Report Berates UCOP, Leaves Regents Scot-Free

    Since last April, when the University of California began a $7-million
    project aimed at unearthing the system’s endless and increasingly
    glaring deficiencies, a bubbling curiosity has been brewing at the
    various UC campuses.FINANCE ­— Since last April, when the University of California began a
    $7-million project aimed at unearthing the system’s endless and
    increasingly glaring deficiencies, a bubbling curiosity has been
    brewing at the various UC campuses.

    Headed by the Monitor Group, an independent Massachusetts consulting
    firm, these restructuring efforts were originally an attempt to regain
    some of the credibility lost after the infamous pay scandals in 2005.
    The UC Board of Regents promised that the project would provide a
    much-needed cure to a long-standing illness. It is no wonder then, with
    a multi-million dollar price tag, that the public was eagerly and
    hesitantly awaiting the results of the project’s first phase, released
    earlier this month.
    And where would the report place the blame for rampant mismanagement
    and inefficiency? More importantly, would it finally bring some hopeful
    resolve to the system’s disappointing and tumultuous past? The answers
    were bittersweet.
    The report rightfully berated the UC Office of the President for its
    conservative, almost dictatorial style of management, its inability to
    “meet campus needs,” its complete failure to spend money efficiently or
    effectively, its neglect to resolve the dearth of information
    technology resources, its uncooperativeness with the state legislature
    — the list goes on and on. But in its overly narrow focus, the report
    left the regents looking like the innocent bystanders while UC
    President Robert Dynes underhandedly tried to sabotage the
    administration.
    Reality, however, provides a stark contrast. The regents were just as
    much the guilty party in mucking up administrative functions as was
    Dynes. Their latest attempt to pin the blame on the president is just
    another in a series of antics to resign themselves from the public eye.
    It would be so convenient to dump the mess on Dynes’ legacy —
    especially now that he has announced his resignation — claim innocence
    and finally start fresh. But, thankfully, the public is not that
    stupid.
    While it’s disappointing the report would overlook the regents’
    failures, it is not difficult to see where the Monitor analysts went
    wrong. First, they assumed inefficiencies within UCOP, solely
    represented a failure on the part of UCOP without considering the UC
    Regents’ integral role in the office’s functioning. It was, after all,
    the UC Regents who, year after year, approved the annual UC budgets
    that Dynes proposed. Not to mention it has been five years since Dynes
    initially took office, giving the regents plenty of time to express
    serious discontent with his methods of leadership.
    But it was not merely this assumption that caused the Monitor Group’s
    analysis to fall short; it was also the group’s approach. According to
    the report, an integral part of its evaluation and problem diagnosis
    was based on in-depth interviews with the regents, who would no doubt
    cast themselves in a positive and innocent light rather than admitting
    their own shortcomings.
    Had the group taken a deeper look at the departments surrounding UCOP,
    it would not have been so quick to deem the office the root of all
    university ills and would have found that identical problems were
    shared among the various departments, including the regents.
    For example, the report chastised the president’s office for
    communication efforts that left much to be desired. According to the
    report “Each structural unit within UCOP … has developed over time
    many of its own internal administrative functions. Communications
    between counterparts across silos is ad hoc. While there is some
    collaboration, it tends to be sporadic.”
    But UCOP was not the only department lacking communication among its
    members. The regents have, for a long time, also fostered a hush-hush
    culture that no doubt contributed to the system’s inefficiency. It was
    not until just last month that this tradition began to change, after UC
    Board of Regents Chairman Richard Blum issued a report outlining his
    unabashed discontent with what he called a dysfunctional
    administration. As President of the National Center for Public Policy
    and Higher Education in San Jose, Pat Callan, points out occurrences
    like this were by no means the norm.
    “These [problems] have been elephants in the room for so long, and it
    has been considered unseemly for the regents to talk about the issues
    in a public way,” Callan told the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 23.
    Even with the elephants now gone, however, the public should feel only
    marginally better about the state of the UC system. After all, the
    regents just wasted $7 million to hear that UCOP lacks management and
    communication skills — not exactly new information. Not to mention that
    in doing so they once again highlighted their evasive nature, a problem
    that will linger far after Dynes finishes his five-year reign.

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