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Employees leave UCLA Extension amid administrative turmoil and loss of deans

UCLA Extension planned to layoff 25 percent of its employees last year. Instead, almost a third of its employees quit and its upper administrators have been removed. (Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)

By Vito Emanuel

Jan. 23, 2019 12:38 a.m.

About 75 employees left UCLA Extension amid administrative upheaval, despite UCLA cancelling an initial plan to lay off about one-quarter of UCLA Extension’s employees last year.

In January 2018, UCLA Extension’s revenue was projected to be $10 million less than the previous year. The projection caused former dean Wayne Smutz to announce layoffs for about one-quarter of UCLA Extension’s employees.

This January, Tom Oser, UCLA Extension interim vice provost, said in an email statement that last year’s announced layoffs never happened.

“The announced layoffs were canceled by Executive Vice Chancellor (and Provost) Scott Waugh,” Oser said. “Approximately 75 people voluntarily left the employment of UCLA Extension for other positions.”

The mass resignation of almost one-third of UCLA Extension’s staff sent ripples through all levels of administration.

At the start of 2018, UCLA Extension had one dean and two associate deans; by the start of 2019, all three deans were gone.

On July 24, 2018, Waugh announced Smutz would retire by Oct. 31.

Both associate deans, Kevin Vaughn and Radhika Seshan, quit their jobs at UCLA Extension and were hired as head deans of extension programs at other California schools by the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Oser added course offerings would not be affected by the recent changes in administration.

UCLA Extension employees who spoke to the Daily Bruin asked to remain anonymous because they were concerned for their job security.

Employee A said in an email statement that they think the massive upheaval in administration was reminiscent of a sinking ship with no captain willing to go down with it.

“It was very clear that they did not want to be left holding the bag, and it was not very inspiring at all,” employee A said.

Employee A added they believe Smutz was asked to retire.

Last year, UCLA Extension employees alleged Smutz unethically hired colleagues he worked with at his previous job and mismanaged large amounts of money.

Employee A said Smutz lambasted a new employee when she criticized a failing project that she inherited from a former employee and one of Smutz’s former colleagues.

“Smutz went up to the person and charged and berated her – yelling at her till he was red in the face, saying he was disappointed in her performance and that everything was fine until she got involved,” employee A said.

Employee B said many employees were concerned for their job security after UCLA Extension’s administrative structure was destabilized.

“There’s that tiny worry in the back of your head,” employee B said. “Will this fall apart and be dissolved one day?”

Employee B added even though they worked with a good group of coworkers, they eventually left UCLA Extension because of the organizational instability.

Many employees quit when Waugh’s office stepped in and identified UCLA Extension’s operational issues, employee B said.

“Of course that writing was on the wall,” employee B said. “Whoever was there who was contributing to the chaos, including the dean at the time, all exited at that time.”

Employee B said they believe UCLA Extension remains a positive influence in the community and for the adult learners that it helps educate, despite its many administrative problems.

“I have seen so many testimonials and letters that come in that thank the instructors on what a big impact it had on their life,” employee B said. “It’s a big part of the story.”

Employee B said they hope new leadership will help UCLA Extension refocus and return to its priorities, despite the previous shortcomings.

“I think with the right team and determination that there’s no question that it can turn back around,” employee B said. “It would be nice to see Extension get back on its feet and get back to its core mission of helping the community.”

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