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San Diego Chancellor to Lead UC

Regents unanimously back the physicist as president of 10-campus system. His low-key style is cited as necessary for the tough times ahead.

June 12, 2003|Rebecca Trounson, Stuart Silverstein and Monte Morin | Times Staff Writers

OAKLAND — Regents at the University of California elected UC San Diego Chancellor Robert C. Dynes president Wednesday, tapping the physicist and avid runner to lead the prestigious 10-campus system at a time when dwindling revenue and growing enrollment pose heavy challenges.

Dynes, who has headed UC San Diego since 1996, follows the path of the man he succeeded on the San Diego campus, Richard C. Atkinson, who steps down as UC president on Oct. 1.

Before entering academia, the 60-year-old Dynes worked 22 years with AT&T Bell Labs, where he worked on superconductors and other projects.

"I am elated by the prospect of taking the helm of the premier university in the world, a place where the very best come to learn, teach and create new knowledge," Dynes told regents after his confirmation was announced.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 21, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
UC president -- A June 12 article about the appointment of a new University of California president stated incorrectly that Laura D'Andrea Tyson was a finalist for the position. Tyson, dean of the London School of Economics and President Clinton's former economic advisor, said she was nominated as a candidate for the job but declined to be considered.

The Canadian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen was elected unanimously.

Higher education experts said Dynes arrives at a difficult time for UC, which is seeking to preserve its reputation as the leading public university system in the country. Besides wrestling with the consequences of California's $38-billion budget deficit, UC is struggling to maintain diversity in its student body.

Dynes faces a difficult balancing act between the ban on affirmative action in California and the desire of many politicians and educators to see more underrepresented minority students and academics in the UC system.

He also must contend with the controversies over the university's management of the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. Within months, the university's leaders must decide whether to compete for a contract to continue running Los Alamos, the nuclear weapons lab that recently has been beset by allegations of mismanagement. Livermore has faced smaller-scale security problems.

In dealing with those flaps, Robert M. Shireman, a senior fellow with the Aspen Institute, which studies higher education, said Dynes' credentials as a scientist would be an asset. He said it would be useful to have "someone with a physics background testifying before Congress."

Dynes' main problem, however, will be coping with recession-related state funding cutbacks, as well as possible reductions in federal money just as the 197,000-student university faces an enrollment boom.

UC regents are expected to vote this summer to raise student fees by at least 24%.

On Wednesday, Dynes acknowledged that the UC system is "caught in a confluence of pressures." He said UC must serve as a national model; the rest of the country is looking to the system to "lead the way."

Dynes said flatly that the university will need to raise the fees it charges students for next year, but also said it should establish "a more rational fee structure so parents and students can anticipate costs and not be subject to the [budget's] boom and bust."

The incoming president also spoke Wednesday of his concern and regard for undergraduate students, noting that he was flying back to San Diego that night to prepare for this week's commencement.

The education of young people, he said, "is the single most important thing we do ... and will be our most lasting legacy."

National Newcomer

Although an accomplished scientist, Dynes is largely an unknown on the national educational policy scene, and thus his selection leaves questions about some of the approaches he will take in his new job.

But many of those who know him vouch for his professional and personal skills.

"We wanted a first-class scholar, a high-level administrator and someone who will be an effective leader in Sacramento and Washington," said Gayle Binion, the university's top faculty representative as head of its systemwide academic council. "We feel like we got all three."

UC Riverside Chancellor France A. Cordova said, "He's a very strong but gentle presence. He's enormously respected for his scientific prowess but also has an ability to make people comfortable right away."

Student representatives were more circumspect, although several said they believed Dynes to be a good choice. Stephen Klass, chairman of the University of California Student Assn. and a senior at UC San Diego, said Dynes was popular with students there.

But he and other students interviewed Wednesday also said Dynes, unlike Atkinson, had not been outspoken in support of diversity.

"We have real concerns about his position on diversity and whether he's going to be strong enough on these social justice issues," said Matthew Kaczmarek, a UCLA student and external vice president of the systemwide student association.

Atkinson drew national attention during his eight-year tenure for his successful battle to overhaul the college entrance exam known as the SAT and for his efforts to broaden the university's admissions policies. Dynes said Wednesday that he supported both efforts.

Dynes, like Atkinson, is a distinguished scientist and longtime member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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