Lawsuit filed against UCR by former business dean

Johnny Ma/HIGHLANDER
Johnny Ma/HIGHLANDER

David Stewart, the former dean of UC Riverside’s School of Business Administration recently filed a lawsuit against the university, accusing UCR and of “misallocating and misusing the professional degree fees” of students. According to Stewart, the ordeal began after he found out that former UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White mismanaged, redirected and spent the students’ fees on other university programs instead of the intended MBA program. After discovering this, Stewart claims that he discussed the matter with White in a meeting, but was relieved of his duties as dean soon after.

The Highlander spoke with Stewart about the lawsuit and the actions that the university allegedly took. As Stewart put it, “The money was needed to subsidize the operations of the business school, which was largely concerned with teaching undergraduates.” The former dean stated that without the appropriate funding, the quality of the program began to decline.

“We were not able to provide the kind of services that a typical University of California MBA program would provide,” he said. “That involves things like career development staff, a stronger, larger admission staff, a larger student services staff. A lot of things that are part of offering a professional degree program that you would find at other UC business schools—at other business schools generally. We simply were not able to provide at the level that we should have been able to had we been able to allocate all of the professional degree fees to the support of the MBA program.”

According to recent rankings, the quality of the MBA program did, indeed, suffer a setback. In 2011 the program was ranked for the first time in its history on a national scale. That year, the U.S. News and World Report ranked the graduate school of management 97th in the nation.  The program would fall out of the rankings the following year, however. Start claims that the rankings fell due to the mismanagement of funds.

“None of the programs were ranked when I arrived as dean,” he said. “I mean, that had been completely neglected … We were making good progress to create a strong business school and it’s just too bad that we were sidetracked in that effort.”

Stewart also claims that jobs were lost in the department as a result of the mismanagement of the fees.

“At the end of my term, there were people losing their jobs,” he stated. “It’s also the case that we were never able to have the size staff that other UC business schools have.” UCR’s business school currently has 184 full-time enrolled students as opposed to more developed business schools like Berkeley, which has an enrollment of as many as 803 students.

White and Stewart met in in July of 2011 to discuss their disagreements over the way the funds were being used. Stewart claims that it was during that meeting that he knew his job was in jeopardy.

“Well, I had a meeting with the chancellor in which we had a discussion,” Steward said. “It was largely a repeat of things that I had said in the past. It was a basic disagreement about the support of the school in general and the support of me as dean more specifically.”

He went on to say that the issues he raised were not new to the chancellor or the university. “[The issues] have been present for at least two decades,” he said. “I simply happen to stay around long enough to better understand them and to better articulate what the problems were.”

The Highlander tried to contact Timothy White, who is currently the chancellor of the California State University system, for further clarification, but no response was provided.

However, UC Riverside did issue a public statement that reads: “The university is aware of the allegations made by David Stewart. While we cannot comment at this time on the specifics of the case, the university intends to vigorously defend this action.”

Stewart was also asked to comment on what the lawsuit would do to the reputation of the university. He responded, “I hope that irrespective of the outcome of the case that the result is that UCR and the Inland Southern California region … ultimately attains the type of business school that the university and the region really need.”

Both sides will meet to discuss the lawsuit during a case management conference, which is scheduled for Sept. 24.

 

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