Saturday, August 24

ANALYSIS: Blame shifts to UC president


A mere two and a half years into his presidency at the
University of California, Robert Dynes is being told to find his
way to the door.

Dynes has heard complaints about student fees and dealt with
mismanagement at the university-owned Los Alamos National
Laboratory.

But after three senators called for him to leave office
Wednesday, employee compensation has proved to be his greatest
challenge ““ and his potential undoing.

The university system he leads has been riddled with criticism
in the past six months, and Dynes has been there to sit through the
senate hearings and audit reports ““ all lambasting the
university’s failings in its compensation policy.

In each instance, the lawmakers, auditors and outside observers
have said the university needs to change. And in response, Dynes
has pledged reform.

But on Wednesday, the frustration of lawmakers was directed not
at the university but focused exclusively on the UC’s top
official.

And though Dynes’ critics and fellow UC officials agree
that the system as a whole needs to change, they disagree as to
what extent Dynes is the man to blame.

The question is no longer whether the UC has committed errors in
its compensation decisions.

Audits have shown that the UC approved pay packages in secret,
has made numerous exceptions to policy, and has generally failed to
alert the public about how California tax dollars are being used to
pay UC employees.

One point of view, expressed by two of the senators, pegs Dynes
as culpable because they say he had a chance as the UC’s
leader to change the system but didn’t.

“President Dynes has had over two years to clear up
accounting and compensation abuses. … Instead, it seems the
problems have flourished on his watch,” said Sen. Gloria
Romero, D-Los Angeles, in a joint statement with Sen. Abel
Maldonado, R-Santa Maria.

Others say the problem is greater than one man.

“Irrespective of whether Bob Dynes has handled the
situation well, the problem has deeper roots and will require
procedural and cultural changes in the institution,” said
Adrienne Lavine, chairwoman of the UCLA Academic Senate.

The situation has expanded politically since newspaper reports
on compensation flaws first appeared in November 2005.

As lawmakers became involved, grilling UC officials in senate
hearings, and after auditors used harsh and sharply critical
language in their reports, tensions grew.

And as the lawmakers criticized, UC officials have used the same
mantra: We will fix the problems.

Even on the day that some lawmakers declared they wanted him out
of office, Dynes didn’t change his tune. Instead, in a
statement he released in response to the senators’ comments,
Dynes stuck to his pledge that reform would come.

“We have a process underway to achieve fundamental and
long-lasting reform.”

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