Campus leadership prompted vice chancellor Bob Lalanne’s resignation

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When former vice chancellor for real estate Bob Lalanne resigned last month, campus spokesperson Roqua Montez called the resignation “his choice.” But an emailed statement from Lalanne at the time of his resignation shows that administrators’ move to eliminate the vice chancellorship prompted Lalanne’s resignation — not the other way around.

In the statement — sent to campus trustees, donors and deans, and obtained by The Daily Californian — Lalanne said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and other campus leaders told him that his position would be eliminated to reduce the size of the administration. In place of the vice chancellorship, Lalanne was offered a position as an adviser on campus real estate projects. Lalanne declined the offer and then summarily resigned.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof confirmed that Lalanne’s position was eliminated and that he was offered an alternative role.

“There was not a choice (to remain as vice chancellor),” Mogulof said. “He could not remain in a position that was eliminated.”

Dirks created the vice chancellor for real estate position in 2013 to “take an integrated approach to capital projects and maintenance,” according to a campus release. Lalanne was the first and last to assume the role.

Over the past two years and 10 months, Lalanne oversaw the construction of Jacobs Hall and the Maxwell Parking Garage, as well as the renovation of Bowles Hall. The position also oversaw the now-suspended Berkeley Global Campus project.

In his statement, Lalanne said he believes that proposed changes will hurt the administration’s ability to improve outcomes at UC Berkeley, though he did not specify the proposed changes or who proposed them. An update on ongoing and completed projects from his tenure was attached to his statement, revealing that a proposed merger of real estate portfolios — intended to save money — had not yet occurred.

Lalanne explained in that statement that as a vice chancellor he could effect change on campus, but as an adviser, he could not deliver on commitments.

“I cannot, in good conscience, continue to participate,” Lalanne said in the statement.

Mogulof said in an email that Lalanne’s characterization of his position’s elimination was basically correct but that it could be more accurately described as intending to decrease administrative size and expense.

Lalanne, who spent more than 25 years as a Bay Area real estate developer, said in the 2013 announcement of his appointment that he planned to donate his salary back to the campus.

The position, now eliminated, will have its portfolio managed by multiple administrators, according to a memo from Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy.

Biddy, who currently manages the portfolio of the vacant vice chancellorship for administration and finance, will oversee some of the staff who reported to Lalanne. The Environmental Health and Safety Office will report to the vice chancellor for research, while the Office of Emergency Management will be removed from the Environmental Health and Safety portfolio and report to UCPD Chief Margo Bennett.

Lalanne is the ninth high-level administrator to resign or announce the intent to resign or retire — in the past year. The list includes Dirks, former provost and executive vice chancellor Claude Steele and former vice chancellor for administration and finance John Wilton. Previously unreported, former associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs Claire Holmes left the school in September.

The administrative tumult was cited by Lalanne as one of the contributing causes of his resignation.

“In recent months, the leadership transitions and uncertainties on campus have created a difficult environment to continue achieving outcomes,” Lalanne’s statement said.

While some positions have been permanently filled, others have had only interim appointments or had their portfolio taken on by other administrators. Because Dirks will let his successor appoint a new executive vice chancellor and provost, UC Berkeley will experience complete turnover in its two highest positions when Dirks leaves office.

Austin Weinstein is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @austwein.

A previous version of this article stated that Bob Lalanne had overseen various projects over the past four years as vice chancellor of real estate. In fact, he was in the position for two years and 10 months.