University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart’s side job with a for-profit college firm is eroding public confidence in the entire state university system, the system’s CEO says in an internal memo.
Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein, who last month publicly lauded Hart’s decision to join the board of DeVry Education Group, said in a recent email to the other Regents that she planned to make a public statement suggesting Hart “forgo or postpone her service to DeVry.”
Klein then backtracked and didn’t release the April 11 statement. She wouldn’t specify why in an email interview on Tuesday with the Arizona Daily Star.
The Star obtained Klein’s proposed statement and related correspondence through public records request to Regents headquarters in Phoenix and to the office of Gov. Doug Ducey, an ex-officio Regent.
In an April 9 email to the Regents, Klein wrote of her “growing concern” over the negative impacts of Hart’s DeVry job.
“As much as I stand by (Hart’s) right to make this decision, I cannot ignore that her decision is creating a distraction and a risk, not just to the university but to the system.
“It is also impacting the public’s perception of our leadership,” Klein told the Regents, who oversee all three of the state’s public universities.
Hart’s DeVry post “clearly conflicts with current public perceptions about her primary role and responsibilities as the president of the University of Arizona,” Klein added.
Several hundred UA supporters, including faculty members, students, donors and 20-plus state legislators, have criticized Hart’s decision to join the board of DeVry, which is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission over claims the school routinely deceived students about their post-graduation job prospects.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also is scrutinizing DeVry after complaints from nearly 150 military veterans.
The firm denies wrongdoing. Hart, who joined DeVry in February, has said she vetted the firm thoroughly and believes it is on solid footing.
Hart, whose UA pay package totals $665,500 this year, will receive $70,000 a year plus $100,000 in stock from DeVry.
In an email to the Star on Tuesday, Hart said she is “fully committed to the University of Arizona” but intends to stay on with DeVry, a position she has said she’s pursuing in her free time.
Hart also noted that she complied with Regents’ policy, which requires her to disclose outside work but doesn’t require board approval.
Klein, in her email to the Regents, said she decided to put out a statement following an April 9 conversation with Hart.
Reached for comment Tuesday, Klein wouldn’t say directly why she decided not to proceed. She said only that her proposed statement “led to additional conversations” but wouldn’t say who those talks were with or what they were about.
“I don’t have any further comment to offer about the nature of my conversations or the individuals involved,” Klein said.
The emails show that when Tucson Regent Ron Shoopman read Klein’s proposed statement, he sent back an email asking Klein to call his cellphone for a discussion before making the statement public.
Shoopman, reached for comment, wouldn’t say what he and Klein talked about, but said he thinks Hart is doing a “remarkable job” at the UA.
Klein’s email traffic shows Regent Bill Ridenour of Paradise Valley is losing patience with the DeVry situation.
When Klein wrote that she planned to make a statement to express her “growing concern” with Hart’s decision, Ridenour wrote back: “I think that you should not only express your growing concern but the Board’s growing concern.
“I think we need to ratchet up the pressure (on Hart),” Ridenour wrote.
Hart is said to be the only sitting public university president in the country serving on the board of a publicly-traded, for-profit education firm.
Another higher education leader who joined the DeVry board the same day Hart did, Chancellor Linda Katehi of University of California-Davis, apologized and quit within days after a public outcry in that state.
Regent Rick Myers of Tucson has asked the board to review the policy that allows university presidents to engage in outside work without seeking board permission.