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
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
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.