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Davis, California

Monday, October 18, 2021

Editorial: Leadership seminar too costly

Earlier this fall, UC Davis sent 134 administrators and supervisors to a two-day leadership seminar for a total cost of over $134,000.

Approximately half of this cost came from Staff Development and Professional Services while the other half came from each of the participants’ departments. Given the university’s ongoing budget crisis, we urge the university to focus on academic leadership and to consider cheaper options for staff leadership development.

The seminar was hosted by Sonoma Leadership Systems, a private company that focuses on developing leadership skills within companies and businesses, not academic institutions. Had the seminar been one that specialized in instructing university or academic staff and had tremendous reviews in doing so, a school sponsored seminar may have been appropriate. This, however, was not the case.

UC Davis is the only educational institution Sonoma Leadership Systems has worked with before, its past clients including Apple, Chevron and several banks. If UC Davis is looking to spend tens of thousands of dollars on staff leadership, let it at least be from a company with high reviews and years of experience in dealing with academic institutions. Considering the current budget situation, it is not in the university’s best interest to conduct $100,000 experiments.

Some who attended the seminar felt the spending was superfluous. A source that wished to remain anonymous said, “Most of the information about being a better leader was common sense. We could have just read the book they gave us and learned the same techniques for being a better leader without paying someone thousands of dollars.”

The book used in the course, The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, sells for less than $20 on Amazon.com. Supplying the attendees with the same amount of leadership material would cost approximately $2,680, saving UC Davis well over $100,000. With two more seminars on the horizon we urge UC Davis to consider cheaper options.

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