UC Berkeley has a new chancellor, but his raise is blasted by Gov. Brown

Nicholas Dirks is the new chancellor of UC Berkeley

The University of California Board of Regents today approved the hiring of Columbia University Faculty Dean Nicholas Dirks as the new chancellor of UC Berkeley, a widely lauded selection, but one whose $50,000 pay increase over his predecessor was opposed and criticized by Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

That $50,000 bump will be paid for by private donors through the university's foundation, but the fact that Chancellor Dirks will be receiving a $487,000 annual salary and a bevy of perks from an underfunded university system that has put the squeeze on faculty and students in recent years still looks really bad.

During the conference call meeting, Brown said the big raise “does not fit within the spirit of servant leadership that I think will be required over the next several years,” according to an account by the Sacramento Bee.

Brown referred to the recent narrow passage of his tax package, Prop. 30, which helped avoid deep trigger cuts to education. "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," Brown reportedly said, later adding, "We are going to have to restrain this system in many, many of its elements and this will come with great resistance.”

Matt Haney, executive director of the UC Student Association, praised Brown's stand. “We would echo those sentiments. At a time when students are paying more and getting less, and the people of California expect the UC to use its money on its most critical priorities, such as serving the students, it's not the time to be giving more to those at the top,” Haney, who is also a newly elected member of the San Francisco Board of Education, told the Guardian.

Especially irksome to Haney is the fact that it didn't appear Dirks really needed the extra money to bring him here, calling it a reflection of the mentality of the corporate titans that comprise the Board of Regents. “It's another indication of the tone deafness of UC management and that's a big concern,” Haney said. “It's a reflection of a philosophy that's problematic and that students have been critical of for a long time.”

While Haney acknowledges $50,000 isn't a huge amount of money compared to the UC's needs, he also said that this gesture is more than merely symbolic, noting that it feeds public perceptions that the UC is being wasteful and that could hurt the system's ability to get needed resources from the Legislature or voters.

Brown also said that he wants the UC to demonstrate "greater efficiency, greater elegance, modesty."

Dirks is a career academic and professor of anthropology and history, and you can see and hear from him in this You Tube video:


arguably the biggest bargain in town. Take it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

or just one of the tone-deaf UC regents?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

compensation will get CA a world-class business leader?

It's 1% of what a comparable CEO would make. Let's just hope he's enjoys the work.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

Governor Brown is right. Dirks is *not* the CEO of a major corporation, but a public servant. Furthermore, these are hard economic times for students and employees of UC. Great sacrifices have been demanded of everyone, except those at the top (the 1%). So, as a UC Berkeley alumna, I would like to know, Where is Dirks' leadership and sense of responsibility to the community he serves?

Posted by Ana on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

The only sense of responsibility he has is to his pocketbook. Overpaying public servant UC executives is part of the strategy towards privatizing public education. Why else would an investor in at least two for-profit education companies, Career Education Corporation and ITT Educational Services, be a member of the UC Board of Regents?

I refer to Richard Blum, aka Mr. Dianne Feinstein. He's also getting rich from defense contracts and from selling off the US Postal Service.

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

As Adam Goldstein and Jacob Habinek point out, many members of the UC Board of Regents are former Wall Street CEO's. "In 1990, none of UC's top management or regents had direct ties to the major Wall Street banks. Today, those banks have a growing foothold among top UC management with direct oversight over UC's finances." And it looks like most of the Prop 30 funds will be squandered in payments to those very banks.


Posted by Ana on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

If you pay peanuts, you'll get monkeys.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 6:41 am

Amazing how obsessed he is with the OSS, precursor to the CIA.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 27, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

Wow, Cal. pays, 50, grand more for uni-brows, is this guy for real.

Posted by Guest dan on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 7:08 am

I'm more concerned with the fact that he thinks those glasses are a good look.

Posted by The Commish on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 9:54 am

Apparently, he recanted his support for divestment from Israel in order to get the chancellor gig.

I'd like to enclose the link, but I can't get past the captcha filter. Where do you type in the word?

Interested? Go to UC Berkeley news center.

Posted by Eddie on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 10:01 am

Eddie, just type right under the letters in the big space/ box surrounding the letters (whatever it's called)...then press send. I know I had trouble figuring that out too. I enjoy your comments and look forward to hearing more from you. :-)

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 6:36 pm
Posted by Eddie on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

This Washington Post article sums it up. "Peer benchmarking" creates a never-ending virtuous cycle for overpaid execs and university presidents:


Posted by Troll the XIV on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

This is how it’s done in corporate America. At Amgen and at the vast majority of large U.S. companies, boards aim to pay their executives at levels equal to or above the median for executives at similar companies.

The idea behind setting executive pay this way, known as “peer benchmarking,” is to keep talented bosses from leaving.

But the practice has long been controversial because, as critics have pointed out, if every company tries to keep up with or exceed the median pay for executives, executive compensation will spiral upward, regardless of performance. Few if any corporate boards consider their executive teams to be below average, so the result has become known as the “Lake Wobegon” effect.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

If the shareholders are willing to pay excessively for those whom they believes capable of garnering superior ROE, then why would you or anyone else care?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

Whenever I hear about all the excessive pay for execs, I think of Malcolm Gladwell's excellent piece exposing "the deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors. This “talent mind-set” is the new orthodoxy of American management. It is the intellectual justification for why such a high premium is placed on degrees from first-tier business schools, and why the compensation packages for top executives have become so lavish. In the modern corporation, the system is considered only as strong as its stars, and, in the past few years, this message has been preached by consultants and management gurus all over the world."

But how true is it? Gladwell exposes “the dark side of charisma” and the failure of companies like Enron, which followed this policy assiduously. He cites a study by psychologist Robert Hogan who argued "that flawed managers fall into three types. One is the High Likability Floater, who rises effortlessly in an organization because he never takes any difficult decisions or makes any enemies." (think Ed Lee) "Another is the Homme de Ressentiment, who seethes below the surface and plots against his enemies. The most interesting of the three is the Narcissist, whose energy and self-confidence and charm lead him inexorably up the corporate ladder. Narcissists are terrible managers. They resist accepting suggestions, thinking it will make them appear weak, and they don’t believe that others have anything useful to tell them. “Narcissists are biased to take more credit for success than is legitimate,” Hogan and his co-authors write, and “biased to avoid acknowledging responsibility for their failures and shortcomings for the same reasons that they claim more success than is their due.”

Finally, Gladwell points out that corporatations work under different rules than individuals and require a systematic approach to problems. "The broader failing of...(companies like) Enron is their assumption that an organization’s intelligence is simply a function of the intelligence of its
employees. They believe in stars, because they don’t believe in systems. In a way, that’s understandable, because our lives are so obviously enriched by individual brilliance. Groups don’t write great novels, and a committee didn’t come up with the theory of relativity. But companies work by different rules. They don’t just create; they execute and compete and coördinate the efforts of many different people, and the organizations that are most successful at that task are the ones where the system is the star."

Do me a favor: Read the article before you knock it. Here's the link:


Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

The share price tells you all you need to know.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 9:57 am

Before they got bailed out, before quantitative easing 1, 2 and 3...you know, those backdoor bailouts? How do you think they managed those prices in have been living off the teat of the "nanny state" at the expense of the rest of us. As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "The problem is that we have socialism for the rich and rugged free enterprise capitalism for the poor.”

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

And higher when you consider the dividends. My stock portfolio is at an all-time high because I also invested in overseas equities, and emerging markets have done very well.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

Interesting article, guest. Thanks for posting.

It's nice that the Dodd-Frank Act enables shareholders (on the proxy) to accept or reject the CEO's pay.

This is how Citi CEO Vikram Pandit ("Bandit") got the boot. The shareholders voted against his $14 million salary (all he had done over the previous year was see the stock fall 50%).

The shareholders were upset, and got the ball rolling. The "Board of Directors" is just a bunch of palsy-walsy Old Boys, sitting on each others' boards and keeping each other flush with cash.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 4:09 pm


Psst, don't tell the SFBG.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

give us an example of corporate "democracy"

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

I had zero power to remove George W. Bush

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 9:57 am

"Wells Fargo, assisted by dozens of Bay Area police, took the unprecedented step of locking more than 100 of its shareholders out of its annual meeting – a meeting they had every legal right to attend."


Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

so they could attend the meeting to protest. I'd have locked them out too.

Anyway, you can vote without showing up for the AGM

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

give us an example of corporate "democracy"

Posted by Guest on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 6:38 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

Since entities cannot vote, they are disenfranchised unless they can influence elections in other ways. It's fair.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

Nothing mysterious about that.

Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

As we know from Tim and Steven, it is impossible to overpay a public employee.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Nov. 29, 2012 @ 4:27 pm