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UC Chief Offers Steps to Control Salaries, Perks

At a regents meeting, Robert Dynes says reforms are aimed at halting problems.

September 21, 2006|Rebecca Trounson | Times Staff Writer

University of California President Robert C. Dynes on Wednesday announced reforms aimed at further tightening the university's controls and increasing openness over the salaries and perks it provides senior managers.

The actions, announced as UC's Board of Regents met on the first day of a two-day session in San Francisco, were the latest attempt by Dynes and UC to get beyond a controversy over executive compensation and to restore public confidence in university leadership.

The changes included tightening the university's rules on exceptions to compensation policies and greater public disclosure of the details of executives' pay packages. Many of the reforms were recommended last spring in several highly critical reports on UC's compensation practices, after media accounts that the university system had paid out millions in improper or undisclosed bonuses, housing allowances and other perks to top administrators.

One such report, by a task force of business, academic and media leaders, urged UC administrators and regents toward a "sea change" in its compensation procedures, and painted a picture of leaders who made exceptions seemingly at will, and without regard to their duty to inform the regents or the public.

On Wednesday, Dynes said the task force report and an outside audit released in April had highlighted severe shortcomings on the issue.

"These reforms are aimed at swiftly and permanently correcting those problems so they never happen again," he said.

The regents are scheduled to discuss the recommendations today. Also Wednesday, the regents heard reports on other issues affecting the 10-campus UC system, including a proposal that UC reject research funding from the tobacco industry and a discussion on student mental health.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who is a regent by virtue of his office, urged the board to adopt his proposal to cut off tobacco funding for research, saying the source of the money threatened to taint UC's academic reputation.

The board did not take action, but asked that the idea be sent to UC's faculty senate for further study.

Regent Norm Pattiz said he supported the ban. "There are some things one needs to do based on principle," he said.

But other regents said they were concerned that barring funding from certain industries could harm professors' right to academic freedom. "It's a very slippery slope, where we can question funding in many different ways," Regent Sherry L. Lansing said.

In a much-anticipated report, the regents also were told about problems affecting UC's student mental health services.

The study, commissioned by Dynes, found that the mental health system was severely underfunded and understaffed, even as many more students than before are dealing with such issues.

"The pressures on today's students begin with the college application process and just keep mounting -- how to pay, how to compete, how to get through," Dynes told the regents during the meeting, which was broadcast over the Internet. "We have to do a better job of helping them manage those pressures."

The report's recommendations will be sent to the campuses, which are being asked to come up with specific proposals for improving services.

The regents also heard Wednesday from Los Angeles community leaders, UCLA alumni and students who pointed to declining numbers of African American students at that campus and urged UC leaders to push for changes in its admissions and enrollment practices.

But Los Angeles Urban League President Blair Taylor also praised current efforts by acting UCLA Chancellor Norman Abrams to move the campus toward a more "holistic" admissions process.

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