Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meet Sherry Lansing, the New Chair of the UC Regents

At the most recent UC Regents' meeting, which took place over the past two days, Sherry Lansing was elected to be the new chair of the board, replacing outgoing and two-time chair Russell Gould. So who is Sherry Lansing? The Daily Cal reports:
Prior to her appointment to the board, Lansing was a high school math and science teacher in Los Angeles.
Aw, that's so sweet. She's really just like one of us. She's truly the "middle-class" regent we've been looking for to protect us from these budget cuts!
She also ran her own production company and most recently was the chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures.
... oh. Well, okay, she was the CEO, but movies are fun though, right? Everybody loves movies. She was involved in the production of Forrest Gump! Maybe she's not one of these corporate assholes who make up the rest of the board. Why don't we check in with our good friend and investigative reporter Peter Byrne, to see what he has to say about Regent Lansing:
Since September 2006, Regent Lansing (who is not on the investment committee) has been a member of the board of directors of Qualcomm Inc., for which she receives an annual director’s fee of $135,000, plus stock options. According to her economic disclosure statement, Ms. Lansing owns “more than $1 million” in Qualcomm stock options (no upper limit is specified). In 2009, Qualcomm paid her $485,252. Documents released by the UC Treasurer show that, after Ms. Lansing joined the Qualcomm board, UC quadrupled its investment in Qualcomm to $397 million. Ms. Lansing told us that she did not instruct the treasurer or members of the investment committee to buy Qualcomm stock.
Hmmmm. Okay, well, at least we should give Lansing a chance to explain herself and her positions to us, you know, in her own words:
"I'm honored to serve as chairman during these difficult economic times," Lansing said in a statement. "To meet our challenges, we have to look for cost savings as well as other sources of revenue. But as we face these financial struggles, one thing we will never, ever sacrifice is the quality of a UC education."
Two quick thoughts on the commitment to "never, ever sacrifice . . . the quality of a UC education." First, online education. Nuf said. Second, we keep coming back to this quote from Mark Yudof (not only UC President but also himself a member of the board of regents), which does a nice job of contextualizing what this talk about "quality" really refers to. In a statement after the January Regents' meeting, Yudof made the following comment:
Yudof said the university has long operated on three "compass points" -- access, affordability and excellence.

"We are moving dangerously close to having to say: pick two of the three. That’s my view, and the excellence is nonnegotiable," he said. "We are going to have to look at access and affordability."
If "quality" and "excellence" are as commensurable as they sound, then Lansing's statement suggests that Yudof's "compass points" continue to shrink: the plan is no longer to pick two of the three, but to focus on one.

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