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Nicholas Dirks

OAKLAND -- A week after imploring California's universities to resist another round of tuition hikes, Gov. Jerry Brown focused his plea for frugality on another target Tuesday: a $50,000 pay hike for UC Berkeley's incoming chancellor.

Brown's objection to the salary for Berkeley's new chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, failed to sway UC regents who approved the Columbia University dean's appointment with a $486,800 base salary and a nearly $9,000 annual car allowance.

But the governor's message was clear as he continues to push for financial restraint after voters earlier this month approved Proposition 30, the tax increase that saved California schools and universities from deep budget cuts. Following the election, the governor talked both UC and Cal State Unversity leaders into backing off consideration of higher fees for students who had helped campaign for the tax increases.

The regents, Brown among them, unanimously approved Dirks' appointment, but Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Regent Charlene Zettel voted against his pay package because of the increase over what the previous chancellor was paid.

"I believe a $50,000 increase ... does not fit within the spirit of servant leadership that I believe will be required," Brown said. The governor promised he would continue to make calls "for greater efficiency, greater elegance and modesty" to reflect the new model on which the state's prized university system must run.

Brown's appearance and message drew positive reactions.

"I'm very, very excited that the governor and Legislature are starting to take a more active role," said Connor Landgraf, president of the Associated Students of the University of California.


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Given the university's poor financial condition, "I think every administrator and every employee needs to have their salaries examined, especially those in the upper echelons," he said.

UC President Mark Yudof seemed unruffled by Brown's remarks. "I'm glad you're here today, governor," he said before the vote on Dirks. "This has been a good discussion."

Yudof said after Tuesday's meeting the governor was "absolutely right," the system's paradigm is changing. But he also noted the $50,000 difference was privately funded and that "for the taxpayers of California, the bill is the same."

UC Regent George Kieffer said that while he disagreed with Brown that Dirks' pay package was too high, he felt it was appropriate for the governor to dig into the issues and ask tough questions.

"I think he is as much focused, if not more focused, on other issues in the university: Where is higher education going, and can higher education sustain itself on the kinds of revenues we've had before?" Kieffer said. "I think he's trying to lead carefully in that area, recognizing that he doesn't want to do damage to what's perceived to be the greatest public higher education system in the world."

Dirks was making about $500,000 at Columbia, Yudof said. "But he does get that big house on campus," he added, referring to the chancellor's historic 1911 mansion on 2.5 acres at UC Berkeley.

Yudof's office circulated a document comparing the salaries of university leaders nationwide; UC Berkeley ranked 44th, based on retiring Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's base pay.

Dirks, who will take his office on June 1, vowed to be a responsible steward of public dollars. But in the news conference after the meeting, he mostly focused on his new job: "This, for me, is in fact a kind of dream."

He said that he aimed to raise more funds for tuition aid and to encourage a new level of interdisciplinary collaboration on campus.

He noted that he learned of his appointment two days after Californians approved a statewide tax increase that came as an enormous relief to the state's schools and universities. Still, he said, "I'm more than a little daunted by the challenges that lie ahead."

One of the challenges of running UC Berkeley appeared as Dirks visited the campus: About six protesters occupied a building for several hours late Tuesdayover cuts to diversity programs.

Dirks spent 15 years at Columbia University, eight of them as executive vice president for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He managed five schools, including the undergraduate Columbia College, and 29 departments.

He and his wife, Columbia University history professor Janaki Bakhle, have an eighth-grade son. Bakhle will be considered for a similar appointment at UC Berkeley. Birgeneau said that while she will go through the typical faculty appointment process, he was confident the tenured Columbia professor would be welcomed at UC Berkeley.

Follow Katy Murphy at Twitter.com/katymurphy.

UC berkeley chief's pay

University of California regents on Tuesday approved a pay package for new Berkeley campus Chancellor Nicholas Dirks that includes:

Base pay: $486,800
Car allowance: $8,916 annually
Annual relocation allowance: $30,425 each year for four years
In addition: two round-trip flights for Dirks and his wife related to the relocation, plus the university arranges to pack and move household items and Dirks' library and equipment.