Thursday, September 29, 2005

Leaders with Chauffeurs

After I posted about the ongoing troubles at UMDNJ (here), one of my faithful correspondents notified me that I had left off a telling detail. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, not only are some of the University's trustees pushing for reassessment of bonuses paid to managers, but also of other lavish perks.
In particular, "UMDNJ's policy in fact specifically provides cars for the president, senior vice president, all deans, the head of University Hospital and the CEO of University Behavioral HealthCare. At least six have drivers.... Overall, 20 administators are currently provided with cars."
Those at the very top get luxury automobiles, and chauffeurs to drive them. For example, Darlene Cox, the CEO of University Hospital, rides in a "new, $36,485 Chrysler 300M, provided by the institution. The car - a favorite of hip-hop moguls - [note, probably indicating it is a 300C, not 300M] is chauffeured by an EMS worker." Vivian Sanks-King, vice president for legal management, only gets a "late-model Buick Park Avenue luxury seda that cost the university $33,149." Also, "the school provides [President John] Petillo with a Lincoln Navigator that costs $58,000."
I think this issue is of particular importance because providing a car and driver is the sort of perk that isolates leadership from the real world in which their constituents live. UMDNJ is a state-supported school, and hence partially funded by taxpayers. In addition, its primary constituents are students and patients. Nearly all taxpayers, students, and patients have to think about how they will get to work, or anyplace else. Of course, they also have to pay for this transportation. Top UMDNJ officials just have to snap their fingers (figuratively) for their drivers. Leaders who lose sight of the day to day lives of their constituents are less likely to uphold the mission of their not-for-profit organization to serve these constituents.

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