The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

25 June 2006

UC-Santa Cruz, Denice Dee Denton, San Francisco


UCSC Chancellor's Suicide Raises Unpleasant Questions

*** Monday Updates ***

While it's hard to imagine what would compel a highly- paid university head to plunge 44 stories to her death, University of California Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Dee Denton's suicide yesterday should hopefully force the increasingly- corrupt UC system to answer tough questions about its incredible lack of public accountability.

In addition, UC- Santa Cruz's 40- year legacy of overall failure simply must be addressed, as taxpayers deserve no less. Infamously derided as "Uncle Charlie's Summer Camp" and "UCk-SuCk" by area residents long fed- up with the spoiled brats the campus has a reputation for attracting, there's no longer any way to sugarcoat its shortcomings.

After all, with her $30,000 dog path and $600,000 in taxpayer- funded home improvements, it was Denton who had become the poster child for bureaucratic corruption in the university system. Add to that her ability to secure a fishy, high- paying position for girlfriend Gretchen Kalonji, in addition to an enormous amount of public money to move each from their Seattle residences to California and the situation quickly began to resemble Third World- style governmental abuses of power.

In a story that has spread around the world, news coverage today has focused on a variety of potential reasons for her fatal leap, possibly including personal relationship issues. Denton, after all, jumped from the top of Kalonji's luxury San Francisco apartment building.

We're sorry Denton moved to end her life this way, but at the same time, we wish she hadn't chosen to use divisive hate to further personal and political causes while alive. Her widely- publicized tirades against Larry Summers at Harvard University provided but one example.

In an attempt to gain insight into the events that led up to yesterday's final conclusion, the Radio Equalizer asked a faculty contact for more information, with this response (due to the campus environment, we are leaving out the member's name):

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.

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.

And while her inability to secure the campus from violent anti- military protestors received widespread national publicity, today's Santa Cruz Sentinel notes that Denton faced trouble from the extreme left regarding "racism" issues.

Since it's hard to believe that anyone could have found her politics insufficiently radical, it again exposes the long- doomed UCSC campus to more charges of merely serving as a taxpayer- funded haven for fringe characters:

The pay perk was seized upon by state legislators in a systemwide executive-pay controversy about how UC rewards top ranking officials. That controversy has not yet settled.

Campus employees criticized the expenditures as lavish while the university is raising student fees, cutting budgets and, workers and their supporters say, underpaying staff.

Criticism of the chancellor escalated to the point that Denton worried about her personal safety.

"People were coming to her house and banging on the door wanting to talk about issues," Regan said.

Denton took the job in the midst of a multi-year process to update the university's long-range growth plan, which could bring 6,000 more students to the campus. She repeatedly defended the plan when it was challenged by city leaders, residents, faculty and staff.

In April, she received dozens of threatening phone calls and e-mails from people upset that student anti-war protesters forced military recruiters off campus, a campus spokeswoman said. And earlier this month, Denton was followed across the campus by chanting protesters against "institutional racism" at the university. They blocked her from leaving until she agreed to watch them perform a skit. She left before the performers finished.

(Santa Cruz Sentinel)

No amount of spin from the university's PR department will be able to undo the damage caused by Denton's final decision. UCSC's many shortcomings are now bound to again emerge in a public setting.

Cursed almost from the beginning, the campus now has a 40 year legacy of failure. Isn't it time for California to cut its losses at UCSC and move on?

UPDATE: New AP story (via The Guardian): Searching for answers, some see Santa Cruz's cutthroat political environment as too much to bear.

MONDAY: Seattle Times and Santa Cruz Sentinel pieces emphasize that Denton fought for "diversity", whatever that is supposed to mean. Unfortunately, the evidence points to a person who was quick to accuse opponents of "homophobia" and any other label that could effectively shut down critics of her corrupt rule.

Disclosures: Brian Maloney is a UCSC grad, former Sentinel writer and former resident of both Santa Cruz and Seattle.

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Photos: San Francisco Chronicle (Mike Kepka, James Irwin)


  • I hear you. Merit pay seems to be the answer--but it would have to take all of conservative Orange County to be seated in the California legislature up in Sac-Town. Oh, and you'd also have to deal with the Teachers Unions who seem to also have ties to Democrats. Boy this party sure knows how to be social(ist).

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 26 June, 2006 17:49  

  • I must express my sympathies for the family and friends of Ms. Denton. For someone to feel the need to Go Onward in such a public and grisly fashion is an indication that very real things were going on inside her head, and it is unfortunate that people were unable to see or hear what was going on with her prior to her death.

    It is my hope that the UCSC community and the Monterey Bay Area will allow any ceremonies marking her passing to go forward without too much rancor or focus on her (alleged) shortcomings as chancellor of UCSC.

    It also must be remembered that the chancellors of the UC system are not completely autonomous - many of the perceived problems at UCSC stem from oversight (or lack thereof) from the UC headquarters in Oakland. People had to sign off in Oakland on the various things that have been reported upon in the Sentinel, and until such time as appointment to the Board of Regents is not a political plum handed out to donors and political buddies, this will continue to be the case.

    But that is another discussion for another day, and should not intrude upon the passing of Ms. Denton. May God grant her the peace that she was obviously unable to find in her corporeal life.

    By Blogger SierraSpartan, at 26 June, 2006 20:23  

  • Here is someone who took advantage of a broken government system by expoiting it for her own personal gain (at the loss of all California taxpayers), then getting caught and taking the easy way out.

    By Blogger Bruce French, at 06 July, 2006 17:32  

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