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No Administrator Left Behind 

The University of California system is embroiled in a scandal over perks and compensation for some of its highest-paid employees. Are they worth it? Find out where you stand!

Wednesday, Jun 7 2006
Over the past six months, the University of California system has been rocked by a salary and compensation scandal that has provoked audits, the outrage of lawmakers, and calls for UC President Robert Dynes to resign. Recently, state auditors found that the UC system paid a total of $9.3 billion to employees in total compensation last fiscal year, including $334 million in stipends, housing allowances, and money for additional teaching. The money mostly flowed to the richest UC executives: More than 4,000 employees who earned $168,000 or more reaped more than 25 percent of the benefits, even though they constituted about 10 percent of the regular payroll. Numerous external and internal audits have confirmed that the UC system has failed to disclose to the public or its governing Board of Regents scores of violations involving compensation, vacation time, house loans, and other perks for employees. Dynes, meanwhile, has acknowledged some of the problems while defending his spending practices as necessary to maintain UC's stature in the academic world. Are you an apologist for the University of California's spending habits? Take our quiz and find out!

1) Investigations, audits, and media reports have uncovered hundreds of questionable financial deals between the University of California and its employees. Among the most grievous examples of controversial compensations: An assistant athletic director who didn't get a promotion was instead paid more than $180,000 over three years (while he got a full-time job somewhere else); and in 2002, an athletic department kept an administrator on the payroll for 2 1/2 years (at $86,000 a year) so that he could reach retirement age. What do you think of those deals?

A) That's absurd! Do you know how many janitors' salaries you could pay with that money? No? Neither does the UC system!

B) Look, it's not like you can find athletic department employees just anywhere.

C) Hey, man, back off. Not all of us can keep working until we hit retirement.

2) In May, the University of California system disclosed that in the past five years, it has negotiated at least 700 settlements worth about $23 million with employees, including some who were paid to dismiss legal claims against the university. In response, Sen. Abel Maldonado, who serves on the Senate Education Committee, said: "Here are 23 million reasons — and counting — why President Dynes should resign." If you were President Dynes, how would you respond?

A) "Here's 23 million reasons I'd be happy to resign ... now where can I get one of those compensation packages?"

B) "But only six of the agreements were for more than $250,000 each! The rest hardly even count ... "

C) "Wait ... did I mention that those numbers don't include the university system's three laboratories or any professors with an outstanding lawsuit against us? On second thought, why don't we make it an even $30 million?"

3) A 137-page report from the Bureau of State Audits charged UC administrators with creating a "culture of noncompliance," wherein executives' pay was misappropriated from student fees and state funds. "It's public money," State Auditor Elaine Howle said. "It's students paying it with their tuition and their fees, which just seem to continue to go up." Your thoughts?

A) And don't forget class sizes!

B) Sure, tuition's going up, but an MFA is totally worth it! (Bonus point for still believing that, at 34.)

C) That's outrageous! I would much rather see those student fees misspent on a Dave Matthews solo concert.

4) In responding to lawmakers' calls that he resign over the compensation scandal, embattled University President Dynes issued a statement that said: "We must act with speed, but we must also act in an informed, thoughtful, fair manner if we are to achieve solutions that will truly last." What do you think he meant?

A) "Quit now? With my compensation package in sight?!?"

B) Isn't that what Churchill said at the start of World War II?

C) Well, you can't really put "I am soooooo fucked" in a press release.

5) Many of Dynes' top aides have received notable perks. His executive assistant, who handles his correspondence and appointments, received a $26,563 relocation allowance and a reimbursement for her moving expenses, a $520,000 low-interest housing loan, and a 25 percent salary increase to $106,250 a year, according to UC documents first reported by the Chronicle. Does that strike you as reasonable?

A) A secretary worth 100 grand? I've said it before and I'll say it again: My parents always told me to get into public education.

B) In Dynes' defense, the man has a lot of correspondence ...

C) It's true. All those compensation agreements take forever to type up.

6) Defenders of the university's pay scales argue that large compensation packages are necessary to attract the top-flight academics that give the UC system its stellar reputation. What do you think of that argument?

A) It's true. There's nothing like a nerd with a big package.

B) I couldn't agree more! The classes are so amazing (bonus point for adding: "-ly large!").

C) Oh, please. You can't get a good nanophysicist these days for less than $1.5 million ... I mean, unless you're Stanford, and some poor bastard takes pity on you.

7) Former San Francisco Supervisor and current state Assemblyman Leland Yee has introduced a bill that would prevent the UC's governing Board of Regents from meeting behind closed doors when debating the compensation of high-ranking executives. To what extent do you think the bill will solve the school's pay scandals?

A) Nice to hear from you, Leland. If only I'd thought of that when I was in student government!

B) If it's good enough for Yee, it's good enough for me.

C) Fantastic! Now we can hear them rip us off in public.

How to score:

Score zero points for every "A" answer, one point for every "B," and two points for every "C."

0-6 points: We know, we know. You're a UC grad, and you wanted your money back before you heard about all this.

7-10 points: In the University of California's defense, it takes a lot of money to raise all that money to spend all that money to raise all that money.

11-14 points: Congratulations! You're a true apologist for the University of California. We have some lovely parting gifts for you, Mrs. Dynes.

About The Author

Matt Palmquist


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