SAN FRANCISCO, CA — University of California President Robert C. Dynes announced plans Monday to step down, ending a tenure in which he overcame budget troubles but also endured criticism for millions in perks given to administrators while student fees were being raised.
Dynes said his tenure as head of the renowned public university system, which began in October 2003, will end in June 2008. His decision was motivated by a desire to spend time with his wife, who he married in March, and by a feeling he’d accomplished what he could in the five-year time span he set for himself when he took the job, Dynes said at a press conference Monday.
He was not pressured to leave because of the controversy over executive pay that clouded the last year of his tenure, he said.
“I chose not to leave in the middle of that until we got it resolved,” he said. “I feel we’ve come through that.”
A well-known physicist before heading up the 10-campus system, Dynes plans to renew his focus on superconductivity research.
Under Dynes’ leadership, the university system overcame budget troubles and ensured future state funding by forging a deal with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, university officials said.
“We were very pleased to stop the bleeding and put the compact in place,” he said. “The state has put much more money into the University of California than the compact envisioned.”
But it’s still not enough, and funding will certainly be a significant challenge facing his successor, he said.
Dynes also oversaw the inauguration of a new research campus in Merced, and the university system’s sweeping of three Department of Energy national laboratory management competitions.
The governor praised Dynes’ dedication to students and the state.
“Bob has been a great partner in working with my administration to ensure educational excellence for our students,” said Schwarzenegger. “He enhanced the prestige of California’s world-renowned UC system.”
Thinking back on his contributions, Dynes said one of the areas in which he wished he’d accomplish more was in diversifying the university system’s student and faculty bodies.
“We’ve tried a variety of things, some of which worked some didn’t work, but my successor will have to work very hard on that,” he said.
Criticism of Dynes began after it was learned that top administrators in the system were given millions in perks such as bonuses and housing allowances without proper disclosure to the public or to regents. The perks came at the same time student fees were raised significantly to offset state budget cuts.
Audits of executive compensation practices at the university system found scores of abuses over the years. One audit found 113 cases where senior managers were given pay or benefits beyond those established in university policies.
University officials countered that their executives were paid less than their counterparts elsewhere, and the disparity made it hard to compete for top talent. Still, they acknowledged pay rules had been bent without authorization.
Dynes accepted responsibility for the irregularities and, following the controversy, voluntarily gave up a raise saying “the buck stops on my desk.”
But three lawmakers called for his resignation, including Republican State Sen. Abel Maldonado.
“The board of regents now has an opportunity to appoint somebody who will be accountable to the taxpayer,” he said upon hearing of Dynes’ decision to step down.
Maldonado became one of Dynes’ most vocal critics after the pay discrepancies became public. Last year, he charged the regents with “sending a message that breaking rules is acceptable behavior at the University of California.”
Dynes will spend his last few months as president pushing forward the university system’s partnerships with industry in research and development, and will bolster UC’s international presence by strengthening connections with universities in China, India, Mexico and Canada.
A consumer watchdog group spoke against Dynes’ effort to straighten ties with industry, saying this results in the commercialization of the educational system.
“Under the Dynes watch, we’ve already seen UC Berkeley transformed into ‘UC-BP‘ with the planned $500 million research deal with oil giant BP,” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “We’ve already got Big Oil U. What’s next? Tobacco U and UC Pharma?”
Before he steps down, he also will tour campuses around the state, as he did when he first took office, with the goal of discussing how the system can meet the state’s needs, he said.
“During his time of leadership, the UC community has continued the journey to an even better University,” said Board of Regents Chairman Richard C. Blum. “Initiatives have been launched to begin addressing critical problems in the areas of diversity, K-12 educational disparity and salary gaps. And we have laid the groundwork for the restructuring of the University’s administrative infrastructure to create a more effective and efficient organization.”
Provost and Executive Vice President Wyatt R. Hume will add to his duties those of the University’s Chief Operating Officer, a position created to allow Hume to take care of daily matters and let Dynes focus on long-term strategic planning until a new president is chosen.
The regents are expected to form a committee to search for a new president within the next few weeks, university officials said.
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