It’s been a bad year for University of California students, but a very good year for UC Berkeley bioengineer Jay Keasling.
During the same UC Board of Regents session that boosted student fees by another eight percent, the regents handed the professor an 11 percent raise just a few weeks after his private corporation went public and earned him more than $10 million worth of stock.
First the fee hike, by way of Terence Chea of the Associated Press:
The cost of a University of California education is going up 8 percent, but fewer students will pay the full sticker price.
The UC Board of Regents on Thursday approved the plan to raise student fees next fall while offering more financial aid.
The decision came a day after a violent protest over the issue led to injuries to four police officers and the arrests of 13 people. There were no protesters at Thursday’s meeting.
In fall 2011, student fees for California residents will increase by $822 to more than $11,000. That doesn’t include individual campus fees or room and board.
The latest fee hike follows a 32 percent increase earlier this year. It will raise an estimated $180 million in annual revenue, with about one-third set aside for financial aid.
Under the plan, the 10-campus system will expand its so-called Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, so most students from families earning less than $80,000 annually would not have to pay any tuition. The program currently covers families earning less than $70,000.
The day before the regents socked it to the students, they approved a $358,000 annual compensation package for Keasling, the associate director for biosciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory [LBNL].
That’s an 11.3 percent boost from his previous salary of $321,600. Not included in the figure are his pension and healthcare benefits or the university’s pledge to back him on a home mortgage of up to $1.33 million.
Nor does it include the more than $10 million he gained when the stock of Amyris, a GMO production firm he founded, went public earlier this year.
Not only that, but the five-page pay hike proposal [pdf warning] from LBNL submitted by lab director Paul Alivisatos contained an outright misrepresentation of Keasling’s most highly publicized accomplishment:
In 2009, Mr. Keasling was awarded the First Biotech Humanitarian Award by the Biotech Industry Association for his successful work to use synthetic biology to develop and distribute and cut the cost of malaria treatment (Artemisinin) by 90 percent. The one million people who die of malaria each year are from the world’s poorest countries, and the drastic reduction of in the cost of Mr. Keasling’s work will have the effect of saving many millions of lives while the drug is in use.
Ah, folks. It ain’t so. While Keasling’s corporation did develop a gene-tweaked bug to produce the stuff, the actual cost is the same as for the naturally grown version of the drug. No 90 percent savings. As we reported here last month. Oh, and did we mention that a UC regent has invested in the company?
Keasling’s was one of several salary hikes the regents approved, drawing the ire of university blue collar workers who have been laid off in droves.
Here’s the reaction from one union:
Notes released yesterday evening reveal that while the UC Regents discussed fee hikes for students and benefits cuts to staff, they approved a number of salary increases and new positions for UC executives. In one case, a Vice Chancellor was hired at a salary level $132,000 higher than that of his predecessor with an additional $110,000 one-time bonus. Some UC employees find it ironic that one of the approved actions created a new position for a “Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer”.
“The Regents need a lesson in ethics, but I don’t think another another executive earning $230,000 a year will help,” says Jelger Kalmijn, a staff research associate at UC San Diego and President of the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE-CWA 9119). “This is unconscionable at a time when they are proposing to take more money from the families of students and workers.”
“The Regents continue to prioritize executives at the expense of the public mission of the university,” says Lakesha Harrison, a Licensed Vocational Nurse at UCLA and President of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3299. While campuses such as UC Berkeley are proposing layoffs of 200 staff, the money spent on management continues to grow. A recent analysis of UC data by Berkeley professor Charles Schwartz shows that in just the last 13 years, excessive hiring of top administrators is costing the university over $600 million a year.
“The Regents say they have no choice but to raise student fees and make drastic changes to retirement benefits” continued Harrison, “but then behind closed doors they approve more spending on executives. Instead of imposing financial hardship on students and staff they should start by making cuts to administrators earning six-figure salaries”.
Ah, well. At
Global Corporate University UC Berkeley, it’s [Big] Business as usual.