THE RESIGNATION OF UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA PRESIDENT
This section covers legal reform issues relating to University of
Florida President John Lombardi's resignation.
- From everything I can find, the University of Florida appears to have
moved forward in an exceptional manner under the guidance of Dr.
- For instance, as reported in the Alligator,
- In 1990, UF had 96 National Merit Scholars and an average GPA of 3.45
among entering students. This year, 192 UF freshmen received the honor and
the average student had a 3.90 GPA in high school.
- While the incoming classes have improved, the university has grown
from 33,282 students in 1990 to 42,336 today.
- Sponsored research awards have doubled in the past 10 years, from
$147 million to $296 million.
- UF's $497 million endowment today is about five times what it was in
1990 and the total budget has increased from $800 million to more than
- Without more information on the total budget figures, one doesn't
know how to assess such a large increase. However, the other figures are
no less than stunning by any measure. Also or course one doesn't know to
what degree they are due to the actions of a single person such as the
president or to the collective actions of others.
- A further assessment can be found in the
- With such a good qualitative assessment added to the previous figures,
it appears to me that President Lombardi can't be doing too much wrong and
almost certainly is doing a great deal that is right.
- What then is the problem?
- Looking through the newspaper articles about him, there appear to be
two more recent issues that have precipitated his resignation; (1), a tiff
with two law school deans and (2), salary raises to his top people. A
third issue that surfaced the day after his resignation is about some
alleged impropriety as to the costs of his daughter's wedding two years
ago. Claims are being made that this most recent issue had nothing to do
with the resignation but such claims were made about the previous two
issues also. In any event, all of these issues have very substantial legal
- As for the law school deans, they were engaged to assess the
University of Florida Law School, giving it a very good
- And, in a letter written subsequent to a meeting with President
Lombardi and others while at UF, they claimed that "With an anger
seemingly barely controlled, and contempt unconcealed, the president
leaned forward and launched into a stream of vituperation charging the
Consultants were utterly misinformed, had made charges without any basis--
etc., etc." Indeed you would think these law school deans were accusing
President Lombardi of behaving like a lawyer.
- They claimed further he "acted with gross discourtesy and as an
immature bully" saying "It is unknown to us whether President Lombardi has
been licensed to abuse visitors to the University of Florida campus, or is
simply unable to control himself."
- And, "Whatever the explanation, future Consultants should be given
notice that the President may vent his penchant for abusive behavior upon
them. They should be told that they may have their intelligence, ethics,
and good faith questioned to their faces and expect to have their
professional reputations impugned behind their backs."
- To me, just on the face of it, this letter appears written more for
the purpose of smearing and discrediting someone than conveying anything
meaningful-- stock in trade for lawyers, and something many of my Web site
readers know only too well. It should be noted of course that we don't
have the entire letter and thus don't know everything in it or whether
there are issues not reported in the media that might place the letter in
a different light.
- However, taken at face value for what has been reported in the press,
it poses many issues:
- First, one is lost to see how law school deans, of all people, are
going to get upset by a little straight talk (or whatever you wish to call
it) by the UF President. Are these deans culturally deprived mentally
retarded individuals totally incapable of defending themselves from this
alleged verbal onslaught? Indeed, they, of all people, are masters of
debate and the adversarial process and psychology. Law schools teach their
students to do it and lawyers do it all the time just for effect. So why
didn't they just get their two bits in then just dress him down and forget
about it? Indeed, they even had a two to one advantage over him.
- Secondly, there are citizens all over this state who have received
much worse than a little straight talk from lawyers, with no recourse
whatsoever. Nobody is going to pay any attention to any letters they write
regarding broken homes and broken lives caused by lawyers let alone
letters that merely complain that their alleged dignity may have been
ruffled a little; which appears to be all that these deans are complaining
about. So why should anyone pay any attention to their letter? Because
they are lawyers? Law school deans? Clearly these deans consider
themselves far above anyone else.
- Third, it is also disconcerting to think the Regents themselves would
entertain such a frivolous issue. Do they review every letter from anyone
complaining about any of the state's university presidents? Or do they
just review complaints from lawyers? Law school deans? Letters complaining
about President Lombardi? Indeed, if these deans are going to have their
tiff with President Lombardi aired by the Board of Regents, then to be
fair everyone who has a difference of opinion with President Lombardi or
indeed any of Florida's university presidents should be invited by the
Board of Regents to air it with them.
- Fourth, if such matters are going to go before the board of regents
then every university president in the state is going to have to worry
that someone is going to write such a letter every time he/she has a
conversation with someone; which it appears to me would highly compromise
- Of course, from the standpoint of legal reform, the world clearly
needs people, including university presidents like Dr. Lombardi, who will
stand up to lawyers, their overbearing power and influence; as the
circumstances of Dr. Lombardi's resignation more than suggests this is an
example of. One doesn't know of course what their motives may have been
but possibly they may have been angling to get President Lombardi replaced
by Dean Matasar or some other law school dean; such as at FSU.
- President Lombardi gave salary raises
, to 4 key UF administrators by amounts ranging from $25,691 for UF
General Counsel Pam Bernard to $39,143 for Vice President for
Administrative Affairs Gerald Schaffer. Paul Robell, vice president for
development, received a $32,023 raise and UF Provost Betty Capaldi got a
$28,789 increase, raising her annual salary to $270,400 - more than
Lombardi ($250,000) or Chancellor Herbert's salary ($255,000). The
total for all 4 is $125,000.
- These raises were a substantial issue leading to the resignation; with
Board of Regents Chairman Dennis Ross stating: "Clearly, the salary issue
was a big issue for the chancellor and the Board of Regents".
- Certainly, from where I come from, there is no question that these are
very big raises on top of very big salaries to begin with. I gather
however there was nothing illegal about them although perhaps they
required approval from some higher authority.
- However, compared to the many favorable financial
figures associated with his tenure, they are simply insignificant.
- The endowment has gone from 100 million to 500 million. $125,000 is
less than 1/3,000 of the 400 million increase. To look at it another way,
if your stock broker makes you $3,000 in one trade but loses $1 in
another, you don't go looking for another stock broker over the lost
- Sponsored research awards have doubled during his tenure, from $147
million to $296 million. $125,000 is less than 1/1,000 of the $149 million
increase. There again, if your stock broker makes you $1,000 in one
trade but loses $1 in another, you don't go looking for another broker
over the lost dollar.
- If we take the total operating budget for the university of 1.5
billion, $125,000 is less than 1/10,000 of it. There again, if you have
given your broker $10,000 to invest for you, you don't go looking for
another broker if he loses a dollar.
- Of course one needs to adjust these figures for the fact that the
increases were made over ten years whereas the salary is annual. However
even so, one would have to come to the same conclusion.
- In short, we are basically just talking about money here, and even
assuming these raises were totally unwarranted they are still totally
insignificant compared to his over all performance. Indeed, to fire any
CEO for misuse of 1/10,000 of his operating funds when he is doing great
otherwise, would simply be idiotic. Thus I would think most people
would consider that the raises are worth no more than a comment at his
evaluation, or at most perhaps requiring higher approval for any further
- The core of the issue here is of course that the Regents should be
focusing on the overall health and prosperity of the university such as
how to keep these funds growing and the critical education, credibility
and moral problems of the legal profession, among many others. For, of
course focusing on such insignificant things will just lead to a lot of
wrong decisions; which appears to be the case with Dr. Lombardi.
- The issue concerning Lombardi's daughter's wedding expenses is not far
enough along to discuss very meaningfully at this writing. However there
are two articles that can be consulted as of this writing: Lombardi
releases receipts detailing costs , and Lombardi faces
inquiry . However, from the little we have so far, this issue doesn't
appear to be much more intelligent than the previous two.
This is a page in the Web site entitled Legal
Reform Through Transforming the Discipline of Law into a Science.