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UC president announces he'll step down from his post by June

Robert C. Dynes' tenure has been marked by dwindling budgets and a compensation scandal.

August 14, 2007|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

University of California President Robert C. Dynes, whose four years in office have been marked by dwindling budgets and a scandal over compensation for top officials, announced Monday that he will step down by June.

Though praised by associates for his "extraordinary intellect," Dynes appears to have lost the support of key members of the UC Board of Regents who believe the 10-campus system must act more aggressively to maintain its excellence.

Dynes, 64, a former chancellor at UC San Diego, said he was stepping down to spend more time with his wife, Ann, a former UC San Diego campus counsel whom he married in March.

An upbeat Dynes said that preparing to leave his post was "bittersweet."

"I am in love with my wife, and it's time for me to spend time with her before it's too late," he told reporters in a conference call. "You never accomplish everything you want to accomplish."

As president, Dynes has been an energetic and enthusiastic advocate for a public university system widely acknowledged to be one of the world's best, with an enrollment of nearly 200,000 students.

But he also has faced a series of difficult challenges, including maintaining UC's quality with fewer resources and expanding its diversity without the help of affirmative action.

In the end, it was the university's compensation practices, including quietly awarding millions of dollars in perks to top executives without the regents' approval, that appear to have hurt him the most.

"After all the missteps and missed opportunities, Dynes has largely lost his effectiveness and his support, both above and below him," said a university official who insisted on anonymity. "A great guy in the wrong job at the wrong time."

Dynes, a physicist who worked for AT&T Bell Laboratories for 22 years before becoming a professor and then chancellor at UC San Diego, said he would focus the remaining months of his presidency on advancing UC's research partnership with industry and expanding the university's international presence.

Provost and Executive Vice President Wyatt R. Hume, considered a leading candidate to succeed Dynes, will become chief operating officer and assume responsibility for the daily management of the university. The position of chief operating officer is new and will be eliminated when Dynes' successor takes over.

"It has been a distinct privilege to know and work with Robert Dynes, and it is with sadness that I have accepted his decision to step down," Board of Regents Chairman Richard C. Blum wrote in a letter to his fellow regents.

Blum said he would appoint a committee to conduct an international search for a new president. Dynes will step down in June or upon the appointment of his successor.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a member of the Board of Regents by virtue of his office, praised Dynes as a "great partner" who enhanced the prestige of the university system.

"For his dedication and commitment to the students, the UC system and the state, he will be missed," the governor said. "I appreciate all his years of service as president and wish him the best of luck in the future."

Dynes, a native of Canada, took over as UC's 18th president in October 2003 as the system was reeling from a series of budget cuts -- and facing even more.

He set a goal of serving as president for five years and will fall just short of that mark, assuming his tenure ends in June.

The most damaging period for Dynes came last year with revelations that UC had given top administrators millions of dollars in perks and bonuses even as it raised student fees. Many of the payments were not disclosed publicly or approved by the regents, in violation of university policy.

Dynes accepted responsibility for the payments and apologized repeatedly. Some UC officials argued that they were necessary to attract and keep the most talented candidates. But the scandal left its mark.

"He never recovered from compensation because he never showed the leadership the regents were looking for," said another university official who insisted on anonymity.

In his letter announcing Dynes' departure, Blum noted that the regents had taken steps to avoid similar problems in the future and to keep tighter control over the president's budget.

"We have successfully come through what has become known as the 'compensation crisis,' " Blum said. "And we have laid the groundwork for restructuring of the university's administrative infrastructure to create a more effective and efficient organization."

Dynes said no one except his wife pushed him to resign.

But the first university official said Dynes received some prodding from the regents to act now.

"He was thinking about timing and was encouraged to think 'earlier' rather than 'later,' " the official said. "You could say it was his decision, and you could also say he was pressured by individuals and circumstances. All of that is true."

Asked in hindsight what he would have done differently as president, Dynes said one of his chief regrets was not producing greater diversity among professors and students. Affirmative action was banned in university admissions and hiring by voter-approved Proposition 209 in 1996.

"One of the things I am still dissatisfied with," he said, "is how fast we have moved to a diversified faculty and student body."

richard.paddock@latimes.com

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