Bumped. - BN Eds.
*NOTE: Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced her intent to resign her post as head of Homeland Security to take over the post of President of the University of California system. She is expected to begin serving in this position as soon as this coming September. This letter is hopefully the first step in ridding UCLA of Chianti Dan and the Block Head*
Let me be the first of many UC alumni, students, faculty and friends of the UC system to welcome you as the next President of the University of California System. We are more than pleased that you will be the first woman to oversee our 10 campuses as we hope to restore the UC system to its once-proud standing as one of, if not, the leader in higher education in the United States.
I understand that the needs of the entire UC System will be your priority, but I feel it my duty to ask that you direct your first days into looking at the complete lack of competent leadership that is now plaguing the system's second-oldest and most recognizable campus, My former school, UCLA. Knowing that your previous job required you to keep tabs on other subjects, I feel that you should be made aware of the things that have occurred at UCLA over the last few years.
As you are no doubt aware, being the former Governor of the State of Arizona, home of our PAC-12 sister schools, Arizona and Arizona State, UCLA has a unique brand identity that is synonymous with not only academic excellence but also athletic success, as evidenced by the now-109 National Championships earned by the school since the formation of the NCAA. However, in recent years, the unique blend of both academic and athletic success has become tarnished under the failed leadership in Athletics by Dan Guerrero and a seemingly apathetic and increasingly closed-minded Administration under Chancellor Gene Block.
The revelations made by a recent Article in the Los Angeles Times into the contract clauses for new Men's Basketball Coach Steve Alford, as well as the perceived haphazard search for a replacement to former coach Ben Howland, whose firing had been expected since the end of the previous season, that eventually brought Coach Alford to UCLA and the previous failures in hiring a football coach before the hiring of Jim L. Mora, i.e., the hiring of former coaches Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel, have given many of us in the UCLA family great pause. We look to the school as a very integral part of our lives, not just from an academic standpoint, but from a social and cultural one, especially when we claim as our own one John R, Wooden as our unofficial "Patron Saint."
There is also the manner in which the venerable Pauley Pavillion, which was in need of renovation, turned into an estimated $135 million boondoggle that neither improved the look of the venue (sometimes referred to as "Pauley Under Glass") nor allowed for the students, who are supposed to be the primary benefactors of the improvements, the opportunity to have a hand in the design and ultimate location of the student section inside the venue.
You, Madame Secretary, know all too well, how important a robust student section is to the overall morale of a university. I needn't go further than your own former State School, the University of Arizona, to see how an effective Athletic Program embraces the students rather than marginalize them. the so-called " 'Zona Zoo" is one of the better known student sections in the country, standing toe-to-toe with the likes of the "Cameron Crazies," at Duke, and the "C-Unit" at another PAC-12 School, Colorado. UCLA's section, "The Den" should be on par with those other sections, but under the lack of leadership by Guerrero, they have been marginalized in favor of big money donors, many of whom are reportedly becoming disenchanted with his inability to achieve any more than that which "meet expectations," ones he sets almost criminally too low compared to other schools in the conference and the State.
There can be no better example of his "lip service" to the success of UCLA's Athletic program than his actions after the Men's Baseball team claimed the school's first-ever National Championship in baseball this past June. Rather than attend the celebration, which was held at the team's home stadium, or even make sure that the widow of UCLA's most famous baseball player, Jackie Robinson, would be in attendance, Guerrero got on a plane to Italy. The team's success was better celebrated by Robinson's professional team, the Dodgers, the following night, when the team was honored in a pre-game ceremony, and the Dodgers made sure that not only was Mrs. Robinson in attendance, but every former Bruin who could attend, did so. All of this was done just three days after the title was won.
However, as much as I would like to continue to criticize Guerrero's laizze faire(sic) leadership that has made the school a laughing stock in the national press, it pales in comparison to the complete lack of leadership in Murphy Hall under Chancellor Block. It is one thing to focus on building the school's reach overseas to spur more academic outreach, which no one questions. It's quite another to completely ignore the calls for action by the very student body and alumni you supposedly serve.
Recently, a number of alumni attempted to deliver a petition to the Chancellor's office, asking him to look into the hiring practices undertaken by Guerrero, specifically over the hiring of Coach Alford. The petitioners had major concerns over Coach Alford's actions during his tenure at the University of Iowa, where he defended one of his athletes, who had been accused of rape, by smearing the victim and allegedly attempting to coerce her into changing her story.
Rather than meet with these concerned alumni, the Chancellor declined to meet with them, never acknowledged receiving the petition, and an aide answer a request for a meeting with the Chancellor with the following response, "well, you can't expect the Chancellor to be available to the public, can you?"
Madame Secretary, if actions like this continue, the reputation of the entire UC system could be in jeopardy as the system, which YOU will be governing starting later this year, will be perceived as out of touch with the alumni who continue to represent the UC system in the world, as well as indifferent to the needs of school and academic program alike.
Please, Madame Secretary, for the sake of the millions of past UC Graduates, former students, current students faculty and parents of students, please use your office to investigate the malfeasance and incompetence that is plaguing one of your new job's most lucrative assets. The Students, Faculty and Staff of UCLA deserve a Chancellor who will not hide out from the public and ignore their concerns about the school as well as an athletic director who can balance putting a good product out there that will continue to enhance the school's reputation and insure that their actions do not make the athletic department look like a laughing stock by the rest of the country, or worse, the fans themselves.
With humble respect,