The high-flying job of fundraising for UC Berkeley

Upscale restaurants, business-class flights all cost of doing business

1-23.expenses.sliu-large-(3)

Raising billions for a world-class university is no simple task, especially when that institution is more dependent than ever on private support to sustain itself.

Still, at UC Berkeley, the job has its perks.

Expense reports for an 11-month period obtained by The Daily Californian through the California Public Records Act show that Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy, the head of fundraising and public affairs, paid for about a dozen business-class and first-class flights with UC funds.

Records for the 11 months show he flew to London, Paris, Madrid, Zurich, Tokyo, New York, Beijing, Seoul and Singapore, among other cities. During that period, he charged more than $37,000 to the university.

biddy

The records, which spanned November 2013 to October 2014, include expenses for stays at luxurious hotels such as the Taj Mahal Palace and Ritz-Carlton. Restaurants on the menu were some of Berkeley’s best: Chez Panisse, Revival Bar and Kitchen, FIVE, Bistro Liaison and Gather.

“What’s happened over the last decade or so, with the changing financial model of the campus … there is just a much greater recognition that a thoughtful fundraising program can be critical to the campus maintaining its financial health.”

— Vice Chancellor for University Relations Scott Biddy

In every category — travel, lodging, airfare, dining — Biddy far outspent his counterparts at other UC campuses for a seven-month period of comparison. For four months’ worth of her expense reports, UC President Janet Napolitano also spent fewer university funds than Biddy during the same four months.

In addition to his travel expenditures, Biddy also regularly dined with colleagues on the university’s dime during that time period.

Through exceptions and authorizations for certain expenses, all fell within university policy.

Private support is now roughly equal to state support as UC Berkeley strives to compete with other top schools, many of which have invested in fundraising for decades longer and have the endowments and foundations to show for it. Under the hovering threat of deadlocked budget negotiations between Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown, the UC system’s public character is once again receiving scrutiny from all sides.

Biddy is uniquely situated within this public-private tension: Catch up to universities such as Harvard and Stanford, but do so under the public eye. It is nearly impossible to know if Biddy’s counterparts at private universities spend at his level, because their universities don’t answer to same public-record laws. Indeed, some critics say public employees should be held to a higher standard — a different set of rules — even if they are playing the same game.

An evolving model

Biddy, who heads University Relations, is one of seven vice chancellors on campus and reports directly to the chancellor.

He came to UC Berkeley in 2002 as associate vice chancellor for university relations, previously working at Georgetown University and Rice University. Upon joining the public campus, he found its development efforts less established, with fewer employees in the fundraising office and less alumni outreach.

“What’s happened over the last decade or so, with the changing financial model of the campus … there is just a much greater recognition that a thoughtful fundraising program can be critical to the campus maintaining its financial health,” Biddy said in an October interview during which his expense reports were not discussed.

Private support, which comprises about 13 percent of the campus operating budget, now approximately equals the percentage coming from state support. Drives such as the widely hailed Campaign for Berkeley raised $3.13 billion over eight years.

Non-coach flights are allowed when an “itinerary involves overnight travel without an opportunity for normal rest before the commencement of working hours,” according to UC policy.

But apart from campaigns aimed at the general community, one of Biddy’s duties most crucial to the success of the campus is cultivating relationships with a small group of wealthy philanthropists and influential alumni. Connecting donors to campus events and professors, calling them on the phone and eating meals with them are common components of the job.

“When you look at the large gifts, it’s not a transaction,” Biddy said during the fall interview. “It really is a relationship.”

For UC Berkeley, which raises more overseas than any other UC campus, cultivating meaningful relationships with donors often means flying across the globe and dining in fine establishments.

Earn more, spend more

UC policy lays out guidelines for when travel expenses can be reimbursed but provides a degree of leeway and room for exceptions.

A comparison of seven months’ worth of expenses among Biddy and his counterparts at UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Davis show that Biddy billed far more expenditures to the university than his colleagues. A smaller data set — just three months’ worth of expenses for UC Berkeley’s chancellor, each of the seven vice chancellors and the executive vice chancellor and provost — also show Biddy charged more to the university than other campus executives for that time period.

Rhea Turteltaub, UCLA’s vice chancellor for external affairs, flew just one non-coach flight during the same time period, using “premier access” airfare, cheaper than business- or first-class flights. UC Davis’s equivalent vice chancellor, Shaun Keister, booked one business-class flight during those months because “it was less expensive than coach fare offered through Connexis,” referring to the program that procures inexpensive travel contracts for UC and CSU employees. UC San Diego’s Vice Chancellor for Advancement Steve Gamer flew just once, for a New York business trip, during those seven months.

campaign_MDrummond

Biddy oversaw the Campaign for Berkeley, which brought in more than $3 billion to the campus. Photo: Michael Drummond/File

Napolitano appeared to be reimbursed more selectively for travel than Biddy. Between March and June of last year, she almost always flew Southwest Airlines, which does not separate seats by class. Even when she used the airline company’s “business select” program — which gives travelers priority boarding — she was only reimbursed for the coach equivalent.

UC policy states that coach flights should be booked for all travel expenses but provides four exceptions to the rule. In Biddy’s case, he was authorized to fly in business-class and first-class seats because his itinerary involved, as the policy reads, “overnight travel without an opportunity for normal rest before the commencement of working hours.” Biddy flew overnight more often than any other aforementioned UC executive, which opened up more opportunities for first-class accommodations.

Although some of Biddy’s overnight flights landed during the workweek at typical working hours, others brought him to the destination on evenings or weekends.

A first-class flight Biddy took from San Francisco to London in January last year landed at 2:05 p.m. on a Saturday. His business-class flight on the way home touched down at 4:50 p.m. the following Sunday. An April business-class flight from San Francisco to Beijing also landed on a Saturday afternoon. A business-class flight to Delhi in March landed on a Friday night.

Due to Biddy’s busy schedule, members of UC Berkeley’s public affairs office answered questions about his expenses.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the flights were allowed under UC policy because Biddy needed to work as soon as he landed, even on weekends. The chancellor, Mogulof said in an email, personally approved such flights prior to departure by looking at “the totality of the situation” and seeing the “toll” frequent travel was taking on Biddy during a time when an associate vice chancellor role was unfilled.

“(The chancellor) understands how important it is that people like VC Biddy are as rested and ready as possible when meeting with high net worth individuals around the world,” Mogulof said in the email.

Frequent flights and business-class airfares, though, don’t come cheap. Biddy’s airfare one week in June, when he visited Paris, Madrid and London, cost $10,013.40.

“You have a donor you’re trying to get a million dollars out of, you’re not going to take them to McDonald’s.”

— Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit Higher Education Policy Institute

UC Berkeley also is not alone in authorizing top administrators’ first-class travel. A report by the Center for Investigative Reporting in August 2013 revealed that many UCLA deans were permitted to fly first-class because they submitted medical notes saying they needed the accommodations, which is another exception to the coach-only rule.

Charles Schwartz, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of physics and frequent critic of UC finances, related Biddy’s expenditures to executive compensation and a problem of “corporate attitude” among regents.

“Let’s acknowledge the university has been and always will be in the fundraising business,” Schwartz said. “Then the question is, ‘What extra perks do they get?’”

Wining and dining

Closer to campus, developing relations with philanthropists is cheaper — but it still comes at a price. In the world of fundraising, though, if a pricey meal later culminates in a check, the meal itself is inconsequential.

UC Berkeley does not keep tabs on how much each employee raises in funds, so it is impossible to track the outcome of any particular donor interaction.

In July, Biddy went to dinner at Chez Panisse with three potential donors who chose the internationally renowned restaurant. After tip, the cost of their meals totaled $354.59. Although the per-person charges exceeded what the university permits, Biddy was allowed to use UC funds because the prospective donors chose the restaurant.

Patrick Callan, president of the nonprofit Higher Education Policy Institute, questioned the necessity of certain luxurious expenses but recognized the need for donor cultivation.

“What the restaurants themselves all have in common is the fact that they take reservations for lunch, which is not the case for many establishments in town … I hope it is apparent why it would have been essential to have reservations.”

— Dan Mogulof, campus spokesperson

“The biggest gray areas are in these development-fundraising arenas,” Callan said, referring generally to employee expenditures, though he declined to comment on specifics. “A lot of their job requires them to interact and entertain at a higher level. … You have a donor you’re trying to get a million dollars out of, you’re not going to take them to McDonald’s.”

During the 11-month period for which the Daily Cal obtained records, Biddy charged twice as many meals with colleagues to the university as those with donors.

The university only pays for meals among colleagues if the employees are “unable to accomplish the business purpose during working hours,” according to the policy text. For high-level administrators with jam-packed schedules, this is a regular occurrence, according to Mogulof.

With his colleagues, including the chancellor on several occasions, Biddy also maxed out the university’s authorized limits and paid the remainder of the bill out of pocket. On a Sunday night in June, Biddy went to dinner in San Francisco with Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele and Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton. Biddy requested reimbursement for the maximum allowed amount, $312.

Meetings over meals, according to policy text, must serve “substantial and bona fide University business.” The listed purpose for the San Francisco dinner was “to discuss a range of campus issues,” according to the reimbursement form.

Biddy frequently charged meals with colleagues to the university, owing partly to his international travel, where expenses are based on federal per diems, or daily limits, rather than the meal’s business nature. While abroad, he sometimes maxed out the per diems and regularly came close to maxing them out.

veklerov.sign

Photo: Kimberly Veklerov/Senior Staff

 

Written reasons for domestic meals included discussing the roles of interns, UC initiatives, athletics messaging, the chancellor’s foreign travel, communications support for the chancellor and upcoming policy changes.

“What the restaurants themselves all have in common is the fact that they take reservations for lunch, which is not the case for many establishments in town,” Mogulof said in an email. “Given VC Biddy’s schedule during this period of time, and the importance of these meetings, I hope it is apparent why it would have been essential to have reservations.”

UC policy prohibits “lavish or extravagant” meals when an employee is requesting reimbursement. The policy, though, provides little guidance on what kinds of meals might fit that description. For instance, the rules state that “an expense is not considered extravagant merely because it exceeds a fixed dollar amount or involves first-class accommodations.”

“If it’s a routine way of doing business, it’s not the way governmental or nonprofit organizations should act. Most of the time, meetings can be done in a conference room,” Callan said, referring to the practice of dining out with colleagues.

A look at Biddy’s UC equivalents again shows a difference in expenditures. Gamer, UC San Diego’s vice chancellor, did not charge any meals with colleagues to the university over seven months, according to a list of expenditures provided by the campus’ public-records office. Turteltaub of UCLA and Keister of UC Davis occasionally dined with colleagues and were reimbursed with university funds, but less frequently than Biddy.

A matter of perception

Comparisons among administrators are imperfect at best. UC Santa Barbara, for one, doesn’t currently have a vice chancellor for institutional advancement. Accounting systems also work differently — an exception approved on one campus might not be approved on another. And comparisons between UC Berkeley administrators and those of private schools are nearly impossible, because the employee expenses at the latter institutions are off limits to the public eye.

1-23.expenses.sliu-small-(3)

Though UC Berkeley’s fundraising practices are increasingly emulating private universities, it is still operating under a system that answers to the UC Board of Regents, legislature, governor and California residents.

“A good judgment requires that at a time when the university is so pressed that we have these unprecedented tuition costs, public credibility is not good, people are unhappy about higher education and its costs — this kind of thing doesn’t help,” Callan said. “This is a time for people to err on the side of caution, not push the limits of what’s allowed.”

Mogulof emphasized that expenditures on travel and entertainment are not financed by state funds or tuition. He also said in an email that the campus rejects the suggestion that Biddy bent policy.

“Biddy is tireless, hands-on and deeply involved in every aspect of the fundraising endeavor,” Mogulof said in the email. “That means he is ready and willing to get on a plane at any time if there exists the possibility that new or additional support can be gained for our university.”

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected].

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • thompson_richard

    I’m all for coach travel but I don’t think non-coachs should fly at all ! Richard Thompson Class of ’80

  • Stuart

    There is certainly some balance in this article, but not in some of the comments here below.

    The article states that it is impossible to know whether travel in private institutions is subsidized more heavily than at UC. Having been a fundraiser at UC, an Ivy League School and a premier non-Ivy private school, I can dispel any doubt: the top private schools invest far, far more and allow far more leeway to their employees for discretionary spending both to be comfortable in a basic way and also to considerately develop relationships with potential donors. It’s how the job is done. Actually, don’t take my word for it, though: call a fundraiser at any given Ivy League and if you can get them to talk off the record they’ll tell you for instance that business class travel is allowed for trips overseas of 6+ hours flight duration, typically for ALL fundraisers not just a Vice Chancellor. My god, at UC, Deans usually don’t get to travel business class even if flying around the world on business.

    To publish this kind of story without providing the context of how privates get done what they do is the real disservice and ultimately the failing of an article like this to achieve something positive, in my opinion. And I do note this article is fairly balanced and all-and-all is professionally done. But it really doesn’t go that far in terms of providing a real and fair picture.

    What it comes down to is this: if you want UC to maintain pre-eminence as an institution and its access to as many lower income families as possible, you want to be cheering on your fundraisers, not suggesting that they are living high on the hog. They aren’t. Not even close. In fact, the UC has incredibly restrictive policies around reimbursement for what’s allowed. It often doesn’t provide reimbursement for meals, for instance, stints heavily on lodging, and so on. So you have fundraisers that pay for such things out of pocket. I did when I was a UC fundraiser, never did when I was an Ivy League fundraiser.

    To a person, at the senior levels, UC officials (not just fundraisers) make less than their counterparts do not just at privates but in many cases at less respected publics in other, less costly parts of the country. A lot of times their motivation in working for the UC is fully driven by serving the public mission. And then they get flogged publicly for their supposed high-flying salaries.

    You want to do useful journalism about fiscal profligacy in higher education? Why don’t you focus on the tax breaks that go to schools with 5, 10, tens of billions in endowment get from the federal government even while they educate far, far fewer needy students than does any single UC college. But I know why you don’t write this article: it’s much harder to do than to write one that involves going to public records for such an easy expose of Scott Biddy’s supposed excesses. Don’t worry: the San Francisco Chronicle has been doing far worse for a long time, always taking easy shots, providing no context. You couldn’t pay most people enough to want to work for a system that builds in this constant public criticism and what amounts to cheap shots.

    Or why don’t you write an article that surveys alumni about why they do or don’t give? The UC will increasingly depend on this largesse to meet its basic mission.

    This article rests in part on the naive assumption that you can deliver on UC’s promise on the cheap. State funding for the institution has already fallen far down the list of sources for the institution and Jerry Brown wants to starve the institution and tie its hands. That would be something to focus an article on too.

    The UC is more and more becoming “a public university funded by private dollars.” And the public jeers at it, while it tries to fulfill its public mission using the playbook, on the cheap, of successful privates.

    I implore all Cal alumni to dig deep and give to the institution. It does more good for our state and the world in many ways than any other such institution on the planet…

    • s randall

      Or why don’t you write an article that surveys alumni about why they do or don’t give?

      A public institution has to deal with issues like this in a more constructive way. Berkeley can’t on one hand use its standing as a public institution as a positive marketing tool, and on the other hand use its standing to justify behavior that makes it indistinguishable from private institutions.

      • Stuart

        I don’t know where to begin with what is so, er, innocent about this comment, with all due respect, what is so terribly impractical.

        What do you mean the UC has to deal with this in a more constructive way? What is not constructive in the way it has been dealing with this issue — or many others? As far as I am concerned it is being constructive perhaps almost to a fault; given its public status, it has to open its kimono and divulge how it actually pursues the fundraising business — and then it gets whacked for the little that it spends in these pursuits (which only by way of comparison pale with what the top privates spend).

        Define what you mean. You state rather confidently that the UC can’t market its special status and then on the other hand justify what apparently you deem to be somehow dirty behavior. Uh: WHAT? It absolutely can and should do both at the same time. Just saying they can’t do this doesn’t really amount to much.

        It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time; multitasking should be applauded in this regard. The UC has an incredibly large mandate to serve; it has to serve an incredibly large and diverse community, and at the same time it is subject to second-guessing by a mostly uninformed public which has very naive understanding typically about the complexity of managing so grand an enterprise.

        1) UC absolutely serves a public mission of great magnitude that the privates don’t even come close to serving, especially on the undergrad level. Again, look at the number of Pell grantees getting educated at any particular UC college and compare it any major private college. Are you seriously suggesting UC shouldn’t market this fact and embrace it? That they should hide that fact? I think if you really think about what you are saying you’ll see that it makes no sense. Perhaps you are suggesting that the UC should walk away from this facet of its mission. Is that what you are saying? Are you saying UC should effectively go totally private and leave aside this mission and solely reserve its tutelage at all levels from a privileged (and usually by default) rich few? What you wrote implies that the UC should hold a light under its bushel and not claim any credit for one incredibly wonderful and central part of its role. I say to the contrary that UC should shout this performance record out from the mountain tops, proclaim it loudly. I see this issue very differently from you, and I dare say most thinking people would. Your position is either utterly elitist or completely impractical and completely blind to the UC’s incredible character.

        2) You suggest that the UC uses its standing to justify behavior that makes its indistinguishable from private institutions. You say this as if you think private institutions are doing something nefarious by doing fundraising. Do you think that is the case? Here’s a little education: a simple practicality of operating a first-tier university in this day and age: whether that university is public or private, that university will depend profoundly on the largesse of a private donor population. It is a fact of modern higher education in the US at least. I would think that any reasonable taxpayer in California would want the UC to be as absolutely effective as possible in alleviating the burden to the taxed population of paying for the magnificent UC system that brings so much to so many. There is nothing that needs to be defended here. There is nothing that should, with any reasonable people, require justification. I am completely mystified at this statement that it should. Again, it should be embraced, cheered, respected. If you don’t do so for a university that serves the public so much more fully and broadly than do the privates, you leave private fundraising solely to be the domain of private universities, you impoverish your publics and you serve the already fractious stratification besetting our society. What you should instead do, if you believe in the system is focus on advocating for its broad mission to receive much more hefty support from the state that is increasingly abrogating its important responsibility to keep the system strong.

        The fact is that the UC has to operate under a microscope; facile analyses of money “frittered away” on “high-flying” fundraisers are so easy to do because nothing is hidden at the UC because of its public status. UC operates on a shoe-string compared to comparable institutions and areas where it has been inefficient, it has been making great strides. All this, and because of public records, it just gets whacked.

        Who needs to be more constructive are the people who observe the UC through articles such as this and think that they have learned something about how it all works. The UC is beyond constructive; it is heroic as much as any such institution can be. And it doesn’t need to justify taking a leaf from the page of privates to pursue its public mission; it should be able to undertake such activities knowing it is being as smart, as flexible, as resourceful as it could possible be. My god, what would want otherwise?

        Full disclosure: I am an alum and a donor. I am not a UC employee, but I was in the past. Scott Biddy doesn’t and wouldn’t know me from Adam.

        • s randall

          The first sentence means that they should something to correct the situation. The second sentence means that if you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

          You must be someone that believes that “the rich are different than you and me.” Since you graduated from Cal, you probably know the rest.

          • Stuart

            I don’t think it’s been established at all that there is a situation that needs correcting; I just think that people don’t like to see how the sausage actually gets made which UC is required to let happen and which privates would never let happen. I think walking the walk and talking the talk as you lay it out is not a choice that has to, or really even should, be made. I don’t think you’ve established why it should. Maintain public mission, adopt any strategy including ones private schools adopt to do so — obvious strategy.

            I have no idea what you are implying about my beliefs. I am not rich, at least monetarily speaking. I have no idea whether or not you are. The monetarily rich are different from me in that they are rich and I am not. I am otherwise rich, partly in that I was lucky enough to obtain a degree at UC.

            Anyway, done! Poor UC — it has to air its “laundry” and some are, er, funny enough to suggest its dirty. It cracked me up that Gather was listed as one of the restaurants where egregious living it up had happened. There’s nothing on that menu that costs more than twenty some dollars. It’s chief characteristic is not that it’s fancy, but that it’s convenient to downtown and fairly acceptable….. Oh, and flying overseas sounds glamorous…usually it’s just a pain — and the UC doesn’t reimburse any frivolous wandering: every hour needs to accounted for — or else expense reports get rejected. UC walks the walk indeed…..

            Have a nice life….

  • Willliam Wallace

    Berkeley is being sold off piecemeal to multinational corporations like Chevron and BP. The “University” is selling itself into oblivion. Soon all students will need corporate sponsorship to attend.

    That is part of Jerry Brown’s plan to destroy public education in California!

    • Stuart

      Sold off piecemeal to multinational corporation? Uh, no.

      • So Kali

        There is no one so blind, Stuart, as he who WILL Not See!

        • Stuart

          In the real world and a fact-based context, So Kali, the blind people are those who do not avail themselves of the facts, but instead make forceful assertions that are frankly out of touch with facts. I quote the sage: “it is better to open your eyes and say you don’t understand than to close your eyes and say you don’t see.” So I can only suppose that you were addressing yourself when you wrote what you did. ‘Berkeley is being sold off piecemeal to corporations’ sounds good if one is captive to fairly obvious and facile memes, but it doesn’t come close to reflecting reality. And I am aware of far more facts that are relevant to this picture, I am fairly certain, than you. But I don’t even really need to hide behind that rather pompous assertion about myself. If you want to state your case, make your case, actually say something that isn’t just an empty slogan. Don’t make silly one sentence assertions such as those above in this comment string saying that I am blind or that the UC is being sold to corporations: the 70s called and they want their anti-corporatist memes back, So. If you want to point your outrage somewhere, point it to all the direct and indirect subsidies being provided to private universities that are much less pursuant to a public mission, much less an active participant in upward mobility for the less fortunate, and that are, well, much more the protectorate of the 1% than is any UC. If you want a world where the UC maintains its standards of research and pedagocic excellence and that doesn’t need to seek some assistance from not only alumni and other private individuals but also from corporate foundations in the like, if you want a UC that serves the underserved, you would absolutely support both Napiltano’s efforts to either recoup funding or raise fees and you would absolutely support the fundraising mission of the university. You would decry what Governor Brown is suggesting.

          • thompson_richard

            I have helped raise money for an undergraduate scholarship with other alumni in Tokyo. I would play the poor alumni and another alumni would play the rich alumni. We would ride in the well-appointed elevator (having dismissed the completely unnecessary elevator operators, of which there were two) of my uxorious hotel. On the way up I would say I’ll donate a thousand yen while my confrere would say I’ll donate fifty thousand — then we would both turn to the mark.. er, that is, fellow Bear. How much will you donate? Chancellor Tien showed up on one of his junkets.

  • s randall

    Mogulof emphasized that expenditures on travel and entertainment are not
    financed by state funds or tuition. He also said in an email that the
    campus rejects the suggestion that Biddy bent policy.

    I’m sure the spokesperson is correct, but do these people have tin ears? When you’re raising tuition, people don’t want to read about this sort of thing. If this story makes it to the LA Times, this sort of response will be taken as arrogant or stupid. Take your pick.

    • thompson_richard

      An article in the LA Times suggested that the U Alabama football program had been cancelled by the University President there and that Napolani might do the same for Cal. I asked did that mean if we had a winning season next year would she resign? Go Bears !

  • David H

    I donate a nominal amount to Berkeley every year so that the alumni giving rate, which is used to rank universities, improves. I wish more alumni would care about the school.

  • cam

    Great article. Thank you.