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March 18, 2005
Sweetheart Deals For Politically Correct University Presidents In California

While Lawrence Summers gets grilled for daring to ask politically-incorrect questions about the nature of talent and how to compensate for possible gender differences, one of his critics has learned to rake in the dough, reports Brian Maloney of the blog The Radio Equalizer. Denice Denton, the new chancellor at the University of California Santa Cruz, received a lot of press coverage for her outspoken criticism of Summers' remarks in January. Now she appears to be reaping the rewards in her new position with UCSC, as a series of sweetheart deals -- one rather literal -- has contributed to windfall for Denton.

First, Denton's hiring as UCSC chancellor created a small controversy when the regents revealed her new compensation package. Not only did they offer Denton $275,000 per year (just from the UC system, not including any private contributions), they gave her a moving allowance of $68,750. Bear in mind that Denton will live in a mansion on campus, which we'll get to in a moment. For $68,750, one could almost physically relocate a house from Seattle to Santa Cruz. Included in the deal, however, was a tenured professorship for her live-in partner, Gretchen Kalonji, at an annual salary of $192,000. In an era of rising tuition and staffing cutbacks, this caused considerable issue with the unions and students:

Mary Higgins, president of the Coalition of University Employees, which represents 16,000 clerical employees, said she was concerned that UC would make such a hire at a time of cutbacks.

"If youre sitting there at the regents meeting, and youre hearing the students talk about how difficult it is to make ends meet and then they turn around and do something like this, its just so arrogant. Its so unethical," Higgins said. ...

The states ongoing budget crisis has prompted fee increases throughout Californias higher education system. In the 10-campus UC system, student fees rose 29 percent in the last year from about $5,200 (including miscellaneous campus fees) in 2002-03 to the present total of about $6,700 for a student with a full-time class load.

So the Denton-Kalonji household will earn almost a half-million per year in state salary alone, let alone whatever private subsidies Denton can negotiate, as is customary at both public and private universities these days. As Monty Hall used to say, "But wait -- there's more!" After giving Denton a $68,750 moving allowance, the school has decided to do some touch-up work at the chancellor's mansion. In fact, they plan on spending $600,000 to renovate it, using endowment money to pay for the work:

A $600,000 upgrade planned at the chancellors house at UC Santa Cruz is raising eyebrows among some campus employees. The funding will come from the UC Office of the President. UC spokesman Paul Schwartz emphasized that no state money will be spent at the house, where the chancellor frequently hosts university meetings and fund-raising events. The location gives guests a breath-taking view of Monterey Bay.

The money for the project comes from an endowment established in 1919 by Edward F. Searles to "finance the general purposes of the university which cannot be covered by state funds."

It seems to me that the endowment money could have gone to a number of purposes, including paying down some of UCSC's operating expenses, academic scholarships for lower-income students, better facilities for the student body and/or faculty, or simply paying down some debt. It's not as if the house has been falling into disrepair. It was built in the mid-1960s and last renovated ten years ago. UCSC spent $228,000 in 2001-2 to upgrade the kitchen and dining room used for public events (read: fundraising) and an additional $89,000 on repaving the driveway.

That must be one hell of a driveway, don't you think?

So now we have Denton and Kalonji earning a half-million between their salaries and their moving allowance and reaping the benefit of free housing, on which UCSC will spend $600,000 to renovate ten years after the last renovation. I had no idea that one could get so well-heeled in academia. Perhaps the taxpayers in California have been unaware of it as well. Instead of campaigning for the presidency of the University of Colorado, Hugh Hewitt should think about getting onto the Board of Regents for the UC system. I think his help is needed more in California than Colorado, Ward Churchill not withstanding.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 18, 2005 3:56 PM

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