Gov. Jerry Brown probably doesn't know it, but every time he talks about the high salaries of California's university presidents, their ability to command higher salaries goes up.
Why? Because it's not easy to recruit high-quality university presidents in general, because the job requires so many skills, from the ability to make good hires, to academic credentials, to fundraising ability. And finding good presidents is much harder in California, when public support is being cut and political pressure is higher. The tougher the job, the more you end up having to pay.
Brown doesn't understand that. Indeed, his comments this week about president's pay will make university presidents' jobs less attractive -- and require higher pay to attract good candidates.
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In his most foolish riff, Brown suggested that he himself and any number of people -- including some of the assembled reporters -- could be a university president.
"I have no doubt that I could be a college president," he said, adding, "and I think a number of legislators could."
Ouch. Even legislators could do it.
Brown's faith in legislators and journalists as college presidents is touching. It's too bad he didn't make this suggestion before this week, since I know literally hundreds of journalists who have lost their jobs in recent years and had been looking for new careers, but for some reason hadn't thought to aim quite so high as university president.
I myself would apply for one of those jobs -- I've always loved the campus of Cal State Fullerton -- except I can't figure out what about the job of being a reporter has prepared me for managing faculty, raising money, or administering a major institution with tens of thousands of students.
Of course, if Brown and other keep bashing public university presidents, maybe I could get one of these jobs.
When Brown and other elected officials take potshots like this, they make strong candidates for jobs think: why bother with a California public university, where the governor won't provide sufficient funding to my campus but will criticize my pay publicly?