The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Making too much money is the least of UC Davis head's problems

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At Slate's Moneybox, Paul Collins does a deep dive into the compensation history of the chancellor at the University of California-Davis. He was evidently prompted by the controversy surrounding current chancellor Linda Katehi and her role in the pepper spray incident that occurred last year, when students were engaged in an Occupy protest.

Katehi makes $400,000, a figure that critics think might be too high for a university president. Collins calls her a "bona fide 1-percenter" and points out that UC Davis chancellor pay has "rocketed upwards in the last two decades" (he has the data to prove it).

All true, but these are the least of Katehi's worries — if she's worried about them at all. And anyone who thinks she's paid to much and that overcompensation should be held against her, especially given the pepper-spray incident...well, those folks need to dig a bit deeper into Katehi's background. They should ask if she should be getting $400,000 to run an institution that's ever likely to experience student protests or have to make quick decisions about the enforcement of order on campus. 

I blogged about this last November. First off, Katehi came to Davis fresh off a scandal at her previous school:

Before coming to Davis, Katehi was provost at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She reportedly oversaw admissions during a period when...the university was engaged in unethical admissions practices. It was dubbed the "clout" scandal by the Chicago Tribune, which ran an investigative report on university's practice of extending favored admissions treatment to well-connected students who weren't otherwise qualified to attend the school.

Ultimately, the the scandal cost the university's president his job.

Meanwhile, UC affirmed its confidence in Katehi. But it had appointed her as UC Davis Chancellor just a few weeks before the Trib published the first in its series of Clout Sandal articles, in 2009.

So Katehi arrived at Davis under a dark cloud. But there's more:

[W]hile Chancellor of Davis, Katehi participated in a commission on the problems of the Greek university system that explicitly concluded that Greek campuses were not "secure," that administrators had been slack when it came to reigning in "political instability," and that students basically had no business getting involved in the political situation in Greece, at a time when the country was going through its worst crisis since the end of the Greek junta in the 1970s.

By the way, when that junta was failing, there was a huge protest at Athens Polytechnic, which the Greek army put down by driving a tank through the university's gates. 

And guess who was a student at Athens Polytechnic back then? None other than...Linda Katehi!

You can justifiably ask whether a college president is worth $400,000 a year. But in Linda Katehi's case, you also have to ask if she ever should have ascended to that lofty level of university administration in the first place.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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