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Beleaguered Chancellor at UCSB Resigns

July 12, 1986|MILES CORWIN | Times Staff Writer

SANTA BARBARA — Chancellor Robert A. Huttenback of the University of California, Santa Barbara, resigned Friday after months of turmoil concerning his administrative abilities and the expenditure of university funds on his home.

UC President David P. Gardner accepted the resignation and nominated former UC Irvine Chancellor Daniel Aldrich to temporarily replace Huttenback.

Huttenback said that Gardner asked him on July 2, in a private meeting, to consider resigning.

"I decided to step down to end the petty conflict and argument at the campus," Huttenback said in an interview after his resignation. "All of the turmoil was taking people away from the real work of a university--teaching, recruiting and research."

Years of Controversy

The embattled chancellor had been a controversial figure during his eight years at UC Santa Barbara. But in the spring quarter the problems peaked.

In April, the UC central administration began its investigation into Huttenback's use of university funds for personal household expenses and later concluded that he "inappropriately" spent $174,000.

Then nine UC Santa Barbara professors sent a letter to Gardner suggesting that Huttenback consider resigning, and UC Santa Barbara students, by a 3-1 margin, gave Huttenback a no-confidence vote.

In May, the Faculty Senate voted 31 to 3 to ask the UC president to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into Huttenback's performance.

The results of the inquiry were expected to be delivered at the UC Board of Regents meeting next week, said UC spokesman Ron Kolb. Because he resigned, the results will not be released, Kolb said.

But Huttenback said he was told by Gardner of some of the findings of the inquiry when the two men met July 2 and that they "played a part" in his decision to resign. He declined to elaborate.

The resignation is effective Dec. 31, but Huttenback will take a paid leave of absence from the post from Sept. 1 until July 31, 1987. He is eligible to return to the university as a tenured faculty member in the history department but said he has made no decision yet about his future.

In defense of the $174,000 spent on his household expenses--much of it on renovations to the kitchen and "public areas" of the off-campus house he owns--Huttenback said he used the house extensively for university purposes, including fund-raising.

"In retrospect, I wish I had done it a different way," he said. "But at the time it seemed totally appropriate."

Huttenback said a month ago that he would repay the money, and a statement issued by the university Friday said his repayment plan has not been altered by the resignation. The statement also said that Gardner would recommend to the regents that they offer to purchase the house from Huttenback for fair market value and use it for university purposes.

Awaiting Results

Huttenback also is awaiting the results of another university inquiry. In June, the UC central administration sequestered all records of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation, an independent money-raising organization affiliated with the university. The foundation had loaned Huttenback $9,000 and there is some question as to the propriety of the pay-back arrangement, UC officials have said. The results of the inquiry should be released in about three weeks, a UC official said.

Last month, Huttenback repaid $15,129 to the foundation, which members of the foundation board said represented full payment of principal and interest on the loans. Huttenback said he obtained money for the loan repayment from "small individual contributions" from supporters.

A brash, flamboyant leader, Huttenback accomplished a great deal at UC Santa Barbara. In addition to a great increase of donations to the university, Huttenback has lured nationally respected faculty members and established prestigious programs. But with his accomplishments have come problems. Faculty members have grumbled for years about Huttenback's style of operating. Critics said he often made unilateral, impetuous decisions in matters of hiring and firing, and he created many enemies on campus.

'A Better Place'

"Huttenback has given eight years of his life to this campus and in many ways the university is a better place," said sociology professor Richard Flacks, who had signed the letter to Gardner suggesting that Huttenback resign. "As a result of his work--and the work of faculty and administration--there is a more optimistic climate on campus and more large-scale thinking about the future of the university.

"But you have to balance that with the damage. People are more reluctant to donate money if they think university funds are being misspent. . . . This is not some ordinary business enterprise. It's a university and it can't be compromised."

Aldrich, the man nominated to replace Huttenback, must be approved by the UC Board of Regents. He would serve until a permanent chancellor is named.

Aldrich, 68, said that Gardner contacted him about 2 1/2 weeks ago about assuming the chancellorship at UC Santa Barbara. He was the founding chancellor of UC Irvine and served there 23 years--longer than any other head of a UC campus--before retiring in June, 1984. He also served as acting chancellor at UC Riverside last year after the death of UC Riverside Chancellor Tomas Rivera.

Contributing to this article were Times staff writers Anne C. Roark in Los Angeles and Bill Billiter in Orange County.

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