Bad news Bears

My company is having a bad week.  246 (so far) faculty members signed a petition to the chancellor asking him to try to get the Alameda DA to drop charges recently filed against protestors whose brutalization by police in last fall’s demonstrations (including a prof holding her hands out for arrest being thrown to the ground and dragged by her hair) was widely viewed in videos.  I can’t imagine what the DA expects to get out of these prosecutions, but they have put a very sorry episode back in the news, one that earned the administration a remarkable dope-slap from the faculty and another round of embarrassment last month.

Today the chancellor announced that he is resigning at the end of this calendar year.    Good, and not surprising: he’s a decent person with many admirable instincts who was just over his head in the job; a day late and a dollar short on one challenge or crisis after another. I wish him well back in the lab.

Most of that is old news, but this is a really disgusting revelation.  A senior campus executive, earning $188K, has given her 30-year old subordinate boyfriend raises from $58K to $110K over two years. OK, any organization can have someone fall from grace, and this couple doesn’t need their personal problems raked over in public.  The scandal here is the administration’s response.

Let’s be clear what happened here: there’s no evidence so far that the purchasing manager boyfriend demonstrated the kind of incredible on-the-job performance that would justify this treatment, so Leite spent the university’s money on personal, um, services: I estimate the total is about $58K so far (not clear if Caniezo’s pay has been cut back). This could pay for about three graduate student instructors.  [The campus has a flat rule against romances between supervisors and subordinates (including faculty and students in our classes or likely to be) with or without embezzlement.] A large fraction of this money is taken from taxpayers by force, so our responsibility to use it properly is especially grave.  Incredibly, Leite still has a job,she still has some authority over use of university resources, and the wrist-slap the campus thought appropriate was a pay cut of about 3.5% after taxes.  It will take more than seven years for her to “pay back” what she stole at this rate. If she has the good grace to quit now, she will walk away with a very nice pension, unless something is done about it.

Opponents of restoring public funding for UC have pointed to administrative bloat and overpaid managers as evidence that we don’t deserve to be trusted with public money.  I’m skeptical of a lot of this line of argument; I think management matters and generally it’s expensive and worth it.  Now I’m a lot less skeptical: this story is devastating to our political credibility and to the internal credibility of our whole administration.




Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

22 thoughts on “Bad news Bears”

  1. Read what happened in Tucson in regards to the Chancellor Flores of Pima Community College (Jared Loughner’s college).
    It is enough to make one’s blood boil even more:

    I’ve spent over 36 thousand dollars in property taxes here.
    Much of it going to fund PCC and Roy Flores’s paychecks.
    His behavior, and the Boards, (at best they are moral crooks) makes me vibrate with anger.
    The only thing that makes me resonant more: Medicare cheats.
    That’s about as low and mean as you can go without actually physically hurting someone.

  2. There are just a bunch of deeply weird elements in that story:

    UC Berkeley officials called the discipline “severe, particularly for a 30-year employee.” Leite, 47, has worked on campus since 1982.

    She’s worked there since she was seventeen (let’s assume a late birthday: eighteen), and risen to assistant vice chancellor? Did she do this with no college education? With night school? Did she take time off for education, belying the “30-year employee” claim?

    Hired in late 2008 at $57,864, Caniezo was earning $89,400 by July 2009. The sexual relationship began in September 2009, Leite told investigators.

    If you believe this, I’ve got a bridge you might be interested in. Either Caniezo is the best worker ever to have earned that 50% raise in eight or nine months amid straitened university budgets before the improper relationship with his supervisor started, or she’s lying.

    Leite told investigators she didn’t know the relationship violated UC’s sexual harassment policy. Yet Leite had completed sexual harassment training three times, in 2006, 2009 and 2011, the report says. Caniezo took the training twice.

    Either she’s lying here as well, or the people who do the training also need to be disciplined. Note that one and possibly two of those training sessions occurred after the improper relationship started; she apparently claims she didn’t think to ask about her circumstances during the training.

    I really can’t see why this woman hasn’t been not merely fired but criminally prosecuted for peculation, and sued to recover the money she – at least – misallocated.

    1. This sort of stuff is one reason that it is hard to respond positively when those nice Cal undergrads call up on behalf of the University asking for donations.

  3. The Greenwood-Goff business looked pretty dreadful, too: and Denton-Kalonji. As an alum, I have been looking on from afar and feeling ‘things were better before.’ Things were always better before, I know that, and have been at least since Socrates. There’s enough that it seems there’s a bad culture in UC administration.

    I do think there’s sort of a structural problem in academics: everybody thinks teaching is the most fun, and getting someone to herd those cats is tough.

  4. to Michael O’Hare : I don’t appreciate, nor is it acceptable at any discussion, to call taxes as cllected by force. An ugly term compiling an ugly situation or comprehension of such situation, and feeds the violent fools amongst us. You should realize what you’ve done, and quit it.

    1. Speaking the truth is almost always helpful, and government IS based on violence. Laws are enforced. Police carry guns. Prisons have locks to keep people in who’d rather leave.

      People obey laws because if they don’t, violent things will be done to them.

      You can’t run a proper cost/benefit analysis if you deliberately blind yourself to the nature of the costs, and only look at the benefits. And one of the costs of government, perhaps the biggest, is it’s use of violence, and the threat of violence.

      1. but no democratic society will work if everyone has to be forced to comply with the law. Most of us comply because we accept the laws as legitimately made and legitimately applied to us. At the margin there may be a few that we comply with only because of fear of punishment: speeding laws may be a good example. We accept the legitimacy (usually) because we have a say in how they are made. That’s why people are so unhappy when their say is taken away from them, either by giving excessive power to those with money (cf Citizens United decision) or by avoidance or abuse of the rules of process (Senate filibuster rule, anyone?)

        1. “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.” —Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria

          “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” —Ayn Rand

          “Illegal Everything” (hulu video)

        2. And no government, democratic or otherwise, works, if it doesn’t employ violence. Democracy is a way to make decisions, but if the decisions are not enforced, the people who lost the vote just go ahead and do what they want anyway. Take any area where enforcement is on the honor system, such as collection of sales taxes on interstate online purchases. Compliance approaches zero.

          Violence is inherent to government. It’s a concern for democratic legitimacy which is the recent, and rather shallowly rooted, addition. We do well to remember that: When you want government involved in something, you have NOT chosen a peaceful means to accomplish your ends.

          Maybe your ends justify the violence. But you have to do that calculation.

          1. People obey laws because if they don’t, violent things will be done to them.

            Yes. That’s why Socrates had a cup of hemlock forced down his throat.

            What a dim, shallow, and skewed view of the human animal you have.
            Have you read nothing besides Ayn Rand in your life?

          2. koreyel: Have you read nothing besides Ayn Rand in your life?

            Eh … what Brett writes is actually more or less straight out of Max Weber’s “Politics as a Vocation” (though probably unintentionally so), especially where he talks about the state’s monopoly on violence. To wit:

            “‘Every state is founded on force,’ said Trotsky at Brest-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of ‘state’ would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as ‘anarchy,’ in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state–nobody says that–but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions–beginning with the sib–have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Note that ‘territory’ is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. The state is considered the sole source of the ‘right’ to use violence. Hence, ‘politics’ for us means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.”

            Also, about the ethic of responsibility:

            “For if it is said, in line with the acosmic ethic of love, ‘Resist not him that is evil with force,’ for the politician the reverse proposition holds, ‘thou shalt resist evil by force,’ or else you are responsible for the evil winning out.”

          3. What threat of violence is directed at you if you fail to pay your taxes? In order to go to prison, if I’m not mistaken, you actually have to commit fraud. Not paying isn’t enough.

          4. This seems to me rather extreme. What the legitimate state applies is, it is true, a form of force. A compulsion. This is not always applied with violence (unless you take the position that a financial penalty constitutes violence). As John G states above, in a legitimate state, the laws are seen as applying equally and we comply because the force of the state (the ability to levy fines or, in more extreme cases, to deprive liberty) is tempered by participation in the political process. When we feel that the force of the state is applied unequally or unjustly, we have a constitutionally protected, and morally necessitated, ability to petition for redress of grievances.

            It is the illegitimate state that fears its citizens and uses violence to achieve what it cannot achieve through consent of the governed. I’ll admit that even a legitimate state may not be perfect and may (often does) fail to apply force equally. It is a human institution after all. But a legitimate state still does have a check on unequal application of force in the form of the individual citizen’s right to petition for redress.

            There will be some degree of force in any set human relationships, I suspect that the desire to compel the behavior of others is a fundamental fact of human nature. In a legitimate state, there is at least the possibility of enforcement of equal rights and protections.

            In this sense, I’d disagree with Mr. Crews that it is somehow incorrect to suggest that taxes are collected by force (not paying them can result in fees, fines and even restrictions on liberty, all incentives used to suggest to the citizen that it makes more sense to simply pay up front and be done with the matter). I would, however, agree with him that while the word “force” here might adequately represent the indignant feeling that many of us may have when asked to support such activities in the UC system (whether through taxes or tuition dollars), seems somewhat hyperbolic.

            Or maybe I need more coffee.

  5. What happens to the demonstrators is about ten times more important.

    I think it would make more of a statement if a bunch of you actually showed up at court to demonstrate, or went to the DA yourselves. Signing a petition is nice, but it’s easy, and easy to ignore. It doesn’t really show commitment.

  6. Sorry, Richard: I think our collective agreement to collect taxes from each other coercively is one of the crown jewels of human civilization, and I think it’s best to call things what they are.

  7. then it really wasn’t very collective, was/is it? But it really is; most all people agree on the idea of taxes ( Jesus told them to; render unto Ceasar…), our disagreements are quantity based – I think. No violence for the most part, and when there is, it’s from the resistance. Sure, the gov side is implied – the force is with them – but it’s ‘posse comitatus’ or whatever that gets overtly violent.
    I don’t see anything helpful in calling the gov function violent – and much that is not helpful.

    1. Mike’s right: the government sends folks with guns to take your property away if you don’t pay, and puts you in jail. “Don’t tax me, don’t tax thee, tax the man behind the tree”. It’s a good thing: common defense, roads, the CDC, etc. But it is coerced.

      1. I didn’t say violence; I said force. If you don’t pay your taxes, the government will seize assets, including having the sheriff evict you from your house and selling it. This is not violence.

    2. Having finished my coffee, I seem to be a bit more attentive now and I think I find Michael’s clarity preferable to Brett’s hyperbole (my apologies for attributing that to you, Richard).

      Force is distinct from violence, and I suspect that it is primarily those “violent fools” with an interest in extending the shadow of illegitimacy over any constraint on their desired activity with would seek to deliberately conflate the two. It was Brett who decided to jump straight to violence to describe all forms of government requirement.

  8. I agree there is coercion.

    At the local level though, there is some choice. Folks can move to Nevada. And I wish more of them would! More room for me.

    I have become friends with someone who is a devout liberatarian, and it’s been really good for me. I’ve realized that I feel just as held back by “people like him” as he does by liberals like me. I’m not sure the other side knows this though — they seem to feel like they’re the only oppressed victims of society. It’s kind of fascinating. But didn’t somebody famous say, “Hell is other people?” We are all destined to burden and be burdened by others in our turn, it’s inescapable unless you go live in the desert (where it’s too darned hot).

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