Questions surround ASUC Auxiliary director’s retirement

Anna Vignet/File
ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul retired June 29, two days before the auxiliary underwent a major realignment. The circumstances of his departure prompted questions as to whether his retirement was forced.

ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul’s retirement only two days before the auxiliary underwent a major realignment prompted some to question whether the realignment was used as an opportunity to force his retirement.

Though talk of Permaul retiring in a few years or sometime later this academic year had already been underway, the date was moved to June 29 ­— just before the July 1 realignment of the auxiliary to the Division of Student Affairs.

Permaul will continue to work on ASUC projects until Sept. 1, but his retirement comes in the midst of several major events for the auxiliary, including its controversial transition and key phases of the Lower Sproul Plaza renovation project — leading some to  suspect that his departure was not entirely voluntary.

“This clearly wasn’t part of his original plan,” said a source familiar with Permaul’s retirement who requested to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

The source said that based on conversations with Permaul, there is reason to believe he may have been persuaded by the campus administration to retire sooner because it appeared that if he did not, he would not have been in a position to negotiate with the campus about his departure.

Permaul declined to comment on the realignment and the circumstances of his retirement, stating in an email that he did not think speaking publicly about the transition or any related issues “serves the ASUC or the campus.”

Harry Le Grande, the vice chancellor for student affairs who oversees the division now housing the auxiliary, is out of the office until Aug. 1 and was unavailable for comment. Jonathan Poullard, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students to whom the auxiliary now reports, said he would be unavailable until the week of July 12.

“(Poullard) and I have always worked together collaboratively from day one of my arrival,” Permaul said in the email. “He has been an effective voice for the ASUC Auxiliary on the Store Operations Board since his arrival this past year, for which I have been grateful.”

According to Ron Coley, the associate vice chancellor for business and administrative services who oversaw the auxiliary prior to its transition, Permaul took a “voluntary layoff,” which made him eligible to receive severance pay from the campus cost-cutting Operational Excellence initiative. In order to receive pay from the initiative, Permaul had to leave before the start of the campus’s fiscal year in July, Coley said.

“Severance doesn’t come with retirement — retirement comes with retirement,” Coley said, though he did not know how much Permaul’s severance pay was.

According to Coley, Permaul chose to retire when he did for personal reasons.

But Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab said she believes Permaul had wanted to remain longer so that he could train his successor before retiring.

“Nad is doing what he thinks is best for students given restructuring,” Navab said. “But the timeline is unexpected — it’s not the timeline that was communicated to students.”

In regards to finding Permaul’s replacement, ASUC President Vishalli Loomba said Poullard has been open to having students sit on a hiring team responsible for finding a new director as well as be involved with creating a job description.

Additionally, Loomba said she did not learn of Permaul’s retirement until about 24 hours before it was announced to the entire campus — in a letter signed by herself, Navab and Coley — two days before his retirement took effect.

Still, Loomba said she does not see a direct relationship between the auxiliary’s transition and Permaul’s retirement.

“I can see how there can be a connection perceived because of the timing,” Loomba said. “These are two very significant changes taking place within the ASUC, but I haven’t seen any reason to believe that they are connected.”

Yet an ASUC Senate resolution passed last Thursday in opposition to the realignment expressed concern regarding the “immediate and rather enigmatic leave” of Permaul.

“It just seems highly unlikely that out of nowhere, Nad Permaul would just decide to retire,” said CalSERVE Senator Stefan Montouth, an author of the resolution. “I don’t know what the official reason is for his retirement, but it’s way too close to this realignment that it seems like it’s definitely somehow related.”

Furthermore, Montouth said he had not expected Permaul to retire for at least another couple of years.

But according to Coley, the expedited timeline of Permaul’s retirement “made sense from a transition standpoint.”

“It had been determined that the ASUC Auxiliary was going to be reassigned, and with that reassignment, we needed to look at (if there are) other ways of being able to operate this operation,” Coley said. “(Permaul) decided that, in the final analysis, it would make sense to make his transition now.”

Allie Bidwell and J.D. Morris are news editors.