The University of West Los Angeles is drowning in RED INK !
. . . and the current administration is trying to force the students to pay for their reckless, gross mismanagement by imposing outrageous tuition hikes. Get the full background details via the links that follow.
When I enrolled at UWLA in December 2003, I expressed concern about the stability of tuition. I was told that tuition had been stable for a number of years and the University had just announced a modest increase (to $585 per unit). The admissions staff stated that, while no guarantees could be made, based on the past history and the recent increase they expected tuition to remain stable for the foreseeable future.
Literally 4 months later (April 2004), President Robert W. Brown announced a tuition hike of $50 per unit (8.5%) to $635 per unit. In his announcement, he stated that even with the tuition increase UWLA is still "quite a bargain". Really? LOL. Judge for yourself.
There was a fair amount of hue and cry over the increase, but most of us just accepted it and moved on. At the same time (April 2004), unknown to many of us, the Student Bar Association (SBA) was unable get an accounting and access to its own funds. Tracy Clegg, the SBA president at the time, resigned in frustration.
Move ahead to February 2005 when Robert W. Brown announced another tuition hike of $60 per unit (9.4%) to $695. In the FOURTEEN MONTHS since I enrolled at UWLA, tuition had increased 18%. Coupled with the previous "modest increase", tuition at UWLA had increased 27% in TWO YEARS. My cost of a legal education had increased $9,000 since the day I submitted my application. To make matters worse, Brown's letter was full of mixed messages about the "reasons" for the increase.
Enough was enough. A couple of us (students) downloaded the publicly available IRS 990s and ran an analysis of UWLA's financial condition. What we found was VERY disturbing. I drafted a rebuttal to Brown's increase letter and several of us distributed it anonymously.
Concurrent with our distribution of the rebuttal, apparently the faculty and staff had become increasingly alarmed about the situation they saw daily at UWLA. The info in our rebuttal was verified and ultimately the faculty and staff took a NO CONFIDENCE vote in Brown and Wolff (CFO) which they personally presented to the Board of Trustees on March 24, 2005. This was not made public until 4/15/05.
Still unaware of the faculty/staff no confidence votes, a small ad hoc committee of students organized a petition calling for a rescission of the tuition increase, the immediate resignations of Brown and Wolff, and implementation of tight controls to stop the university's red ink. We began the petition drive on 4/10/05 in the face of impending final exams. We believe our petition effort was unknown to Brown at that time.
After the faculty/staff no confidence votes were made public to the students on 4/15/05, Brown sent an email threatening suspension or termination for ANY FACULTY, STAFF MEMBER, OR STUDENT involving themselves in the conflict over his removal. Presumably upon the advice of cooler heads, spinmeister Brown later sent a "rescission" (i.e. to no one in particular) retracting his threats. LOL.
Our student petition garnered 192 signatures (69% of the 280 person law student body) in an 11 day period. Actually, we had to disqualify the signature of one FRED FLINTSTONE (thanks Fred !!!), but 191 valid signatures were submitted with our demands to the UWLA Board of Trustees on 4/22/05. The Board ignored our May 5, 2005 deadline for a response and remains silent to date.
In the meantime, UWLA's accrediting organization - the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) - is independently investigating the university's finances.
Shortly after May 5th, the Daily News became aware of "the unrest" and this story appeared on the front page of the News' 5/12/05 Business Section.
According to the article, "ever the optimist" Robert W. Brown "doesn't think the unrest is as widespread as some make it seem". Perhaps math is not his strong suit. When 100% of the faculty, 70% of the staff, and 69% of the students have publicly renounced you ... I would call that "widespread".
UWLA Alumni saw the Daily News article and reacted swiftly in an attempt to bail the university out. A group of alumni led by Ed Nassirzadeh tendered this offer of a One Million Dollar line of credit to the UWLA Board of Trustees on May 16, 2005. Their one absolute condition of the offer is that Robert Brown and CFO David Wolff be terminated. This offer expires May 31, 2005 at midnight.
With this alumni offer, Brown's renunciation is complete. EVERY ONE of UWLA's constituencies - faculty, staff, students, and now the alumni have called upon the Board of Trustees for Brown's termination in an effort to save the university. The alumni have backed that call with an offer of sorely-needed cash.
On May 17th, the day following the offer, this story appeared on the front page of the Daily Journal. In it, Brown is quoted as saying, "... there have been a lot of people who've played a prominent role in rebuilding the University of West Los Angeles and now a few people are trying to take that away from us."
"... rebuilding?" SEVEN YEARS of staggering deficits bringing this University to the brink of bankruptcy. Accounts payable so delinquent that vendors REFUSE to service UWLA equipment until the account is paid in full. UWLA's inability to pay its rent and meet payroll without taking short-term personal loans from board members (and you Business Association students should be very INTERESTED in that). Yes, that's quite a makeover.
"... a few"? 100% of the faculty, 70% of the staff, 69% of the students, and now come the alumni with an offer of $1M to try and save the university. Just a "few".
"... take that away from us"? And just WHO is US? UWLA exists for the students - past and present. It is NOT the University of Bob and Dave. They do not own this university. Brown, Wolff, and the Board of Trustees have a fiduciary duty to protect this institution. They are supposed to be its guardians and trustees. "A trustee is held to something stricter than the morals of the market place. Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior. As to this there has developed a tradition that is unbending and inveterate." Meinhard v. Salmon, 249 N.Y. 458, 164 N.E. 545 (1928)
Concurrent with the press attention and the Daily Journal investigation of our story, Dean Andrew Kopkin was contacted by Trustee Chairman Paul Coony who requested a meeting with the “WASC Student Committee” (ostensibly in lieu of any formal student representation vis-à-vis a non-existent SBA – see the story on how Brown and Wolff effectively neutralized the SBA in 2004.
At that meeting (on 5/18/05), Chairman Coony extended an invitation for interested students to present "their case" to the entire Board of Trustees at their next meeting to be held on May 24th at 6:30 p.m. He also committed to have Brown issue an immediate statement telling WLA-based students WHERE their summer classes would actually be held beginning June 6th. See that statement which includes the obligatory history lesson of Brown's "achievements", his "justification" for tuition increases, but STRANGELY ENOUGH, no commitment on ANY new campus location. It's DEJA VU all over again.
Approximately 35 students and several faculty and staff attended the May 24th meeting. Chairman Coony stated at the outset of the meeting that the board had "extremely important" business to discuss and he hoped to limit the student presentations to a TOTAL of 20 minutes so the board could proceed with their "important" business. Apparently, the UWLA Board of Trustees does not consider students' concern for their future and the survival of the university all that important. Nevertheless, the students pressed to be heard and about 14 students made formal or informal presentations lasting approximately 90 minutes in total.
Among the items presented on May 24th to the Board of Trustees on the record were:
After the student presentations and requests were made, the board conducted a short piece of unrelated business and then declared itself in "executive session" and requested that all non-board members leave so that the important business of the board could continue.
On May 25th at 4:48 p.m., Hratch Karakachian received the board's refusal to provide the students with ANY requested information, citing their "fiduciary responsibilities".
The same day (5/25/05), the board mailed their UNANIMOUS REJECTION of the alumni's $1M bailout offer. There was no mention of the board's "fiduciary responsibilities".
The same day (5/25/05), it was reported that Board Chairman Paul Coony personally loaned the University enough money to meet its upcoming payroll.
On 5/26/05, the Faculty Senate voted in emergency session that, because of the board's egregious breach of its fiduciary duties, the faculty has NO CONFIDENCE in the UWLA Board of Trustees.
Meanwhile, Brown and the board's pro-forma plans are reputed to project tuition rising to $825 per unit within the next two years.
Meanwhile, the university was allegedly unable to have its copier serviced until it brought its delinquent account with the vendor up-to-date.
In an undated letter purportedly sent to UWLA Alumni at the end of May, the administration requested donations of $50,0000 (sic) for the "next phase of our evolution".
Strapped for cash and unable to meet payroll, the UWLA administration spent their money wisely and contracted the services of Tellem Worldwide, a Los Angeles-based publicity and public relations agency to provide a real, practical means of dealing with the crisis. The result was this "Crisis Management Plan". (Note: this is NOT a hoax, as many people originally believed.)
On June 6, 2005, Deans Kopkin and Cervi representing the faculty and staff sent this letter to the State Bar of California and WASC. Their letter prompted the Daily Journal to publish this follow-up story.
. . . to be continued . . .
Brown's 4/6/05 memo announcing "WIRELESS ON CAMPUS" and response.
UWLA Form 990 for year ended 06/30/1998.
UWLA Form 990 for year ended 06/30/1999.
UWLA Form 990 for year ended 06/30/2000.
UWLA Form 990 for year ended 06/30/2001.
UWLA Form 990 for year ended 06/30/2002.
UWLA Form 990 for year ended 06/30/2003.
UWLA D&B Rating 04/15/05.
Robert Wesley Brown Jr . . . leading by example.
May 13, 2005 - This is an independent posting by UWLA student Marc McCulloch. The University of West Los Angeles or its staff is not associated with this posting in any way, except by reference.