The Death of Denice Denton

In response to our noting of Denice Denton's death by suicide jumping from a skyscraper, reader Linda Petty of Davis, CA wrote the following:

Dear Mr. Lifson

I thought the "American Way" was to use the capitalist system to make as much as possible legally and to work as hard as possible to be worth what the boss is paying us.  Why in the world has Denice Denton been demonized because she drove a hard bargain?  UC was not forced to hire her.  What's wrong with us?  No one has any backbone anymore.  Who offered her the job on those terms?  I have been in academia all my career in an eastern (25 years) and a mid—western (7 years) state and although we made salaries much lower than in the UC system, I never turned down a raise or any perk that my boss offered me.

I simply do not understand why President Dynes is not held responsible for the illegal and unauthorized job offers he made.  The people he made them to should not be "tarred and feathered" for accepting them.  For some reason that I do not understand, those who have publicly savaged UC executives for accepting "excessive" salaries and perks seem to forget that the buck stops with Dynes.

I hope that Ms. Denton committed suicide for reasons that have nothing to do with the criticism that you and so many others unfairly heaped on her.  We are responsible when we engage in a modern day lynching, a feeding frenzy that causes us to loose our moral compass and our common sense.  We rush to judgement.

I don't understand your sarcasm about her not "slumming" even as she despaired in ways that I hope I never experience.  What kind of a person are you that you would be so cruel?  She is beyond her "torments" now, however, you and I are still alive and can do everything in our power to relieve torments instead of contributing to their increase.

Thomas Lifson responds:

Thank—you for writing, but Denton was not using capitalism, she was using the public coffers to enrich herself and her lover. There is a vast difference between rent—seeking at the public trough and building a business which generates profits. That you see no difference speaks volumes about a person who has lived her entire life in the academic bubble.

I agree that senior management at UC has a lot of questions to answer. Laws and policies have been violated, and Denton was one of the bigger beneficiaries. Cui bono?

I regret Denton's death for many reasons, and one is that she will no longer be available to answer questions about the process used for these irregular decisions.

You seem to have a vision that Denton was simply 'offered' her situation and should not be blamed for "accepting" something that came her way. That strikes me as unrealistic. There is obviously an organizational and social nexus behind the troubling pattern of behavior at the high levels of UC. It needs explanation to the public, which foots the bills.

I think that when a person has a pattern of living the high life on the public's tab, she becomes a legitimate object of criticism. You seem to imply that because people might kill themselves nobody should be criticized. Please specify what 'unfair criticism' I 'heaped' upon her as part of a "modern day lynching." You make serious accusations and offer no evidence.

Compare your language in this letter with the language I have used and tell me who is guilty of excess.

I feel zero responsibility for Denton's torments. You should respect her enough to see her as a very active and powerful operator at high levels, a woman who made her own situation. To do otherwise is to make her into a helpless victim. That is ridiculous and dishonors her achievements. You should respect her enough to recognize her energy, vision, and ability to navigate her way through life, with full responsibility for her actions.

In response to our noting of Denice Denton's death by suicide jumping from a skyscraper, reader Linda Petty of Davis, CA wrote the following:

Dear Mr. Lifson

I thought the "American Way" was to use the capitalist system to make as much as possible legally and to work as hard as possible to be worth what the boss is paying us.  Why in the world has Denice Denton been demonized because she drove a hard bargain?  UC was not forced to hire her.  What's wrong with us?  No one has any backbone anymore.  Who offered her the job on those terms?  I have been in academia all my career in an eastern (25 years) and a mid—western (7 years) state and although we made salaries much lower than in the UC system, I never turned down a raise or any perk that my boss offered me.

I simply do not understand why President Dynes is not held responsible for the illegal and unauthorized job offers he made.  The people he made them to should not be "tarred and feathered" for accepting them.  For some reason that I do not understand, those who have publicly savaged UC executives for accepting "excessive" salaries and perks seem to forget that the buck stops with Dynes.

I hope that Ms. Denton committed suicide for reasons that have nothing to do with the criticism that you and so many others unfairly heaped on her.  We are responsible when we engage in a modern day lynching, a feeding frenzy that causes us to loose our moral compass and our common sense.  We rush to judgement.

I don't understand your sarcasm about her not "slumming" even as she despaired in ways that I hope I never experience.  What kind of a person are you that you would be so cruel?  She is beyond her "torments" now, however, you and I are still alive and can do everything in our power to relieve torments instead of contributing to their increase.

Thomas Lifson responds:

Thank—you for writing, but Denton was not using capitalism, she was using the public coffers to enrich herself and her lover. There is a vast difference between rent—seeking at the public trough and building a business which generates profits. That you see no difference speaks volumes about a person who has lived her entire life in the academic bubble.

I agree that senior management at UC has a lot of questions to answer. Laws and policies have been violated, and Denton was one of the bigger beneficiaries. Cui bono?

I regret Denton's death for many reasons, and one is that she will no longer be available to answer questions about the process used for these irregular decisions.

You seem to have a vision that Denton was simply 'offered' her situation and should not be blamed for "accepting" something that came her way. That strikes me as unrealistic. There is obviously an organizational and social nexus behind the troubling pattern of behavior at the high levels of UC. It needs explanation to the public, which foots the bills.

I think that when a person has a pattern of living the high life on the public's tab, she becomes a legitimate object of criticism. You seem to imply that because people might kill themselves nobody should be criticized. Please specify what 'unfair criticism' I 'heaped' upon her as part of a "modern day lynching." You make serious accusations and offer no evidence.

Compare your language in this letter with the language I have used and tell me who is guilty of excess.

I feel zero responsibility for Denton's torments. You should respect her enough to see her as a very active and powerful operator at high levels, a woman who made her own situation. To do otherwise is to make her into a helpless victim. That is ridiculous and dishonors her achievements. You should respect her enough to recognize her energy, vision, and ability to navigate her way through life, with full responsibility for her actions.