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Sunday, September 19, 2021

UC Davis terminates position of $260,000-salaried publicist

KATE SNOWDON / AGGIE
KATE SNOWDON / AGGIE

Publicist Luanne Lawrence leaves university following family issues, disagreement over new position

On June 30, UC Davis terminated the position of Associate Chancellor of Strategic Communications Luanne Lawrence. The position, which paid Lawrence a yearly salary of $260,000, according to records obtained from The Sacramento Bee, was eliminated completely.

According to a settlement agreement obtained from The Bee, Lawrence was notified of her position’s termination on June 30. Though the agreement does not state why Lawrence’s position was relinquished, the document reveals that Lawrence turned down an alternative role of director of marketing and branding at the university.

Andy Fell, associate director of news and media relations at UC Davis, said that Lawrence was hired in 2013 in order to increase the university’s national and international recognition. In regards to the reason behind Lawrence’s termination and her former salary, the university declined to comment.

According to Lawrence, she reached a mutual decision with the university to leave her position due to series of family obligations that limited her time to work. Specifically, Lawrence had to split her time with the university to aid an ill family member as well as her parents, who were involved in a car crash in Pennsylvania. After her father passed away in the crash and her mother suffered significant injuries, Lawrence found her time scarce while flying to and from the East Coast to tend to her parents and the university.

“I left the university a few months ago to start my own business after I realized that I could no longer manage the long hours and demands of the associate chancellor job,” Lawrence said in an email interview.

In response to critics who disapproved of her salary, Lawrence defended that her pay was in line with California’s standard of living.

“When I came to UC Davis, I was offered a salary that was in line with my prior salary and reflected the cost of living change from moving from South Carolina to California,” Lawrence said.

Some students do not agree with the university paying its employees such high salaries. First-year Kathleen Humphries is concerned that the university may not always look at the direct connotation between high-paid management positions and student tuition.

“There should be standards set as to how high faculty is being paid here,” Humphries said. “A lot of students at UC Davis are paying their way through college, [how much administrators get paid ] should be considered.”

UC Davis horticultural researcher Richard Evans echoed similar criticism to Humphries regarding Lawrence’s pay.

“I find it hard to believe that we need another administrator that is worth three faculty positions,” Evans said, in response to Lawrence’s salary.

While Evans stated that he had nothing against Lawrence personally, he further emphasized the contrast between university administrators’ pay and students’ income.

“It would help a lot if there wasn’t such a disparity between management salaries and the incomes of students and their families,” Evans said.

Evans, who remains an opponent of high salaries, sees money as only a limited motivation for career performance.

“Once you reach enough money to wonder how you’re going to spend it all, then that stops being a motivating factor of how well you do your job,” Evans said.

In response to the increasingly uneven ratio between management positions and faculty positions at the university, Evans suggested decreasing the number of management positions to make room for more faculty.

“The focus is always on the salaries, but the bigger issue is how many [management positions] there are,” Evans said.

After leaving the university, Lawrence began her own public relations firm in Sacramento with a specialty in client consulting. Though her position is terminated, she affirms that she is still working with UC Davis on a freelance contract.

“I am still employed by UC Davis on a flexible contract and working on four projects as a consultant, so I haven’t left. I just now have the ability to telecommute and work from the East Coast as needed,” Lawrence said. “I am very happy with the variety of work I am doing, the flexibility and that I am still able to help UC Davis, an amazing university.”

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