A year after surviving a storm over awarding what some called extravagant salaries to dozens of senior administrators of the University of California (UC), the president of the 10-campus system is stepping down. Robert Dynes, a physicist who previously served as chancellor of UC San Diego (UCSD) and took over as president 4 years ago, gave notice to California's Board of Regents on Monday that he would leave by June 2008. Dynes, 64, said he wished to spend more time with his new wife and pursue research on superconductivity at UCSD, which he joined in 1990 after 22 years at Bell Laboratories.
Dynes's tenure at the helm of the world's largest academic establishment was controversial. Within a year of being named president, he signed a compact with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger intended to stabilize the university's finances at a time when state funding for the system was in drastic decline. Students and some faculty members criticized the deal, under which UC hiked tuition rates in return for an assured level of funding over the long term.
A bigger controversy engulfed Dynes last year when the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that he had approved questionable salaries and perks for top-level UC employees. The story triggered audits by and severe scrutiny from lawmakers, but the Board of Regents concluded that he had not personally benefited. Dynes later admitted that the university should have disclosed the terms, which he said were adopted to attract top talent.
"My term has ... had substantial political and media challenges" that "have placed new and difficult pressures on my office," Dynes wrote in his 13 August letter of resignation to the Board of Regents. He counted among his accomplishments UC's success in retaining management of the three national labs that the Department of Energy opened up for bid recently.
Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco who frequently clashed with Dynes on financial policies as chair of UC's budget committee, says he's pleased to see him go. "I think he really allowed the university to drift away from its fundamental public mission," says Glantz, referring to increased tuition rates and a declining internal budget for research. "I hope our next president will be able to stand up to the state government."
Still, Dynes is not without his supporters. In a letter to the university community, UC Board of Regents chair Richard Blum credits Dynes with having "strengthened links between university research and applications of that research by industry" as well as "broadening UC's international presence by forging key new partnerships with leading universities around the globe." He also applauded Dynes for having helped the university emerge successfully from the salary controversy.
Although Dynes will technically continue in the job until June 2008, Wyatt Hume, UC's executive vice president and provost, is assuming most of his duties immediately.