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Davis, California

Friday, December 3, 2021

Old dog, old tricks

With the California economy in its current condition, it seems unlikely that a state institution would involve itself in a financial scandal that highlighted a history of economic irresponsibility. Luckily, California college students know that they can always count on their beloved UC system for the most unlikely and irresponsible forms of corruption.

The most recent of this financial irresponsibility comes in the form of dishonest and deceitful hiring practices on the UC Berkeley campus. In recent weeks, a great deal of attention has been focused around the retirement of campus Police Chief Victoria Harrison. After serving as campus police chief for the last 18 years, Harrison made the difficult decision to retire and receive the University’s generous $2.1 million dollar package. As if such an astronomically high retirement package wasn’t enough of an insult to university students, who could be facing fee increases of anywhere from 7 to 10 percent next year, the UC Berkeley campus decided to step the situation up to a whole new level of dishonesty.

Almost immediately after making the decision to separate herself from the campus, and no doubt cashing that $2.1 million check, Harrison was offered a revised contract which would allow her to stay on as police chief, but at an increased salary. Now, the UC Berkeley campus has effectively thrown away $2.1 million dollars, as well as increasing Harrison’s salary from $160,000 to $175,000 annually. If these figures alone aren’t enough to send you into a rage, then consider that all this is happening weeks after the University of California system received word of a potential $417 million budget deficit for the coming academic year.

After hearing this news, one can only sit back and ask the important question of, “Is this legal?” The answer to that question is obviously a simple “no,” but UC officials have a long and proud history of taking clearly illegal happenings and continuously blurring the lines of law until the general public loses interest. However, at this time it seems clear that the Berkeley campus clearly violated its rehiring practices by offering Harrison a new contract in the days before she retired.

Many people might look at such a rehiring practice and wonder why such an obviously unethical action would have to be specifically prohibited by the university’s hiring guidelines. To answer that question, one must first realize that a number of these hiring and re-hiring guidelines were put in place after the university’s executive compensation scandal in 2006. Such practices were intended to prohibit UC officials from receiving unwarranted retirement bonuses, without ever leaving the campus.

Imagine that. Some of the policies that Harrison’s rehiring is thought to violate were actually put in place to make sure that things like this didn’t happen. In a time of record-high salaries for UC officials and dishonest practices such as the ones surrounding Victoria Harrison, one can only assume that UC executives are up to their same old tricks.

It’s just a pity to think that now UC students will have to deal with two economic fleecings – one coming from the budget-cutting state officials in Sacramento, and the other from top-ranking executives on our own UC campuses. I’m no over-paid, dishonest, and corrupt campus police chief, but if you ask me, someone around here is getting robbed.

 

JAMES NOONAN welcomes all comments, unless of course you are one of the overpaid executives referred to in his column. In this case, he will welcome cash and apologies. All apologies can be directed to jjnoonan@ucdavis.edu.

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