ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

California Cronies

November 7, 2005 by ACTA

The resignation of University of California provost M.R.C. Greenwood is making national news--but Greenwood's story ought not to be treated as an end in itself. Her story is, quite possibly, just the opening chapter of a larger and more damning tale of administrative corruption in the UC system.

Greenwood's resignation came in the wake of accusations of cronyism. She is alleged to have used her pull to help a friend with whom she had close business dealings get hired into a lucrative post and to get her son a paid internship at UC Merced. Greenwood has not responded to the allegations; perhaps, having studied the mess Ben Ladner made for American University when he fought his own investigation and firing, Greenwood has judiciously decided to cut her losses and make the most graceful exit she can make. Certainly, her professional position remains strong: Her tenured position as professor of biology at UC Santa Cruz awaits her return.

But Greenwood's resignation may raise more questions than it answers. Greenwood rose to her provost position from within the UC system's administrative ranks; she was chancellor of the Santa Cruz campus before becoming provost of the entire system. At present, Denice Denton occupies Greenwood's former post as chancellor of the Santa Cruz campus--and Denton, as Victor Davis Hanson noted in the Wall Street Journal earlier this fall, appears to be engaging in the very sort of cronyism of which Greenwood stands accused:

Before her arrival, Ms. Denton arranged the creation of a special billet--ad hoc, unannounced and closed to all applicants but one: Ms. Denton's live-in girlfriend of seven years, Gretchen Kalonji. Most recognize this as the sort of personal accommodation--old-boy networking, really--that Ms. Denton presumably wishes to replace with affirmative action, thus ending backroom deals and crass nepotism.

[...]

Gretchen Kalonji's unusual position pays $192,000 a year. Now, it happens that Chancellor Denton--whose salary is $275,000--was granted $68,750 to subsidize the move into the rent-free University President's House. But Ms. Kalonji, too, received a grant for expenses incurred during her "transition" to the Santa Cruz campus--$50,000, in fact.

The decision to pay $120,000 in public money for moving expenses to a couple with a combined salary of $467,000 can be defended, perhaps, but one group was certainly outraged: the university's maintenance staff, secretaries, and blue-collar workers. UC Santa Cruz's workers had not received a raise in three years.

[...]

Aware of the growing controversy over the hire, Ms. Denton returned to the mantra of diversity to explain her own decision to come to Santa Cruz. "The focus on diversity and social justice is important to me," she emphasized to the Sentinel, recalling how she had spoken out against [Harvard president Lawrence] Summers's remarks [about whether there might be a biological explanation for the dearth of women working in the hard sciences]: "We need to address the issue of equity and access. It requires a cultural change and university presidents have to provide leadership."

When confronted with behavior that seemed to reek of favoritism, Denton defended herself by arguing first that lots of people in the corporate world act the same way ("It's a typical practice ... in the corporate world or academia"), and second by claiming that she and her partner deserved special consideration because they were the victims of oppression in a homophobic world that does not accommodate their lifestyle: "We got caught in the middle of national forces, gay marriage, red-state/blue-state issues and a state ruling. It's a hot item right now, and it heightened the tension."

Denton brings a sense of entitlement to her office that ought to give pause to those concerned about administrative probity in the UC system--not least because she now occupies the position where, presumably, Greenwood honed the administrative etiquette that has now cost her a high-powered and high-paying post. Perhaps those who would clean up the UC system would do well to look more closely at the campus where Greenwood was chancellor from 1996 to 2004. Denton, who assumed the Santa Cruz chancellorship when Greenwood ascended to the provost post, seems to be following in her predecessor's footsteps a little too closely.

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