UC Davis Cuts Deal to Avoid Bias Suit

Todd Wallack and Tanya Schevitz, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 19, 2005

When UC Davis Vice Chancellor Celeste Rose resigned under pressure last summer, the university gave her a new job with a new title, a $20,000 a year raise—and very little responsibility. In fact, Rose, 55, isn’t required to do any work at all.

As part of a secret legal settlement negotiated to avoid a potentially embarrassing lawsuit, UC Davis promised to keep Rose on the payroll as the “senior adviser to the chancellor” for two years at an annual salary of $205,000, plus all the benefits of a senior manager, including health care, severance pay and a growing pension.

Yet her new job has no formal job description or regular duties. She gave up her office on campus. And UC promised not to fire her, no matter how little she does. If Rose quits, she is still entitled to receive the remainder of her two years’ salary under the agreement.

In addition, UC Davis agreed to give her a $50,000 “transition payment” to help her find a new job, a letter of recommendation and a promise to tell reporters that she voluntarily resigned from her old position.

But in apparent violation of university policy, members of the governing Board of Regents were not told of the settlement and were not asked to give their approval. In fact, the June 1 agreement was handled so quietly that UC Davis spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said only a few people on campus know about it.

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Rose’s attorney, Melinda Guzman, said Rose received the settlement after threatening to sue the university for racial and gender discrimination. Rose is African American.

The dispute began in February when UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef told Rose in a private meeting she needed to resign at the end of June. Guzman said Vanderhoef didn’t offer a reason for the decision, which Guzman claims is part of a pattern of discrimination at the campus.

“The facts were compelling,” Guzman said. UC has had a “repeated failure to either recruit or retain minority executive managers at the UC Davis campus.”

UC Davis officials denied they discriminated against Rose or any other executives. But citing privacy rights surrounding personnel issues, they said they could not comment on Rose’s claim that she was essentially fired without a reason.

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