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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

We were moved nearly to tears by the e-mail plea we received from University of California President Mark G. Yudof. It was labeled “A Sad Day for California,” and reported that Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget would cut the university’s take by more than a half billion dollars.

As Yudof said in an open letter to citizens, “The cuts the governor proposes will require sacrifice, pain and courage.” In response, my alma mater, Cal, has announced it is trimming 150 staffers, including a number drawing six-figure salaries. (Please don’t worry about those at the top of the scale; they’ll land on their feet. Their pay was set high to compete for their services with private industry, so they should be able to fly to the private sector and nail down even higher-paying jobs.)

As for fortitude, the university administration has screwed its courage – or something – to the sticking point and shelled out more than $4 million in salary bumps and “incentives” to administrators at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical School, just one of the system’s 10 campuses.

While this surely was a fine way to share the sacrifice and pain, our admiration was greatest for the decision to raise the annual salary of the UCLA hospital system’s chief financial officer from $380,000 to $420,000. The university described the move as a “preemptive retention salary adjustment.”

UC spokesman Amy Handleman explained that if the 10.5 percent raise were not granted, “Why, he might go somewhere else!”

Well, who could argue with such reasoning? We all remember the times our employers granted us handsome preemptive raises so we wouldn’t even think about looking for work elsewhere. That’s why there can be no quarrel with raises of over $12,000 a year for three executives in the university finance department.

Handleman called these expenditures “chump change,” noting the execs wouldn’t receive the 10 percent bonuses they expected. Further, she pointed out that one of the three had saved the university more than $100 million by cutting workers’ compensation and other insurance costs.

“We know the small-minded might ask, ‘Wasn’t that her job?’” said Handleman, “but that $12,000 was so tiny compared to the money saved as to be unworthy of notice. Why, we lose more than that every year in paper clips. The work university executives do makes them almost literally beyond price.”

Asked what kind of work the executives actually did, and Handleman said, “You probably wouldn’t understand what they do. It’s highly technical, arcane, even. And often the results are difficult to express in dollars-and-cents terms. In fact, to those in the outside world, it’s hard to tell that they do anything at all. We couldn’t do without them … really.”

This was heartening. It must be of great solace to students, who now pay tens of thousands of dollars for their “free” public education, to know dedicated administrators have turned away from jobs in private businesses to accept only paltry additions to their meager salaries.

It gives new meaning to the term “public service,” which we shall bear in mind the next time we receive a mailing asking us alumni to chip in.


O tempore! O mores! Further evidence that a Harvard degree isn’t necessarily an indicator of intelligence: Film star Natalie Portman and her black-swan dance partner, Benjamin Millepied, will be having a baby, and Portman told a television interviewer: “I want to be in, like, a long-term committed relationship. Marriage is less important to me. … I’m not, like, anti, I just don’t necessarily understand the specific difference.”

Somebody send this psychology major to the Blind Partisan’s Dictionary, which provides the following definition:

committed relationship: in ancient times, the unbreakable fidelity of one human being to another, who agree to be bound under law; currently, the fidelity of one human being to another while it is comfortable or convenient, who agree to be bound by nothing.

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