Chancellor Drake Pays It Forward

President Janet Napolitano recently announced that Chancellor Michael V. Drake will be leaving our campus after nine years, to accept a position at Ohio State University starting June 30 of this year. His pay raise will be about double what he earns now.

Drake’s base pay at Ohio State will be $800,000 earning an additional $200,00 each year he fulfills performance targets and goals, while living in a presidential mansion in Bexley, Ohio for the duration of his tenure through 2019. According to Ohio public data, his predecessor E. Gordon Gee earned about twice that, and for a couple of years was the highest paid public university president in the U.S. Drake won’t even be the highest paid official there. Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith recently received an increase in his base salary from $800,000 to about $940,484.

While at Irvine, Drake has spent a significant amount of time building prestige and status. He added a new 500 square foot hospital in Orange, facilitated the creation of our wildly successful law school, and applications for admission skyrocketed. He has developed many new programs of studies, while also maintaining his position as a Professor of Ophthalmology and Education. Also, of course, UC Irvine was the top university in the U.S. under 50 years old in 2012 and 2013. All very impressive features making UC Irvine all the more desirable for students.

Public universities have to justify paying those working in administrative official positions high salaries. As the state is cutting funding from education, they are also cutting public university officials’ salaries. Over time, that state is offering less and less money, making it difficult for schools to keep their heads above water which then justifies tuition increases. But as Drake’s giant salary is part of the school budget, they have to justify his high pay. Better salaries mean better professors and better professors equates to a better education. It would make sense for students to be angry that Drake is abandoning us for more pay, it seems insincere and transparent, but it’s merely a reflection of the fact that he was possibly doing something right.

It’s hard to argue that Drake hasn’t done his job effectively to the best of his ability. If anyone were offered a promotion and double the pay, it would be difficult not to take it. Higher salaries are a byproduct of well-qualified candidates. While education is obviously very dear to Drake, his high salary can blind us of his efforts toward improving the overall quality of UC Irvine. Ohio State has taken Drake into their hands knowing that he will build them up as a school higher in prestige, a school that will be more difficult to gain entrance to and a school that perhaps they think will be able to justify extremely high tuition costs. OSU wants Drake for what he has done for UCI.

Total estimated cost of attendance at UCI for one year is about $29,000 which includes living costs, while at OSU, total estimated expenses is projected at about $20,000 per year for an in-state student. UCI and OSU are in very similar situations, with Ohio State’s tuition steadily increasing in lieu of educational budget cuts. Paying a little less than us, with an enrollment rate of about 65,000 in 2013, OSU’s budget permits for higher salaries for officials. Despite tiny differences, one thing is clear, OSU really wanted Drake to work toward transforming them into a more prestigious school — one worth an $800,000 year salary.

This is a moment to reflect on our future. It’s clear that UCI couldn’t afford to keep Drake by offering him the same salary of $800,000, because otherwise he would simply stay.

Now, the school can either find a Chancellor who will take a pay-cut comparable to Drake’s current salary, or a Chancellor who will demand a higher salary but will continue working toward improving the overall quality of our school. We are at a crossroads, but education unfortunately costs money and we live in a world where to put quite simply, money makes the world go round.

 

Sanne Bergh is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at sbergh@uci.edu.