Center for investigative reporting: Thirteen years ago, the University of California changed its ban on flying business or first class on the university’s dime, adding a special exception for employees with a medical need. What followed at UCLA was an acute outbreak of medical need. Over the past several years, six of 17 academic deans at the Westwood campus routinely have submitted doctors’ notes stating they have a medical need to fly in a class other than economy, costing the university $234,000 more than it would have for coach-class flights, expense records show.
One of these deans, Judy Olian of the Anderson School of Management, has at least twice tackled the arduous 56-mile cycling leg of the long course relay at Monterey County’s Wildflower Triathlon, according to her expense records and race results. She described herself in a 2011 Los Angeles Times profile as a “cardio junkie.”
With a medical waiver granted by UCLA, however, she has an expense account that regularly includes business-class travel. She spends more on airfare and other travel expenses per year than any other UCLA dean or the chancellor, and she also far outpaces her counterpart at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Olian’s travel is part of a pattern of lavish spending at the public university, which routinely bends its rules for its top academic officials, according to an analysis by The Center for Investigative Reporting of documents obtained through the state Public Records Act. Officials have taken flights costing more than $10,000, taken chauffeured town cars to the airport and spent nights at a Four Seasons hotel at university expense.
Judy Olian, dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, is seen with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (left) and former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden in 2008. The university paid about $296,000 for Olian’s premium airfares from 2008 to May 2012.Credit: PRNewsFoto/UCLA Anderson School of Management via Associated Press
The UCLA officials added luxury and comfort to their travels while the UC system underwent one of the worst funding crises in its history. Undergraduates have seen tuition and fees increase nearly 70 percent since the 2008 school year.
Overall, Chancellor Gene Block and 17 deans who oversee the schools of business, film and theater, law, medicine and others spent about $2 million on travel and entertainment from 2008 to 2012. About half a million went to first- or business-class airfare for the six deans with medical exemptions, according to documents.