Monday, May 22, 2017

The Regents, UCOP, and Trump

The UC Regents revealed their utter failure of integrity and effectiveness at their last meeting when they were discussing the state audit of the Office of the PresidentInstead of simply trying to get to the truth of the way UCOP has been acting, most of the regents spent a great deal of time praising President Napolitano and each other. What they failed to examine was why and how UCOP interfered with the audit, and if UCOP was hiding money and actions from the regents themselves.   Moreover, no one asked why the campuses changed their reviews of UCOP: were the campus leaders afraid or were they coerced?  We still do not know the direct role of Napolitano in any of this, and it is likely that the state will continue to investigate the situation, and the truth will eventually emerge.

As I have been arguing for years, the main problem with the leaders of the university system is that they are not focused on the central mission of discovering and communicating truth through modern methods of education and science. Their main concern is to keep the system running and to maintain its reputational excellence. Instead of trying to discover the truth of its own operations, the regents and UCOP decided to blame the media for focusing on salacious details of the auditor’s report.  Some regents also tried attacking the state auditor and the legislature, and this strategy should remind us of another president – the one who is currently running the country.

Like Trump, the regents played the victim card by attacking the media. Since they did not want to really ask tough questions, they turned their ire towards the ones who were trying to find the truth.  This insular arrogance and defensiveness is precisely what the governor and the legislature dislike about the university leaders.  As the regents rallied around the president to proclaim that nothing criminal was found, they failed to perform their own role as the overseers of the university.  Meanwhile, Regent Blum defended the system by saying that he once tried to figure out what was going on, and he soon realized that it is too complicated for any of the regents to really understand the details, so it is best to take the word of the people in the know.

The Regents and UCOP thus represent the opposite of what a public university should be about. Instead of pursuing the necessary, but impossible, ideals of neutrality, objectivity, and truth, the leaders of the system see their only role as self-promotion.  Like Trump, the leaders are wealthy, non-experts who do not even know what they do not know and feel they are above the law.  Their only tactic is to attack the messenger and celebrate their own self-proclaimed greatness. However, the truth usually finds a way of showing its ugly head, and at that moment, the university will have its reputation damaged once again by the people who think they are protecting it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

UC Ethics? Responding to the Audit

On the same day that the state auditor released her scathing report on the UC Office of the President, I was complying with my duty to complete the required online ethics training.  How ironic.  As I was being told about my ethical obligation to report anything and everything to staff and upper management, the world was learning that the UCOP office tampered with the official audit.  Although it is still unclear if the unethical actions of the administration will result in criminal charges, what is clear is that the administration has once again failed to live up to its own ethical standards.

Not only did UCOP change answers on the campus surveys to make them look better and hide any real criticism, but it is clear that President Napolitano clearly misrepresented the truth during the state legislative hearing.  Not only was she wrong when she said that her office did not interfere to make UCOP look better, but the recent discovery of new emails shows that she was directly involved in the process of undermining an official state investigation.    

Of course, one of the other main findings of the audit was the continued increase in the number of high-paid administrators at UCOP and the use of non-transparent accounting mechanisms.  What this audit revealed is what many faculty and critics of the university have always argued, which is that administrative bloat not only takes money away from the core mission, but it also creates a super-class of unethical actors.  Virtually no one at UCOP has a background in education or can be said to be committed to scholarly values.  In short, transplants from politics and business have taken over the system, and they do not share our fundamental values or concerns.

Making matters worse is that almost none of the UC Regents have an academic background or deep understanding of what it means to teach a course or perform a research study or produce a departmental budget.  Like their UCOP counter-parts, the Regents combine their lack of knowledge with an imposition of a business-oriented mentality that threatens the public mission of the university.    

UCOP’s main problem is its sustained arrogance and insularity, and while many of the president’s pet projects may have been well intentioned, they appear to have been void of any oversight or accountability. Moreover, the fact that the campuses changed their own responses on the surveys show that they are either afraid of UCOP or believe their main mission is to conform to the chain of command.

We have clearly not heard the end of this investigation, and what would be a horrible outcome is if the legislature or the governor used this scandal as a reason to not fully fund the university.

Faculty need to wake up and take back the university.