While Michigan educators have captured the media’s attention in
recent days, California’s public university officials continue to
slide under the radar, taking advantage of California’s loose
oversight and living like rock stars at expense of taxpayers.
According to the California
State Auditor, the University of California system reimbursed
David Ernst, one of its high-level officials, “approximately $6100
in wasteful travel expenses from July 2008 through July 2011.”
Ernst was the subject of another audit in December 2009, in
which the State Auditor found that the California State University
Chancellor’s Office had “wastefully reimbursed” Ernst more than
$152,400 between July 2005 and July 2008 for expenses he improperly
claimed. This included
tens of thousands of dollars on plane tickets, costly hotel rooms,
utility bills at his home and expensive meals.
Old habits die hard…especially when you’re not paying for
Noted in the same report was
the case of an official who spent several hours (yes,
hours) each day responding to Sacramento Bee
posts. In a one year period, he posted almost 4,900 comments onto
the site during working hours.
His excuse: He wasn’t given enough work to do.
Yet California’s public university system has done little to
correct these outrageous oversights and rid the payroll of
unnecessary positions. It’s much easier to simply raise
Not only is this unfair to its students, but it’s unfair to the
supporters that keep their doors open. Why would anyone want to
support an institution that can’t even keep tabs on its own
Beyond that, the lack of transparency in the state’s public
university system is frightening. A
2011 audit found that the UC Office of the President
“uses a single accounting code – ‘miscellaneous services’ – to
account for more than $6 billion, or about 25 percent, of the
university’s annual public noncompensation expenses” over a five
With such loose accountability, private supporters are left to
wonder: Where is my gift really going?
As educators lament the decline of the public university system,
perhaps they should take a look from within.
Brendan Pringle is a Development Officer at Young America’s Foundation’s Reagan Ranch Center.