
Revelations of the recommended salary increases for administrators, which totalled $588,000, earlier this month sparked protests led by students and faculty who said the raises were too high and inappropriate given the college’s current financial instability. Rocha’s proposal included a nearly $100,000 increase for a dean starting out at the college, bringing their salary up from $108,974 in the 2018-19 fiscal year to $208,000 in 2019-20.
The college’s community was further outraged that the raises were included as a line item in the budget, which was approved in August, and at the time appeared to have been granted without any public discussion.
Following pushback by the faculty union, AFT 2121, the college issued two consecutive press statements explaining that the raises still had to be discussed and approved by the full board.
At Thursday’s board hearing, Rocha apologized for the lack of transparency and confusion in the process guiding his proposal for the wage hikes.
“What I have heard loud and clear from my board and colleagues is that it wasn’t about the ‘what’…but that it was about the ‘how,’” said Rocha. “My bad.”
Rocha said that his modified proposal reduced the total cost of the raises to $293,870. He also argued that the initial increase was necessary to retain administrators, who haven’t received wage increases for the past two years while faculty and staff saw their salaries raised in 2017 and 2018.
In an effort to remove any potential conflict of interest, Rocha said that he would not participate in the selection of a “vendor-firm” to conduct the compensation audit. Pending the results of the audit, Rocha will “return to the Board for public approval with separate contracts” for the college’s senior vice chancellors and general counsel.
“Even if the finding of the independent study is ‘this far and no further,’ I think that this salary is fair on its face,” said Rocha, about the 10 percent increase approved Thursday. “It’s equitable to the administrators and most importantly a good thing for the college because it will give us our best opportunity to retain our current colleagues, and the best opportunity to fill vacant positions, which we have.”
But not everyone agreed.
“I’m in favor of the independent review before going forward, and then in support of retroactive raises if approved and found to be justified by independent review,” said AFT 2121 President Jennifer Worley. “It’s important to have an empirical and outside view on this and it’s important for us — if we are looking to compensate administrators at a fair rates — that we know what that means.”
Students and teachers who spoke during public comment described recent cuts to class offerings made by the college’s administration as “painful” and said that the raises were tone deaf given reductions in resources for students, including a number of class counselors.
“I’m recently very embarrassed to work at this institution — we live in the tech capital of the world and we don’t have a registration process that is smooth and easy,” said CCSF instructor Kathleen Duffy. “If things were working I would wholeheartedly support these raises. If classes had not been cut and things are working, but they are not working.”
Student Emi Zander said that reductions to services at the college have affected resources for its queer community.
“The resource centers have been taking a huge hit — the queer resource center was barely open last semester,” said Zander. “We have lost our faith in the spaces where we felt safe in. It’s not the time to give raises like this, raises that are 100 percent [increases] compared to what [the salaries] were before. I think it’s really disrespectful toward our communities to cut our classes, remove our spaces where we feel safe and justify raises on top of that.”