The University of California–one of the most prominent public university systems in the U.S.–is under fire for hosting lavish banquets concurrently with votes to raise tuition.
The UC Board of Regents, a volunteer governing board, has been throwing fancy dinners and banquets valued at $225,000 since 2012. UC President Janet Napolitano’s office has reimbursed the UC regents for this amount.. For example, they held a Jan. 25 banquet priced at $17,600 for 65 people, or $270 a head. More recently, the UC regents held a lavish dinner on May 17 priced at $15,199, at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel for 59 people — a $258-a-head event also billed to the university. So much for students coming first!
Here’s a rundown of the most egregious examples of UC regents gone wild documented by the report:
• January 2016: A $13,600 retirement party for regents Fred Ruiz and Paul Wachter at the Palace Hotel. The regents office initially said 86 people attended the dinner, which The Chronicle reported earlier this month. Last week, the office acknowledged that had been the number of people invited to the party, and that 60 attended. The cost per person was $227.
• November 2014: An $8,800 dinner party thrown as the regents considered raising tuition by up to 28 percent over five years. The regents approved the tuition increase, which was later rescinded following negotiations between Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown.
• March 2013: The regents hosted a $15,600 dinner even as former UC President Mark Yudof said at that month’s meeting that UC was “working to weather the financial crisis.”
Current UC policy prohibits “entertainment expenses that are lavish or extravagant” — limiting dinners to $81 per person. An audit released in April also found that Napolitano’s UC hid a stash of $175 million in secret funds after requesting more state funding from Sacramento. Here’s more on the audit:
Under the leadership of Janet Napolitano, the UC Office of the President amassed millions in the secret reserve funds in part by overestimating how much it needed to run the 10-campus university system — and then spending less than budgeted, the audit said. From 2012 to 2016, the office sought increased funding based on the inflated estimates, not actual spending, according to Howle.
“I’ve never had a situation like that in my 17 years as state auditor,” Howle said to Fox News. “My attorneys are looking at whether any improper government activities occurred.”
After the report came into light, longtime UC Regent and wealthy financier Richard Blum claimed this reversal in policy was his idea.
“I said, ‘Janet, it’s not worth the aggravation. Let’s have the regents pay for their own dinners,’” Blum told The Chronicle. “I just called Janet and said, ‘Look, for the amount of what it costs to have a dinner, let’s have everyone pay for their own dinner. And if they can’t pay, I’m happy to pick it up.’”
Since the report has come to light, they have reversed the lavish dinner policy. UC is currently managed by former DHS Secretary and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who has been embroiled in scandals throughout her political career and now in her tenure at UC. This is the same university system that has denied being a hostile environment despite evidence pointing to the contrary.