Brian Leiter links to a series of 2005 San Francisco Chronicle articles on faculty and administrator compensation in the University of California system (more here and here). Leiter suggests that salaries for UC law profs are actually somewhat lower than one might expect, given the prevailing salaries at other top public law schools, such as Texas and Virginia. He concludes, "I... imagine the publication of this data will be sending a lot of folks to the Dean's office!"
Maybe so-- and if so, more power to them, since there's no reason UC law faculty should not want to be paid as much as peers in Austin or Charlottesville-- particularly given the much higher costs of living they face in LA and the Bay Area. But I'm afraid the articles will send some people running to the California State legislature, shouting that professors get paid too much.
That, certainly, is the tone of the San Francisco Chronicle articles, which derides some of the non-salary benefits some UC administrators and faculty received as "Lavish parties. Pricey gifts. Club memberships." The Chronicle quotes various union officials and education watchdog groups, mostly expressing dismay that faculty get so many perks while student fees and tuition go up and while support staff get shafted.
To be sure, support staff-- and adjuncts, TAs, and numerous other groups-- do get shafted, not only in the UC system but at most other universities. But I can't see that inflated faculty salaries are the primary culprit, and many (though not all) of the purportedly shocking perks cited by the Chronicle seem far from unreasonable to me. The real problem is that state legislatures, in California as in many other states, have starved their university systems for years. The damage has been across the board, and many state legislatures would like nothing better than an excuse to scale back faculty salaries still more. But this would not be a smart move. State universities already struggle to keep good faculty, who are tempted by the less strapped circumstances prevalent at many private universities.
And does anyone really think cuts in faculty compensation would be used by universities to help low income students or pay adjuncts or janitors any more? Not likely-- though I imagine many (though not all) of us would be perfectly willing to take pay cuts if our universities were actually going to use the savings to increase pay for lower income workers.
My fear is that in an age in which the right insists that universities are hotbeds of lefty radicalism, the Chronicle article will just add fuel to the fire. Not only are those professors all radicals, but they're spending your tax dollars on "lavish parties"! Makes a good headline, but last time I visited Boalt, I didn't notice the lavish parties. What I did notice was the lack of air conditioning on a sweltering spring day; the peeling paint in the corridors, and the slightly neglected air of the whole place.