Ditch Dynes

University of California Chancellor Robert Dynes agrees with the growing public sentiment that the UC system is in need of systemic change. Some see that change beginning with the removal of UC Chancellor Robert Dynes.

By the time you read this, the UC Board of Regents may have come to the same conclusion at its May 17 meeting. We hope so. As student fees escalate, and student services get cut, it is increasingly difficult for Dynes and his colleagues at the top of the UC heap to justify the secret deals they’ve made between themselves in order to keep the gravy train offloading the gravy that’s been kept secret from the regents and the general public.

These are dream gigs. Lots of them require very little in the way of actual work, and the perks are plentiful—houses, landscaping, cars, bounteous health plans and long sabbaticals. Hell, if you ask ’em real nice, the honchos who hire you can sometimes even arrange to pay you money you would have gotten at a job you already left. Just don’t tell anyone.

How do people like Dynes justify all this sneaky business? Their mantra is that such skullduggery is necessary if the UC system is going to be able to attract and keep the best and brightest management people. And since the taxpaying public has been willing to let them get away with it, the administrators simply have to play hide-and-seek with the pay, or otherwise those top people will find positions in the much more loosely managed private colleges, where the bosses are allowed to throw money around like there’s no tomorrow.

“There are systemic issues that must be repaired,” Dynes said in a recent interview. “But understand that these recruitments were, and still are, in the interests of the university—to try to get the best people we possibly can. … It takes, I believe, flexibility to do that, especially in a very competitive world.”

Dynes showed no concern for these “systemic issues” until the creative compensation practices became public, and he does not sound like a man committed to fixing the problems that flourished under his supervision.

Dynes holds a doctorate in physics. His lengthy academic training has nothing whatsoever to do with the work he now does. Nearly all academic management people work outside of their areas of study and expertise. Just how good they are at managing is demonstrated by the current mess. If this is the best management money can buy, maybe money isn’t the key to the best management, after all.

It’s an odd system. Though the regents have surely been remiss in their oversight responsibilities, they’ve begun to draw heat themselves, and the old “we gotta pay to remain competitive” mantra is bound to be less persuasive than it’s been in the past as politicians all line up to proclaim their newfound belief in fiscal transparency.

The systemic changes Dynes suddenly feels are necessary should begin with his removal. Hopefully, the regents have taken this step. A manager who deserved the pay he receives would have seen the need for change long before media pressure made that point for him. Too little and too late is hardly a winning managerial style.