Last October, in the wake of a series of high-profile UC sexual harassment cases, an incriminating audio recording of UC Regent Norman Pattiz asking his female colleague if he could hold her breasts surfaced.
Then, nothing happened to him. Pattiz issued a half-hearted apology and attended the November UC Board of Regents meeting as per usual. In a sort of horrible irony, he sat on the committee tasked with amending regents’ ethical conduct — a conversation prompted by his own repulsive behavior.
Now, Pattiz is being sued for allegedly brandishing a loaded gun at an employee who wouldn’t comply with Pattiz’s request to use false advertising statistics. Pattiz denies the claim, but this is another accusation against a man who has already shown himself to be bereft of a moral compass — of the values UC stakeholders such as students, faculty, staff and taxpayers would hope their own governing body would defend.
How does an unsavory character like Pattiz continue to sit on the board that holds the fate of the UC system in its hands? His continued position as a regent reflects a clear contradiction of the university’s core principles of equity, diversity and safety, said former UC Student Association President Ralph Washington Jr. to The Daily Californian last year.
It is virtually impossible to boot out a regent: There are few accountability standards or disciplinary actions for regents when they violate conduct policy. As UC Regent Bonnie Reiss said during the November 2016 meeting, “If a regent was found guilty of robbing a bank … what can the board do?”
The board has the authority to ask a member to resign, but the state attorney must initiate the process to officially remove a regent. And that really only happens in the case of flagrant transgressions, such as corruption or a felony conviction.
The university must institute a more democratic system for removal. Regents serve lengthy 12-year terms and make huge decisions, from tuition hikes to changes in pension plans. Their actions impact more than 428,000 students, faculty and staff members. It is of the utmost importance that the UC community be able to hold the UC Board of Regents accountable and that the board members’ values and backgrounds reflect those of the people they serve.
For four decades, the process of selecting regents has been shrouded in mystery — potential regents are appointed almost entirely at the discretion of Gov. Jerry Brown, who is “advised” only in name by an undisclosed group of people, according to a June report by the San Francisco Chronicle.
For how much influence regents have on the UC, the composition of the board — mostly wealthy CEOs and corporate lawyers — is disarming, and it is illustrative of a deeply flawed process of regent selection. A radio mogul with little experience in higher education like Pattiz would have little understanding of the plight of a student. He is clearly not qualified to cast a vote on the decisions that make the difference between whether or not a student can afford a UC education.
The UC system deserves a better leader than Norman Pattiz. It’s time to implement more accountability measures for current regents and to establish a more democratic way of choosing new ones.