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Regents Cut Meetings, Delay Pay Action

Education: Davis will review salary issues as UC board seeks to reduce paperwork. Some members express concern over easing financial oversight.

July 17, 1999|KENNETH R. WEISS | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents on Friday decided to eliminate three of its nine meetings each year, but postponed any action on how to handle salaries until next month, so that Gov. Gray Davis can review proposals before the board.

"The governor asked that we hold off," said John Davies, chairman of the Board of Regents, adding that he would abide by those wishes as a courtesy to the state's chief executive.

More than 190 UC employees, mostly physicians and top administrators, receive more than the governor's $157,143 annual salary. Some of them, including UC President Richard C. Atkinson, are paid twice that amount.

Noting the rise in salaries and the regents' load of tedious paperwork, Davies had proposed that the board relax its financial oversight. Administrators could make more decisions on such things as securing loans, selling property and setting all salaries of $200,000 of less, he said.

Some regents worry about slackening the financial reins as they continue to learn about the hemorrhaging red ink at UC San Francisco, including a report Friday that $4.5 million has been embezzled from the campus.

"This loss has absolutely no connection to losses suffered by UCSF Stanford Health Care," said Vice Chancellor Steve Barclay, referring to the merger of two university hospitals, which posted a $10-million loss in May.

"This board represents the public trust," Regent Sue Johnson said. "So anything that reduces our oversight, we have to do in a very careful way."

Regent David S. Lee, a San Jose businessman, said he would be uncomfortable with delegating too much to administrators. "If it's my money, I'm not comfortable with something unless I look into it myself," he said.

The regents also debated the policy of paying chancellors more if they work at larger or more complex campuses. For instance, the chancellors of UCLA and Berkeley are paid $271,400, while the chancellors of smaller campuses in Santa Cruz and Riverside make $229,000.

Regent Ward Connerly said the salary differential "sends the wrong message, by suggesting that our campuses are not equal." That conflicts with the university's other public message, he said, that students can get an excellent education at any UC campus.

The regents agreed to set up a special committee to study the issue.

Beginning in January, the regents will meet only six times over the course of a year, instead of nine times, as has been the practice since 1971.

The new schedule seems to preclude Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa from attending meetings, because it conflicts with legislative sessions, a spokeswoman for Villaraigosa said. Villaraigosa, a regent by virtue of his office, has taken a great interest in the university system.

William T. Bagley, a colorful San Francisco attorney and longtime regent, often criticizes the board for trying to micromanage a university run by highly paid professionals.

When it's not doing that, he said, the board historically has meddled in other ways: instituting a loyalty oath in the 1950s, cracking down on student protesters in the '60s, banning affirmative action in the '90s.

So Bagley, in his half-joking way, made a modest proposal: Limit board meetings to only one a year. "We would do much less damage," he told his colleagues. "Think about it, my friends."

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