As some of you may know, I come from a journalism background. I'm also, ahem, long in the tooth - if that phrase still makes sense - and my career began years before the Watergate scandal.
At any rate, when I retired to do freelance work, I thought I was done with investigative reporting. But I was wrong because I'm now trying to determine how a series of emails between university presidents around the country wound up being delivered to me, along with the intended recipients.
What's more, in discussing university administration in general, these emails make occasional mention of G. Block. (I'm not going to put "chancellor" before his name.) What are the odds? A trillion-trillion to one? (What? You don't believe me? How is that possible?)
In order to share the material, I've had to withhold the names of the schools and alter the names of their leaders. Nonetheless, the material is nothing if not interesting.
For example, here's a letter from "Joe," the president of a large university in the Midwest, written to a colleague in the South. "I don't know why he took the job at UCLA. He's clearly not interested in athletics, and UCLA's always been about academics and athletics. The school isn't even 100 years old, and it has more NCAA titles than anyone else."
In response, "George" writes, "Well, he's kept that 'Dan' guy around. Wasn't he in charge when the Athletic Department decided to keep students from the best seats in Pauley Pavilion? And I think Block decided in April to extend the athletic director's contract; apparently gave him a buyout of at least one year's base pay."
But that's mild compared with a few words from this letter, written by "Fred," who heads a major university on the East Coast:
"You know, a number of things have happened on his watch. There was the book fair, as well as the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, that went to Southern Cal; there's that crazy-ass hotel UCLA is building; and then the business with the travel expenses. I wouldn't want the Center for Investigative Reporting scrutinizing the travel expenses on my campus."
Although G. Block is mentioned only incidentally, his name does come up with a fair amount of frequency. This is from "Mildred," the leader of a university in the Northwest:
"And he's still putting off a day of reckoning on a football stadium. Have you seen the website for the UCLA chancellor's office? Here's part of the last paragraph under "Priorities":
Although we remain "public" in our history and mission, UCLA must increasingly rely on private support to develop and sustain outstanding scholarship and teaching. We must significantly bolster our endowment in order to remain competitive among the nation's leading universities in recruiting students and faculty.
"I know there are wealthy donors - they're crucial at every school, including UCLA - but I think he's leaving a large part of the alumni population untapped. There are other ways to form undergraduate ties, but do you know anything better than football and basketball games, as well as other sports? I don't, and I'll add this:
"Even if stadium parking is an issue for a few weeks every year, and it doesn't have to be, I don't think wealthy residents living near UCLA and benefiting culturally as well as financially - after all, property values go up as a result of living near a university - should be able to stop any and all attempts to build a stadium."
There are several other emails, but time answers to no one, so I'll close with these words from "Jeff," the leader of a university in the Rocky Mountain region, who writes:
"It's not like the record is untarnished. Haven't there been issues at the Med Center? He's just ill-suited to a school like UCLA. And the chancellor at UCSF is stepping down. That's tailor-made for him. As far as I can tell, he seems to value excellence in academics while letting the Athletic Department flounder. Speaking metaphorically, I don't think he'll ever be able to build a moat wide enough to ward off all the criticism.
"There's got to be a better choice. I hope he sees it."