Hearst v. UC

In California, you still don’t want to get the Hearsts too angry with you. The arrogance and often ludicrous propaganda of the University of California has been for years more than a match for state Legislature committees and Congress, but apparently it has finally managed to irritate the Hearsts. There are rules, after all, and at least some newspapers will eventually get fed up with a diet of pure flak from a university.

Evidence of the kick in the teeth is a series of articles abstracted and referenced below, most of them appearing in the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle. We are days away from the federal Department of Energy decision about whether to permit UC to retain its management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It has managed the facility for more than 50 years without competition. Its competition is the University of Texas. It seems odd to kick a university in the teeth at such a moment in its hometown newspaper, but then Hearst Corporation owns at least six newspaper in the Texas oil patch.

Aside from the rivalry between the two states, brought into the Union simultaneously –Texas slave, California, free – in 1850, mounting evidence of UC mismanagement at LANL and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, all of it reported by West Coast newspapers, provoked the Bush energy department to open this bidding process for the premier nuclear-weapons lab in the world.

To make a small, possibly pedantic point about the quality of the journalism included below, and its timing, it looks like muckraking on the surface, but I think it is something more primitive. There is nothing at all complicated about the combination of incompetence, arrogance and corruption of the UC administration and the venality of its propaganda. However, it has been our privilege in Merced, where the first phase of UC’s absolutely necessary 10th campus has been located, to receive an exaggerated dose of of imcompetence, arrogance and corruption, and be told we should be grateful. It was put here by a stratagem of backdoor political manipulation and sordid land deals among regents and politicians that have now encouraged a no-account local congressman to try to gut the Endangered Species Act out in the open in the rightwing, one-party Congress, as he had a major role in gutting the California Environmental Quality Act in the backrooms of the state Capitol. Incidentally, although grassroots local opposition brought suits against this wretched excess, the mere, magnificent presence of UC obliterated the thought processes of both state superior and appellate court judges as well. Although ignorant and characterized by UC administrators as Appalachian in our crude and backward ways, we are human enough to have been embarrassed at the sight of our normally staid, relatively upright leaders turned into swine by our legendary public research university. News of our shame, however, didn’t leak out of the Valley because our media is as sophisticated as a real estate agent.

But the complex, real muckraking was done here in Merced and appears mainly in lengthy legal briefs, written by a few lawyers and members of the Merced public UC couldn't intimidate or buy off. What you see below, mainly from the SF Chronicle, looks like something a generation earlier than the muckrakers, when William Randolph Hearst pointed Ambrose Bierce at the Railroad.

Still, it’s stimulating stuff. There are marvelous idiocies reported below. My personal favorite is Regent John Moores calling anyone who criticizes UC executive compensation a “marxist,” as no doubt the “railrogues” of Bierce’s era labeled any of their critics “anarchists.”

But while we laugh at the grotesque posturing and obfuscation of the academic high and mighty, I think we ought to keep a couple of things in mind.

First, a public university is probably the highest manifestation of the values of the civilization that produced and supports it. We regard the disinterested pursuit of knowledge as the greatest of all endeavors. We regard military supremacy another glorious accomplishment, and the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, we believe, insures superpower status and promises world hegemony. We regard our corporate managers as the best business people in the world, so we have turned over management of our public research university to them. We regard public/private partnerships as “win-wins” all the way around and so we encourage them from the city to the federal government.

Our society worships ruthless competition and pits the rich against the poor in uneven combat every day. Consider the upcoming federal budget, with its additional cuts in health and services and tax breaks to the rich – again. And so, we would naturally raise tuitions on students while raising and concealing administration compensation packages.

Our society lionizes the boss and demonizes the worker. So, how can we expect UC to educate an engineer capable of competing in Silicon Valley against engineers from Bombay or Argentina or an American high school dropout who actually knows how to build things? The purpose of UC is research, after all, not teaching.

Above all, our civilization worships wealth. So, naturally, UC will bid for the top scientists and corporate executives by spending more state money to buy them.

We worship individual achievement. Therefore UC will always seek to bid for the “best people” with more public funds, because the “best people” by definition, have no loyalty beyond their own salary. All the “best people” are presumed to have the ethics of any gunslinger MBA from an elite business school.

We have the highest regard for the lawbreaker who gets away with it – perhaps by stealing a national election on a 5-4 Supreme Court vote along partisan lines. So, how can we hold an institution like UC, which represents the very best of ourselves, to the tacky letter of the law? UC transcends – particularly given its essential role in national security – the ordinary requirement of telling the truth to the public that pays for the institution. UC is the creator and keeper of our esoterica, our mysteries, our powers. The people who manage the business of researching weapons of mass destruction and genes are more untouchable than pedophile priests – except by Hearsts, of course.

In short, we have granted UC the unlimited authority of the profession of highest, most dangerous science, and gone about trying to survive in this world. In a society like this, we now blame them for taking full advantage of their opportunity? What did we expect? Honest, open, nice people? If we can’t bear to look at how our geniuses behave, we really miss something about ourselves.

On the other hand, there is a growing suspicion that California is ruined and ungovernable, nothing more than a banquet table for a developer feeding frenzy. Perhaps Texas these days is a better place.

Hearst, particularly if UC loses Los Alamos, has probably delivered a blow to UC prestige from which it will not recover. Although we ought to note the prominence of the former owners of San Simeon, Texas newspapers, and much else beside, and wonder at the mystery of their angles, you have to admit the message makes sense. And, after all, the SF Chronicle hired Robert Sheer a week after he was summarily fired from the Los Angeles Times and the best reporting in the country on the downfall of Enron, incidentally, came from the Hearst-owned Houston Chronicle.

But before getting into the raw meat, first a word from UC President Robert Dynes to the UC community on a website university propagandists whipped up after the Chronicle series began to draw blood. It might help to consider the UC community as a crowd of highly specialized geniuses, each with his or her little academic niche, reading the newspaper in some state a alarm, nervously eyeing this half-full public trough, suspicious that Farmer Dynes and his laborers in the UC administration are gorging themselves on the other half over there in the Big House. These people, despite the mythology that state and federal governments have anything beyond a ceremonial role in approving their salaries, are as vulnerable as Enron employees if their bosses really insult public propriety.

For reasons that appear more spiritual than rational, the public, despite general, widespread evidence to the contrary, , expects its academic leaders to be wiser and more honest than Ken Lay or a newspaper.

Bill Hatch


Dear Colleague,

The University of California is likely to see renewed focus on its compensation policies. The Board of Regents will meet November 16-17 to consider RE-61, which proposes that UC achieve market-competitive salaries for all University employees in the coming years. It also seeks to enhance the Regents' oversight of compensation issues in some important ways.

Also, the San Francisco Chronicle published stories on November 13-14 about how employees, especially more highly paid employees, are compensated at UC. While the Chronicle omitted or mischaracterized some important facts, the stories also point out the need for us to consider improving our public disclosure policies and internal practices.

As employees read about and discuss the issues raised by these two events, it is important that everyone understand the broader context of the higher education market within which we operate. To this end, we have constructed a web site that provides a more complete explanation of these issues, as well as our responses to the Chronicle stories. I hope this information is useful and, as always, thank you for your ongoing dedication to the University.


Robert C. Dynes

Newspaper Coverage:

November 17

Modesto Bee
UC regents increase fees by 8 percent...Michelle Locke, AP
Cost of going to university has going up 89% since '01. The vote came amid heightened criticism of the UC's spending after reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that the UC has paid millions in bonuses and pay hikes to top executives. ...students were not happy with the hikes, demonstrating their opposition by chanting "Education, not corporation!"

Merced Sun-Star
UC tuition fees going up again...Rosalio Ahumada
Students will pay about $500 more per year. UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said she knows some students are struggling with educational costs, but the fee increases are needed right now. "We certainly don't want to exacerbate that," Tomlinson-Keasey said of student financial woes. About 80 percent of UC Merced's inaugural class applied for and received financial aid, and 64 percent of those students qualified for need-based financial assistance, according to campus records.

Sacramento Bee
Fifth fee hike since '02 gets UC regent OK...Leslie A. Maxwell
UC officials said the fee increases - part of a $2.9 billion budget that they will request from the Legislature for next year - were necessary to maintain their "compact" with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, argued for the board to hold off on the hikes until Schwarzenegger unveils his new state budget proposal in early January. Much of the audience also was angry about recent news reports that hundreds of UC's senior-level employees received generous housing allowances, bonuses and other perks during a budget crunch.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC president promises increased disclosure about pay packages. Task force also will consider further policy changes...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
After facing days of withering criticism, University of California leaders promised Wednesday to disclose more information about how much they pay employees. " Dynes promised that UC would: ... -- Provide regents with a summary of UC leaders' total compensation once a year, including outside income. Dynes said he wasn't sure whether that information would be released to the public. There is a dark cloud over the university that we really have to reckon with, and it speaks to the question of transparency and honesty," Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, an ex-officio regent, said. "There is a lot of outrage," said Bruce Fuller, professor of public policy and education at UC Berkeley. "Is the quality of the university really tied to attracting managers, or is it tied to attracting top faculty?"

Zero hour for Los Alamos. UC has run the nation's top weapons lab for six decades.
Will it all end this week?...Keay Davidson
Los Alamos National Lab...climax of a four-year saga: a decision that will determine who runs the world's most glamorous and controversial nuclear weapons lab and that also could end the University of California's unchallenged six-decade domination of the U.S. weapons program. An announcement could come soon, perhaps even Friday. UC and its industrial partners, including San Francisco-based Bechtel National Inc., are competing for the contract against aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. and its allies -- the huge University of Texas system, several New Mexico universities and various industrial partners. Loss of the contract by UC would be a crushing blow to the university system's reputation and, perhaps, to the state of California, which owes much of its international economic clout and attractiveness to investors' perception of the state as the Nobel laureate-packed front line of scientific and technological advances. ...the Lockheed-Texas team has benefited from continued leaks of bad news from Los Alamos. The latest case involved an "Occurrence Report," which came to light late last month concerning an incident in October 2003...

UC regents boost next year's student fees...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
Hours after the University of California Board of Regents voted Wednesday to impose steep fee increases on students, a regents' committee recommended that hundreds of top university administrators get pay raises. The proposed "annual merit" salary increases, ... average about 3 percent. "Even with this year's merit increases, the salaries of many senior UC managers still significantly fall below market," according to the statement. A recent study by Mercer Consulting found that UC offers lower salaries than other prestigious universities, though UC pay is comparable when retirement and other benefits are factored in. However, the Mercer study did not include all forms of compensation used by UC, leaving it unclear whether UC employees are paid better or worse than the average pay of their counterparts elsewhere. ...Wednesday, the regents disregarded assurances from state Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez that the Legislature would likely allocate enough money to make the higher fees unnecessary.

November 16

San Francisco Chronicle
Outrage in Capitol at UC pay revelations...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
State lawmakers demanded Tuesday that University of California leaders answer questions about UC's growing payroll, hidden compensation and a rising inequity between low-paid employees and senior administrators and faculty. Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who sits on the Senate Education Committee, "I'm not going to allow UC to become the Wal-Mart of education. The university's money is public money. They have to be very careful. Before we do anything more with salaries, we have to have transparency." "This is outrageous," Denham said. "While students face rate increases every year and UC rank and file workers face salary freezes, the top UC administrators will be getting secret salary hikes. The regents should postpone their vote and let the public see the documents."

UC's hidden pay...Editorial
FOR AN institution devoted to openness and truth, the University of California is falling short. It refuses to speak plainly about the eye-popping compensation packages for its top leaders. The timing for the new salary increases couldn't be worse. ...regents are due to vote on a plan to raise student fees by 8 percent. ...after fees have nearly doubled in four years. UC must explain its compensation policies more fully. It isn't showing the openness that taxpayers expect and deserve from a public university.

November 15

Fresno Bee
UC gets $8 million to study San Joaquin Valley's bad air...AP
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The University of California, Davis, will receive an $8 million federal grant to study the effects of one of the country's most polluted air basins on public health.

UC system cut maintenance, student services while high-paid jobs increased...Merced Sun-Star, Section B, Front page...not available on Sun-Star website...11-14-05 San Francisco Chronicle...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
The University of California may have cut student services and maintenance, but not the number of high-paid jobs created over the past two years.

November 14

Famers say UC helps rivals too...Olivia Munoz, AP
UC President Robert C. Dynes met with about 35 growers... San Joaquin Valley growers expressed frustration Thursday that research they help the University of California conduct ends up helping their rivals in the global agriculture market. ...also concerned that the system's budget cuts were affecting the extension office program.

San Francisco Chronicle
Free mansions for people of means...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
For all the attention paid to university salaries, some of the biggest perks at the university are noncash items, such as free housing. At UC, the system spends about $1 million a year to maintain spacious homes for Dynes and the 10 campus chancellors. I think taxpayers would be outraged to discover the nature of this extraordinary perk," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Association. Schwartz...said the homes are important to help chancellors cover the high cost of living in California, where many chancellors otherwise wouldn't be able to afford homes on their university salaries. Public records show that many of the chancellors already own their homes, sometimes close to campus. And at least two chancellors earned tens of thousands of dollars in extra annual income by moving into university-owned residences and renting out their own nearby homes. In addition, records show hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on maintaining some of the estates.. "I suspect this will make it in our 2005 piglet book" of examples of government waste, Coupal said. "This is the kind of stuff that shows that at some point (government leaders sometimes) lose touch with reality."

Services cut for students as high-pay jobs boom...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
The University of California may have cut student services and maintenance, but not the number of high-paid jobs created over the past two years. Payroll records show that 2,275 university employees earned more than $200,000 last fiscal year, up 30 percent over two years. The number of employees making at least $300,000 annually climbed 54 percent to 496 last year. Some employees got raises. Others were hired or promoted to new posts with increased salaries. Still, the boom in top salaries comes at a time when UC leaders say they have been forced to raise student fees 79 percent over four years, increase class sizes and curtail student services to cope with cuts in state funding. "This is not something you want the Legislature to learn about," said Velma Montoya, who served on the UC Board of Regents for 11 years until her term ended in January. "It is unfair and impolitic."

The home used by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Chronicle photo by Mark Costantini

More higher-paid employees on UC payroll

Monterey Herald
The teacher pay UC doesn't discuss...System shells out millions while claiming poverty...San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Despite complaints from University of California officials that the system has suffered severe cuts in state funding, prompting tuition and fee increases, many faculty members and administrators get paid thousands more than is publicly reported. ''We should be comparing full compensation, including the perks, not just the salary, because when you look across the country, you shouldn't be comparing apples to oranges,'' said Velma Montoya, an economist who served on the UC Board of Regents for 11 years until her term ended in January. ''It's ludicrous to increase student fees... when you're talking about executive officers making this much money, and no one knowing about it,'' said Anu Joshi, a UC Berkeley graduate student and president of the systemwide UC Student Association.

November 13

UC's higher profile...Editorial
The recent visit to Fresno by the president of the University of California underscores how the landscape has changed in higher education for Valley students in just a few years. For decades, the Valley was given short shrift by UC. Higher education was left in the hands of California State University campuses, such as Fresno State. Now UC Merced has opened, creating a new opportunity for Valley students. ...the UC system is working much harder to spread the word about UC among Valley students and their families. That's what brought UC President Robert Dynes to Fresno on Thursday...

San Francisco Chronicle
UC piling extra cash on top of pay...Tanya Schevitz, Tod Wallack
Despite UC's complaints that it has been squeezed by cuts in state funding and forced to raise student fees, many university faculty members and administrators get paid far more than is publicly reported. In addition to salaries and overtime, payroll records obtained by The Chronicle show that employees received a total of $871 million in bonuses, administrative stipends, relocation packages and other forms of cash compensation last fiscal year. That was more than enough to cover the 79 percent hike in student fees that UC has imposed over the past few years. The bulk of the last year's extra compensation, roughly $599 million, went to more than 8,500 employees who each got at least $20,000 over their regular salaries. And that doesn't include an impressive array of other perks for selected top administrators, ranging from free housing to concert tickets.

Bringing in the big bucks
Here are UC's highest-paid employees based ontotal compensation. Base salary is a small fraction of their total pay.

Overall payroll
Over the last few years there has been an increase in the UC's payroll...2002 – 2005

Other perks include parties, gifts, travel...Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack
In addition to their cash compensation, many senior UC employees receive significant fringe benefits. A partial list includes:
-- Housing: Some employees receive free or subsidized housing near campus, including spacious homes (and in some cases, mansions) reserved for chancellors. UC also issued thousands of low-interest mortgages to administrators and faculty...3 percent interest rate. -- Jobs: -- Entertainment: Gifts:-- Travel: Parties: Expensive parties are common.
Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education..."This is not a slush fund,'' Callan said. "Every dollar that the university gets is public. It is a public institution. It doesn't matter where it comes from."

Livermore Lab's future tied to risky laser project...Keay Davidson
The fate of a super-laser -- a multibillion-dollar project under construction at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is in serious doubt, despite Congress' decision to grant it a reprieve. ...eight years after the facility's groundbreaking at Livermore lab, the project has cost taxpayers more than $3 billion, at least three times the projected cost, and the tab should exceed $4 billion between now and the projected completion in 2009-2010. Meanwhile, only a small percentage of the projected 192 lasers have been installed and tested. Worst of all, there is serious scientific doubt whether the laser will achieve its near-mythic goal: ignition, the holy grail of nuclear physics. ..recent study by top Pentagon advisory panel cites many technical obstacles and says there's no assurance the project will work. The group, known as "Jason," pointed out in a recent report that the project is rife with technical problems. This is an embarrassment that UC can ill afford at a time when federal officials are close to making a crucial decision on another one of the university system's vital relationships with the Department of Energy.

November 12

Fundraiser helps MC students get to UC...Rosalio Ahumada
With the rising cost to earn a bachelor's degree, students need scholarship support more than ever. The Merced College Foundation wants to make sure its transferring students have all the help they can get to attend the newest University of California campus. Currently, full-time equivalent Merced College students pay a total of about $800 per school year including campus fees. UC Merced undergraduate students pay about $7,000 in tuition per school year. But that doesn't include housing costs that range from $14,000 to $20,000 annually.

Anxiety marks Los Alamos mood ahead of lab contract announcement...Heather Clark, AP
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Many people in this isolated mesa-top community are anxious or fearful about who will win a contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory. The main contenders for the contract are two limited liability corporations, one headed by Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas and the other led by Bechtel Corp. and the University of California... ...contract worth up to $79 million. The announcement of the winner is expected by Dec. 1. Six percent of the lab's work force resigned, up from a 4 percent annual norm over the last decade. ...poor business practices at the lab led to a purchasing scandal and a series of embarrassing security and safety lapses that culminated in a seven-month shutdown, which the Department of Energy estimated cost about $367 million. UC put the cost at $110 million.