The appointment last month of Dianne Harrison, the current president of California State University at Monterey Bay, as the new president of Cal State Northridge underscores the high rate of turnover of college presidents at the 23 campus CSU system. It also pointed to the small number of women presidents, now totalling only three in the entire system, as Harrison noted in a speech on the Northridge campus at the time of her appointment.
Harrison will assume her new post in June. As noted by the Chronicle of Higher Education, since January, 2011, CSU “has replaced or learned it will have to replace” the presidents of 12 of its 23 campuses. During the current academic year, CSU still has to fill the slots of departing presidents Robert A. Corrigan, of San Francisco State; William B. Eisenhardt, of California Maritime Academy; and Albert K. Karnig, of the San Bernardino campus.
The unusually high turnover rate — perhaps unprecedented in CSU’s history — comes against a backdrop of extraordinary budget challenges faced by the university, as well as criticism in the Legislature and elsewhere of salaries offered to incoming presidents as being excessive. Gov. Jerry Brown has been among the strongest critics, saying that CSU has to find ways to “widen the pool” of potential applicants in lieu of boosting presidential salaries.
At its recent meeting, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a new policy specifying that “when a presidential vacancy occurs, the initial base salary, paid with public funds to the successor president, shall not exceed ten percent of the previous incumbent’s pay.”