Monday, May 22, 2017

The Regents, UCOP, and Trump

The UC Regents revealed their utter failure of integrity and effectiveness at their last meeting when they were discussing the state audit of the Office of the PresidentInstead of simply trying to get to the truth of the way UCOP has been acting, most of the regents spent a great deal of time praising President Napolitano and each other. What they failed to examine was why and how UCOP interfered with the audit, and if UCOP was hiding money and actions from the regents themselves.   Moreover, no one asked why the campuses changed their reviews of UCOP: were the campus leaders afraid or were they coerced?  We still do not know the direct role of Napolitano in any of this, and it is likely that the state will continue to investigate the situation, and the truth will eventually emerge.

As I have been arguing for years, the main problem with the leaders of the university system is that they are not focused on the central mission of discovering and communicating truth through modern methods of education and science. Their main concern is to keep the system running and to maintain its reputational excellence. Instead of trying to discover the truth of its own operations, the regents and UCOP decided to blame the media for focusing on salacious details of the auditor’s report.  Some regents also tried attacking the state auditor and the legislature, and this strategy should remind us of another president – the one who is currently running the country.

Like Trump, the regents played the victim card by attacking the media. Since they did not want to really ask tough questions, they turned their ire towards the ones who were trying to find the truth.  This insular arrogance and defensiveness is precisely what the governor and the legislature dislike about the university leaders.  As the regents rallied around the president to proclaim that nothing criminal was found, they failed to perform their own role as the overseers of the university.  Meanwhile, Regent Blum defended the system by saying that he once tried to figure out what was going on, and he soon realized that it is too complicated for any of the regents to really understand the details, so it is best to take the word of the people in the know.

The Regents and UCOP thus represent the opposite of what a public university should be about. Instead of pursuing the necessary, but impossible, ideals of neutrality, objectivity, and truth, the leaders of the system see their only role as self-promotion.  Like Trump, the leaders are wealthy, non-experts who do not even know what they do not know and feel they are above the law.  Their only tactic is to attack the messenger and celebrate their own self-proclaimed greatness. However, the truth usually finds a way of showing its ugly head, and at that moment, the university will have its reputation damaged once again by the people who think they are protecting it.

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