WHEN the California State University board of trustees voted in secret to give university executives a 12 percent pay hike last week (and more raises over the next four years, for a total of 40 percent), they underestimated how badly it would play in the public. It wasn’t just that they were endorsing double-digit raises for a group of bureaucrats who already earned more than a quarter-million a year each – not counting car and housing allowances – less than a year after their last raise. It wasn’t just that the raises equaled many of their employees’ annual salaries of $30,000 to $45,000. It wasn’t just that Chancellor Charles Reed’s pay was raised to $421,500. It was that these hikes in pay were approved at the same time education is taking budget hits. It was that trustees endorsed such a large boost at the same time they are contemplating yet another fee increase for their students. And while CSU faculty members were seeing the paltry raises they fought for last spring show up in their checks. It shows how out of touch the political class in California is when it doesn’t realize that such disparate treatment is bound to cause political problems. The only justification for this lavish pay raise was a study by a private consulting firm that looked at university executive compensation packages and found that CSU’s executives’ pay lagged below counterparts at other institutions. The problem is the consultants didn’t take into account their $60,0000 housing allowance, or their $12,000 car allowance. Nor did they consider that California offers clear quality-of-life advantages over other locales. This is a state proud of maintaining an accessible and nonelitist public-university system. But that system is getting ever less accessible as fees increase annually, and the higher-education ideals of the state are leached away. We can’t think of a worse time for executives to have their salaries boosted so high. There’s no reason to let this kind of out-of-touch policy continue. There are two bills in front of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that could make a difference by reforming the secret compensation process for CSU executives. We urge him to sign the bills, and help CSU’s leaders get back in touch with the people they serve.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!