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You Know I'm Right | Commentary by Betty Arenson
| Friday, Aug 19, 2016

bettyarensonThe University of California system’s chancellors are dropping like flies.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi “resigned” last week, if you can call it that, and this week it’s UC Berkeley’s Nicholas Dirks. The resignations aren’t really resignations like the peons think of; the chancellors are merely “stepping down” from their chancellor posts, often accompanied with a long paid vacation, then returning to the system as faculty. Of course this keeps all of their perks and juicy retirement packages in force.

Katehi’s salary was $424,360 a year, plus perks. She broke the rules and then lied about additional outside employments that brought her annual income to $634,360 a year. In addition, she joined the board of a Saudi Arabian university wherein her compensation was not disclosed. Moreover, two of the entities were embroiled in investigations of fraud.

Katehi, while a chancellor, also hired a public relations firm to improve her image after a student protest scandal reflected negatively on her. Undoubtedly this extra cost was not her personal expense.

Katehi refused to resign, made a deal not to sue, and will return – as is her “right” – to a faculty position after time off for one full year, fully paid. Her faculty salary is to be determined.

The headlines on this topic were eye-catching because of the presidential campaign promises by two of the candidates touting “free college for everyone” and the latest name, “debt-free college.”

The titles mean the same thing – taxpayers pick up the tab.

Education to get an effective diploma is one thing; cheating taxpayers and misusing public funds is quite another.

I started out with a commentary about Katehi last March, followed by a second one last week concerning her negotiated paid vacation in addition to her guaranteed future UC Davis employment.

Likewise, Dirks, who has been under investigation, as made public in July, is going to be a professor again, as well.

This whole theme of malfeasance is tragically the gift that keeps on giving, yet there is still no public outrage.

Dirks was on the hot seat for mishandling his campus’ sexual harassment cases.

A second problem was a whistleblower exposing the impropriety of Dirks using public funds for his wife’s (an associate Berkeley professor) travel to India with Dirks’ personal fitness trainer whom he engaged shortly after getting his chancellor post in 2013. That trainer, Devin Wicks, is also a UC Davis employee.

Somehow this relationship with the trainer, as put forth by Dirks, was to “boost the standing of recreational sports department – which often operates in the shadows of the athletic department.”

Mike Weinberger, a now-retired recreational facility director, claims to have approved the free training sessions at the time, not believing “it was a violation of the university policy.” The fact that the trainer-employee was being utilized and not paid was duly noted.

In addition to other complaints, Dirks reportedly spent $700,000 of college money to build a security fence around his personal residence. Yes, five zeros. That number is no typo. He spent another $9,000 for “an emergency exit to avoid protestors.”

The students did not like that. “He should engage them, not avoid them” (L.A. Times, Aug. 17).

The university complains of a $150 million budget deficit. Perhaps it should look within – seriously.

Sadly, they will not, as there will always be tuition hikes, tax dollars and government loans and grants. Student debt will remain a political football.

It all fits. The picture is supposed to be that these chancellors have been held accountable for their misconduct and their acts of transgressions and impropriety, yet in the end they have the right to maintain their jackpot jobs by playing musical chairs.

In the meantime, the public is silent but their collective purse is wide open for the taking.

 

Betty Arenson has lived in the SCV since 1968 and describes herself as a conservative who’s concerned about progressives’ politics and their impacts on the country, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She says she is unashamed to own a gun or a Bible, couldn’t care less about the color of the president’s skin, and demands that he uphold his oath to protect and follow the Constitution of the United States in its entirety.

 

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2 Comments

  1. AnnA says:

    Betty, I like your style of commentary. Please keep reporting the corruption to enlighten the taxpayers.

  2. We don’t always agree but I like this article. Shine a light on corruption!

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