Thursday, February 16, 2006

More Opinions About Systemic Problems at the University of California

The media has been offering more opinions about systemic problems in management at the University of California.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on hearings of the California state Senate Education Committee. The President of the University of California offered this apology.

It is with real regret that I have come to acknowledge that we have not always met the standards others hold us to in matters of compensation and compensation disclosure.
My ethics are upset by this.
Furthermore,

It is perhaps true that at times I have been so committed to competitiveness and excellence that I have not been as mindful of the other responsibilities that come with being steward of this public institution.
But the Senators were skeptical, as the Chronicle reported,

Half of the senators on the 12-member committee were outspoken in their criticism, some saying Dynes' apologies and promises of improvements ring hollow considering that UC was in the same situation in 1992.
Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, ticked off a series of reforms recommended to the UC Board of Regents back then by retired Legislative Analyst A. Alan Post.
Dynes conceded that UC has continued to provide several executive perks that Post had urged be eliminated. Those include an executive severance pay plan that UC now says is deferred compensation (and is converting to a retirement plan), an executive auto allowance and a special life insurance policy.
'That was something that was asked of you, and you didn't comply,' Speier said.
And the Chronicle uncovered what could be yet another misrepresentation by UC leaders.

Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Salinas, urged Dynes to impose a salary freeze until the university can finish reviewing and improving its pay practices.
'Why not stop the blatant abuse we have seen and figure it out,' Denham said.
Dynes said UC has already frozen executive pay.
'We have had a salary freeze the past three years,' Dynes said. 'I have had no salary increase in three years.'
In fact, the UC regents in November approved a retroactive pay raise of 2.5 percent for dozens of senior managers, including Dynes. Dynes' pay, for instance, went up $10,000 to $405,000 as of Oct. 1.
Oops.

And the Daily Breeze found another one,

It took all of 48 hours for University of California President Robert Dynes' vow to begin a new era of honesty and transparency on compensation issues to be undercut by fresh examples of institutional arrogance and secrecy.
On Friday, a Sacramento Bee editorial took up one of the worst sweetheart deals: a two-year, $460,000 contract for a new job with no duties and no office for Celeste Rose, previously a UC Davis vice chancellor. This payoff came even though UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef didn't think much of the job Rose was doing as vice chancellor and wanted her gone. The assumption has been that Rose, an African-American, was paid off to head off a lawsuit in which she alleged racial and gender discrimination.
The Bee reported that the deal was cut after members of the California Legislative Black Caucus made inquiries to Dynes' office and Regent Tom Sayles about Rose's job status.
Given Dynes' vow of a new era of openness, his staff would be willing to say which lawmakers intervened, right?
Wrong. Dynes' spokesman, Paul Schwartz, wrote in an e-mail that identifying the lawmakers involved would have a chilling effect on governmental deliberative processes.' He denied UC felt pressured by their intervention.
Said the Daily Breeze, "This isn't transparency. What senior UC officials apparently see as damage control looks like a cover-up to us."

And the Los Angeles Times waded in with a scathing commentary,
Message to UC Execs: If It Won't Look Good in the Newspaper, Don't Do It

The University of California has been proving the Republicans' familiar point: that tax dollars too often are wasted and abused by government.
Democrats aren't even arguing this one. They're equally angry at UC.
'This is a bipartisan tick-off,' says state Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena), chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
'I think it's a mentality of elitism, unfortunately, in an insular world.'
Call it a culture — not only of elitism but also of greed and arrogance.
While the university was padding pockets and providing perks for some execs, it was raising tuition regularly for students.
And the Times commentator was so upset he called for what amounts to the nuclear option in academia, cutting the funding of the whole system.
Some at UC have gotten too fat. Maybe Sacramento should cut back on the feeding. Shift some tax dollars from UC to the state universities and community colleges.

That may be a little extreme, since it would punish everyone at UC for the offenses of a relatively small group of administrators.

But maybe it's time to think about tying administrators pay to some real measure of performance (as they frequently propose for physicians' reimbursement).

Pay for performance for health care managers? - what a novel idea.

1 comment:

pansophia said...

I wanted to thank you for keeping tabs on the UC corruption issue. I want to blog about this myself, and I will probably just refer back to your posts.

I went to U.C. Berkeley for graduate school, and I left A.B.D. mainly because academia had been reduced to a tawdry political game. I didn't feel I was contributing anything to the sum of human knowledge. My last year there a professor got away with replacing my nomination for a fellowship with the name of a student he preferred. Though this cost me a year of livelihood, the university grievance procedures just dragged on for 6 months and then kicked the issue back to my department. Instead of replacing the fellowship, my department resolved the matter by promising that the professor who had stolen the fellowship would recuse himself from all my future affairs. Since I had already taken out additional graduate student loans to try to hold out for the grievance procedure, this was the final straw.

This situation had a profound affect on my life. I not only regard academia as a bloated corrupt bureaucracy - the experience imbued me with a pessimistic outlook in regard to all corporate bureaucracy (especially grievance procedures). Of course it's common knowledge that bureaucratic procedures are designed to grind people down to dust, but I think I would have had a stronger psychological resistance to all the corruption out there if I hadn't been remorselessly robbed and abused right in the place that's supposed to maintain our civilization's secular principles and cherished truths.

Anyway, I hope the administration of the entire UC System gets outed. Perhaps ensuing reforms will improve the lives of both students and the proletariat of junior lecturers.