Thursday, May 18, 2006

Leadership of the UC: "Exceptions," "Paranoia," and "Trying to Get Away With as Much as Possible While Disclosing as Little as Possible"

We have posted frequently about governance problems at the huge University of California (UC) system, most recently here and here.

Yet more reports have appeared about the university treated top managers. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a report just given to the system's regents showed that the university gave out 700 separation agreements worth $23 million to university employees. Several involved fairly large amounts of money. A number seem to have violated university policy that requires notification of the regents of legal agreements worth more than $250 K or involve settlements.

Also according to the Chronicle, "University auditors told the UC Board of Regents they had found that 143 exceptions to the university's compensation policies had been made to give extra pay or benefits to 113 senior managers. That's on top of the 91 exceptions identified last month by PriceWaterhouseCoopers auditors for a different group of UC executives." Furthermore, "the audit found that the university had skirted its own rules by granting extra vacation time, asking regents to approve large raises without informing them that the raises were beyond policy limits and giving large relocation incentive allowances to executives moving within California."

Some state legislators responded with anger directed at the current President of UC, Robert Dynes. Sen. Gloria Romero (D- Los Angeles) said to him, "you have had sufficient opportunity to implement accounting reforms and to get rid of compensation abuses in the university. Instead, it seems the problems have flourished under your watch. President Dynes, I look to you to exhibit leadership, I ask you to resign." Two other Senators have called for Dynes' resignation.

Dynes responded by blaming a culture of "paranoia." He further described the university's climate, "it's a climate of exceptions, and it is a climate of trying to get away with as much as possible and disclose as little as possible...."

As we have noted before, the University of California has provided an unfortunate example of a university (which includes multiple medical schools and academic medical centers) where the de facto, if not de jure rules for the executives were very different from those for the faculty, staff, and students. A leadership climate of "exceptions," and of "paranoia," may benefit the leaders, but not the organizations' other constituencies, and certainly not its mission.

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