Robert C. Dynes, the president of the University of California system, announced  on Monday that he would resign effective June 2008. The university cited the physicist's desire to return to his ongoing research into superconductivity, and to "focus on his personal life, including a new marriage."
The announcement appeared to catch many people on the university's 10 campuses by surprise -- several of them learned about it only upon receiving a reporter's call -- but most of those interviewed said they were not shocked that Dynes was leaving, given the turmoil he and the UC system have faced over the last 18 months. Fresh on many people's minds, upon hearing the news, was the compensation scandal that roiled the system last year , but the university emphasized the transparency and accountability measures introduced in the wake of the controversy that ultimately helped the president emerge with his position -- but not his unblemished record -- intact.
Dynes, 64, will apparently give up day-to-day management of the university immediately. The news release announcing his resignation also said that Wyatt R. Hume, the university system's provost and executive vice president, would take the reins as chief operating officer from now until a new president is selected. Dynes, meanwhile, will focus on key university priorities, including partnerships with industry and strategic relationships abroad. He plans to end his time in office -- not quite the anticipated five years he planned to serve after taking the highly visible job in October 2003, a less-than-average term for a college president -- by traveling across the state and visiting campuses to continue conversations about the future of the university.
Dynes -- who has been credited with launching the system's 10th campus, at Merced, and developing an influential K-12 science and math initiative, among other achievements -- was candid about what he saw as his own shortcomings, such as falling short on diversity initiatives.
"Throughout my tenure as President, I have made every effort to increase the ethnic and gender diversity of the senior administration and to lead the way for a more diverse faculty, student body, and staff," Dynes wrote in a letter to faculty and staff on Monday. "While I worked hard towards this goal, and acknowledge the gains made, I remain dissatisfied. I consider this an area that should be of utmost importance to my successor and the overall leadership of the University of California."
But in the wake of Dynes's announcement, all eyes are on the compensation scandal that engulfed his presidency last year and sparked calls for resignation. Although the Board of Regents ultimately backed Dynes, observers believe that he lost critical support from faculty and the trust of many regents, weakening his ability to lead effectively. The scandal also unleashed a series of inquiries and audits that at times pitted state legislators against the president.
"I think that while President Dynes seems to have weathered that initial storm, I wouldn’t say that there would be a lot of shock at this turn of events," said Jack Citrin, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley and a former member of the Academic Senate, adding that one consequence was arguably a "greater assertiveness" on the part of the regents.
The "storm" began with revelations that dozens of senior administrators had received unreported extra compensation without, as per the requirements, the knowledge of the Board of Regents. While pledging to overhaul his office's transparency in such matters, Dynes continued to defend the size of pay and benefits packages that he said would keep the university system competitive with peer private and public institutions.
Several officials at the University of California contacted by Inside Higher Ed had not yet received the news of President Dynes's resignation -- or were in the dark about the details -- and, adding to the confusion, a 4 p.m. staff meeting to discuss the announcement was hastily scrapped in favor of several department-level gatherings due to size considerations.