Denton's death and UCSC

Brian Maloney of the Radio Equalizer offers further thoughts on Denice Denton and the scandals at the University of California system. As a UCSC grad and former Santa Cruz resident, he is more wired—into campus talk than I am, and offers an anonymous faculty source commenting on Denton's tracks record in office.

Normally, I am against anonymous sources, so due skepticism is mandatory. But like rape victims, members of university communities are subject to numerous forms of potential retaliation. So I will take the interesting words of Brian's source as one data point, to be checked against all the others, not as a definitive account. Still, this is interesting:

We should soon begin to learn what the proportions of the despondency were: how much was due to professional frustration and how much to Gretchen Kalonji.

My comment: amen. The personal situation of Denton and Kalonji was fraught with hazards. Maintaining two separate professional identities is difficult for any power couple. When they maintain separate residences (Kalonji worked in Oakland at UC HQ), it becomes dicier. Despair over a relationship can and does motivate suicide. The source continues:

What was clear was that she had alienated almost everyone by now. One leak out of the Council of Chancellors said they were all fed up with her —— anyone who disagreed with her was met with shouting, rage and denunciation for homophobia (her universal response to being thwarted). Another insider said much the same thing —— turnover in what had been thought to be plum jobs was astonishingly high.

Dean—level meetings on campus produced similar reports. Significantly, she fired her number two person within minutes of meeting her and installed in his place perennial yes—man David Klieger——a pathetic character respected by almost nobody. (On becoming Dean of Natural Sciences some years ago, Klieger immediately instituted a "Campus Scientist of the Year" award and then gave the first such award to himself.)

The picture of Denton from all levels of the university was of an arrogant, high— handed person who had no inter—personal skills whatsoever, and who was obsessed with a single issue, to which she reduced everything else.

I don't know what degree of truth there is to these criticisms, but they are consistent with questions I have been formulating about Denton's hiring and mission as chancellor. I think most of the other chancellors might well have clashed with her. I have met one of them, and he impressed me a lot. Why was she, with no experience beyond being a dean, chosen to run a large campus facing real difficulties.

Brian Maloney's piece raises the broad issue of the failed experiment that is UCSC, a situation well—known to me. Despite a spectacular location and lavish funding, UCSC has languished at the bottom of the UC campuses in terms of undergraduate selectivity. It is a joke in many circles for its excesses, though some fine faculty are there, along with Angela Davis and lesser travesties.

Brian is optimistic that there will be a full scale investigation into the matter. I am less so. I fear the death will be used as an opportunity to silence critics, and that the Regents want no airing of dirty laundry. Only a legislative investigation or a prosecutorial investigation would suffice. The Democrats in the California legislature are exceedingly unlikely to want to raise difficulties for allies in academia, and I don't hold much hope for the AG. The Santa Cruz County DA is unknown to me, but what kind of resources does he have, and why would he take on what is probably the most powerful institution in the County?

Thomas Lifson  6 26 06

 

Brian Maloney of the Radio Equalizer offers further thoughts on Denice Denton and the scandals at the University of California system. As a UCSC grad and former Santa Cruz resident, he is more wired—into campus talk than I am, and offers an anonymous faculty source commenting on Denton's tracks record in office.

Normally, I am against anonymous sources, so due skepticism is mandatory. But like rape victims, members of university communities are subject to numerous forms of potential retaliation. So I will take the interesting words of Brian's source as one data point, to be checked against all the others, not as a definitive account. Still, this is interesting:

We should soon begin to learn what the proportions of the despondency were: how much was due to professional frustration and how much to Gretchen Kalonji.

My comment: amen. The personal situation of Denton and Kalonji was fraught with hazards. Maintaining two separate professional identities is difficult for any power couple. When they maintain separate residences (Kalonji worked in Oakland at UC HQ), it becomes dicier. Despair over a relationship can and does motivate suicide. The source continues:

What was clear was that she had alienated almost everyone by now. One leak out of the Council of Chancellors said they were all fed up with her —— anyone who disagreed with her was met with shouting, rage and denunciation for homophobia (her universal response to being thwarted). Another insider said much the same thing —— turnover in what had been thought to be plum jobs was astonishingly high.

Dean—level meetings on campus produced similar reports. Significantly, she fired her number two person within minutes of meeting her and installed in his place perennial yes—man David Klieger——a pathetic character respected by almost nobody. (On becoming Dean of Natural Sciences some years ago, Klieger immediately instituted a "Campus Scientist of the Year" award and then gave the first such award to himself.)

The picture of Denton from all levels of the university was of an arrogant, high— handed person who had no inter—personal skills whatsoever, and who was obsessed with a single issue, to which she reduced everything else.

I don't know what degree of truth there is to these criticisms, but they are consistent with questions I have been formulating about Denton's hiring and mission as chancellor. I think most of the other chancellors might well have clashed with her. I have met one of them, and he impressed me a lot. Why was she, with no experience beyond being a dean, chosen to run a large campus facing real difficulties.

Brian Maloney's piece raises the broad issue of the failed experiment that is UCSC, a situation well—known to me. Despite a spectacular location and lavish funding, UCSC has languished at the bottom of the UC campuses in terms of undergraduate selectivity. It is a joke in many circles for its excesses, though some fine faculty are there, along with Angela Davis and lesser travesties.

Brian is optimistic that there will be a full scale investigation into the matter. I am less so. I fear the death will be used as an opportunity to silence critics, and that the Regents want no airing of dirty laundry. Only a legislative investigation or a prosecutorial investigation would suffice. The Democrats in the California legislature are exceedingly unlikely to want to raise difficulties for allies in academia, and I don't hold much hope for the AG. The Santa Cruz County DA is unknown to me, but what kind of resources does he have, and why would he take on what is probably the most powerful institution in the County?

Thomas Lifson  6 26 06