Monday, April 03, 2006

At UC, Perks Even Go to the Executive's Assistant

"The very rich are different from you and me," said F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In academic medicine, even the top executives' aides appear to be different from you and me.

We had previously posted about an ongoing controversy about the huge University of California (UC) system pays its top managers, including those who oversee its medical schools, or to whom the leaders of these medical schools report.

The latest anecdote to surface, courtesy the San Francisco Chronicle, is about the pay and perks given to the Executive Assistant of UC President Robert Dynes. His current assistant, "who handles Dynes' correspondence and appointment, among other duties," followed Dynes when he moved from San Diego to UC headquarters. For her pains, she received a $25,563 relocation allowance in addition to actual moving expenses, a $520,000 low-interest mortgage, a guaranteed severance package of six months of pay and benefits plus $10,000, and a salary of $106,250.

The Assistant's salary apparently exceeds that given to some university professors. One history professor noted that the Executive Assistant's salary exceeded his starting salary as a full professor. Her salary also exceeds the California Governor's senior executive assistant's salary.

However, the Chronicle reporters noted, "Office workers at the university system typically aren't eligible for perks such as those received by O'Callahan, who holds a nonunion position." Granting a relocation allowances or low-interest mortgages to office workers appears to violate existing UC policies. A UC Regent who is currently reviewing the university's compensations policies and practices noted, "You have policies that should be lived by. That's why you have policies."

An official of the union that represents some UC office workers commented, "It reinforces the old adage that it's not what you know, but who you know."

It also reinforces the impression that at the intersection of academics and health care, the playing field is tilted to benefit those in the headquarters office more than those who actually take care of patients, teach, or do research.

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