This is the year of fresh faces, but UCSD won’t be gleefully singing “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes.” Just this past Tuesday, the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs announced its appointment of John Moore as the new Muir provost, beginning Fall 2013. Other new UCSD staff members this year include: the first ever vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion, a new vice chancellor of student affairs, a new director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a new dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering. These changes come after UCSD welcomed Pradeep K. Khosla as its new chancellor this year. If anything, this major administrative turnover reflects upon UCSD’s capability of retaining key administrators. In order for UCSD to keep its high global ranking, it needs to work on keeping staff members around for longer than a few years.
It’s hard to have long-term goals in mind when staff members are continuously coming and going. While UCSD has the potential to find skilled replacements, it takes time to construct search committees and then select and train the right candidates. Some of these searches can extend for months. Most of the exiting faculty members have only been with UCSD for under a decade. Penny Rue, our departing vice chancellor of student affairs, will be leaving after only serving five years. Susan Smith, the current Muir provost, will retire from the position she has only had since 2005. Tony Haymet, vice chancellor for marine sciences and director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography retired at the beginning of January after serving for six years.
As with other universities or businesses, UCSD needs to have the same people oversee the same areas for a continuous period of time in order for progress to best occur. It takes time to enact initiatives and new programs, and time is lost when main administrators leave. Not only is Scripps changing hands three times in a period of a few months confusing (an interim is currently filling in for Dr. Haymet), the extensive international search for his replacement is taking up valuable time that could have been devoted to furthering research or developing new projects.
One of UCSD’s main concerns is that other universities are taking away its administrators. After spring quarter, Rue will be leaving UCSD for Wake Forest University, which offered her an attractive package to serve as vice president for campus life. Similarly, Dr. Frieder Seible, dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering since 2003, will be leaving UCSD for Monash University. Both made great progress during their terms, but the changes they have been working on will be cut short by their leaving. This is especially counterintuitive to Rue’s work with the new university-wide strategic planning process. According to a statement released by Khosla, Rue played an important role in enacting the new student affairs strategic planning process, as well as pushing for strategic budget reductions and raising over $6 million in scholarships and $18 million for student affairs overall. Rue will still be overseeing the strategic planning process until the end of her term, but someone else will have to pick up where she leaves off in a few months.
This high turnover rate mainly stems from UCSD offering unappealing compensation packages to administrators, but UCSD cannot afford to increase administrator pay. Exiting UC President Mark Yudof announced Feb. 19 that no UC employees would see salary increases for the 2012–2013 year. The university operates on federal and state grants, student fees and private donations. If student fees are increased further to raise administrator salaries, thousands of students may protest. A solution doesn’t seem clear, but administration can look to feasible options, such as soliciting more private donations or hiring younger faces who may not seem as good on paper but have fresh ideas and will be able to stay longer for less handsome pay.
The adage goes: “Out with the old, in with the new,” but UCSD needs to keep more of the old. If it fails to keep all of its working parts on payroll, it may start slipping in the ranks in the future.