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SFAC members talk transparency concerns after rejecting administrator salary cap

The Student Fees Advisory Committee rejected a proposal to cap UCLA administrators’ salaries. Some members of the committee said they think this overlooks students. (Ashley Luu Kenney/Daily Bruin)

By Maria Carias

Feb. 6, 2019 12:31 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated the Student Fee Advisory Committee rejected a proposal from the Graduate Student Association on Jan 29. In fact, they rejected the proposal Jan. 22.

This post was updated Feb. 7 at 3:15 p.m.

Student fee allocators offered mixed views on whether their committee takes enough student input into consideration in light of the committee’s rejection of a proposal to cap UCLA administrators’ salaries.

The Student Fee Advisory Committee rejected a proposal from the Graduate Student Association to cap the salary of UCLA administrators at $202,000 per year Jan. 22.

GSA first proposed to cap administrative pay in November. Michael Skiles, the GSA president, said GSA passed the proposal hoping money that would otherwise go to administrators could be used to address issues of food insecurity and housing among students.

“We feel it is unethical that executives are exorbitantly compensated while students and workers are struggling with basic needs,” Skiles said.

Chancellor Gene Block has an annual salary of $469,172, which is higher than that of the highest-paid governor in the U.S., who makes $202,000 and of the U.S. president, who earns $400,000 per year.

Students currently pay $1,128 in student services fees per year, which are meant to fund various campus and student services. SFAC – composed of undergraduate, graduate, faculty and administrative representatives – is charged with providing budgetary recommendations to Block regarding where these fees should go. Block then makes the final decision regarding allotment.

Jazz Kiang, a student at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies and the chair of SFAC, said in an email statement that student representatives allow for the student population to have a voice in the allocation process.

However, Zak Fisher, a graduate student at the UCLA School of Law and member of SFAC, said he believes representatives voted against the proposal because they did not want to jeopardize their relationship with the chancellor even though they believed the proposal would have benefited students.

Fisher said he thinks administrators with half-a-million dollar salaries should not be prioritized over students.

“It’s not morally acceptable for that situation to be going on. Basically people are getting filthy rich working in administration at this school while students are starving, living in cars,” Fisher said.

Skiles said students’ incomes often do not help them meet basic expenses, citing a University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey which found 37 percent of UCLA undergraduates experience some level of food insecurity.

The members of the committee who voted against the proposal declined to comment.

Fisher said the rejection of the proposal led to conversations about transparency for students and conflicts of interest within the committee.

For instance, he said a member of the committee spoke on behalf of their campus organization asking for funds, and given the influence and position, the request is likely to be given different treatment.

He also said he believes students do not know where their fees are going, let alone that there is a committee that meets every Tuesday to decide where funds should be allocated. As a result, Fisher said he feels the best interests of students are often not kept in mind.

“I’ve been shocked, frankly, at the way the committee conducts itself, and the lack of transparency and lack of accountability,” Fisher said. “The general sentiment among … student representatives and administrative representatives is that we’re not really there to represent the students.”

The committee has had difficulties in the past with lack of student input in regard to their budget decisions, but it aims to support vulnerable student populations, such as those from low-income and nontraditional backgrounds, by appointing student representatives from underserved communities, Kiang said in an email statement.

Kiang also said he thinks the committee is already transparent enough because SFAC meetings are open to the public and students have access to the budget information online.

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