My View: When Will They Ever Learn?

Gary May hasn’t even become the new chancellor of UC Davis and he’s already having his finances bring him under fire.  While his base salary, $495,000, is nothing to sneeze at, it does “only” rank him fourth in the UC System.

What is driving the controversy is about the $325,780 that he will earn from outside boards.  Mr. May said that, while he intends to keep his paid board seats after August 1 when he becomes UC Davis Chancellor, he does not intend to accept any more such positions.

That would apparently comply with new rules that the regents imposed last summer after the revelations about UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s outside earnings, and then her less-than-transparent acknowledgements of those, as well as certain expenditures, ultimately cost her the position as UC Davis Chancellor.

At the first level, we need to be a little clear that this is not a Linda Katehi scandal, part II.  What brought down the chancellor initially and then ultimately was not the fact that she had taken paid board positions at DeVry and the Wiley & Sons publishing company, but rather that she failed to properly and fully disclose it to the public and to her bosses.  Gary May has been forthright about his outside employment.

His connections to Leidos, however, are troubling in their own right.  Leidos is a Virginia-based defense and technology company.  Leidos is the fourth biggest defense contractor – if you follow the city of Davis’ socially responsible investor policy, Leidos would be on the excluded list, as they work extensively with the US Department of Defense.

In 2016, Leidos “completed its acquisition of Lockheed Martin’s LMT information systems and services business, doubling in size to become the dominant player in the federal technology solutions sector.”

In late 2016, “the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency awarded Leidos with a $66 million contract. Leidos will provide mobile scanning systems to CBP, which will help border agents find illegal materials in vehicles and cargo.”

Large connections to a defense contracting company aside, there are the optics.  Gary May stands to receive $820,000 a year heading up a public university.

The University of California Office of the President was quick to defend Mr. May’s compensation.

“The chancellor’s presence on these boards benefits the university,” said UC spokesperson Dianne Klein. “They are not conflicts. For example, the Leidos board activity has resulted in millions of dollars in philanthropic gifts for Georgia Tech, and the company also hires Georgia Tech students.”

But UC seems blind to the optics of the situation, particularly after the previous chancellor was removed from her position for a controversy that started with board compensation.

There are several key problems here.  First, while the university argues that there are no conflicts – the reality is that there are always conflicts.  You are on a board of a company that is doing millions in business with the Department of Homeland Security during a time when DHS figures to have a potential adversarial relationship with the university on a host of immigration-related issues.

Second, even if there were no conflicts and Leidos and May’s other affiliations were seen as truly benign, I have a problem with the head of public university making more than three-quarters of a million dollars.  UC Davis is not a private sector corporation, it is a public university.  Those who worry about the privatization of the university should look no further than the compensation gap between the chancellor on the one hand, rank and file faculty on the other, and lower-level employees and students at the baseline.

Such a gap not only plays into the hands of critics but amplifies discontent.  The gap means that the chancellor is even more isolated than normal from the day-to-day financial  struggles of the student populace and their parents.

The defense of Gary May by UCOP also puts the previous year into more curious light.  After all, the scandal that would ultimately undo Chancellor Katehi started with a report that she had accepted a paid position on the board of DeVry, which faced federal inquiries allegedly for misleading students and being a for-profit educational company.

That led to revelations that she had received more than $420,000 for serving on the board of textbook publisher Wiley & Sons, which seemed to pose a conflict of interest as the company directly supplies students with books and therefore profits from the very students over whom the chancellor presided.

While an investigation showed she was deceptive in her roles on both boards, the big hit came when it was reported that the chancellor had paid a consulting firm a contracted amount to reportedly cleanse the university’s reputation regarding the 2011 pepper spray incident.  Here she was found to have misled not just the public, but also her boss, with the extent of her knowledge about this contract.

That led to her August resignation after a four-month investigation.

The actions by UCOP seem to lend credence to the notion that they never saw a problem with outside pay but rather with the failure by the chancellor to notify them.  That suggests they are tin-eared to public outrage over the runaway compensation to high ranking public college officials, and to the protesting students who see college increasingly unaffordable while those at the top are massively profiting.

Can Gary May be a good chancellor for UC Davis?  Time will tell.  But this is a telling revelation that will add more and not less fuel to the fire.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts


  1. Keith O

    I remember when Katehi’s outside board member positions were brought to light and were met with cries of how can she run a university and moonlight at the same time?  Will her board positions detract from her chancellor responsibilities?

    Are those concerns that were voiced by students and others back then somehow different now?

    Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Center for Public Interest Law, is particularly concerned about the high salary that comes with May’s Leidos board seat.
    “There is one of two possibilities, neither of which is comforting,” he said. “(First) in exchange for such a large amount of money, he is expected to do a large amount of work, which could detract from his duties as chancellor. The second possibility is that he isn’t required to do a lot of work, which makes the purpose of such a large amount of money inherently questionable.”
    Howard questioned how May’s board job with Leidos was approved under the new UC outside compensation rules.
    “If this contract survived the university’s new policy, we are owed an explanation about how and why,” he said. “It is such a vast amount of money.”

        1. Keith O

          Thanks for the clarification.

          I haven’t heard any rumblings yet about this from the students.  Protests?  Sit-ins?  Marches?  Petitions?

          Have you?

          Maybe they’ll occur when he actually takes over?  We’ll see.

        2. David Greenwald

          Too early for that.  And remember, Katehi really burned bridges when the pepper spray happened and there were additional factors as well.  But I have seen Facebook posts complaining about his ties.

  2. Tia Will

    At this point in time, this does not appear to be on the new chancellor himself, but rather on those drafting and enforcing the new UC outside compensation rules. It is possible that the new chancellor is not yet aware of the depth of feeling regarding profiting from a company such as Leidos, part of whose mission seems to be so in conflict with the values of those supporting this particular public institution. There are a number of options that the new chancellor could take that would be in alignment with the stated values.

    1. He could retain the board position while declining the compensation.

    2. He could donate the compensation to funds for the defense of Dreamers, for educational support of low income students, for research.

    3. He could step down from this particular board in favor of another.

    I think that it is important to wait and see how he responds if and when he realizes the degree of likely disapproval of this particular position.

      1. Keith O

        The Trump admin has already stated that the Dreamers won’t be affected:

        President Donald Trump’s administration plans to consider almost all illegal immigrants subject to deportation, but will leave protections in place for immigrants known as “dreamers” who entered the United States illegally as children, according to official guidelines released on Tuesday.

        1. David Greenwald

          I’ll believe that when I see it – but not the point of my post. My point is he is compromised on an issue like that SHOULD it arise.

  3. Dianne C Tobias

    I think it would be interesting to know how much background he was given or researched from the Katehi issues re: outside income AND how many questions he was asked about his….and whether UC tried to negotiate regarding the issue, e.g., him giving up some or all of the income given the history at our campus, etc. Perhaps if the search committee HAD had more student and campus representation, as was criticized of the makeup of the committee??

  4. Howard P

    Some observations:

    The UCD Chancellor cannot “defend” the ‘dreamers’ except by the the direction or approval the UC President of the UC, and/or the Regents, else he could be easily dismissed.

    Somebody would be giving little credit to the new chancellor,  to think they would not ‘scope out’ “the landscape” before applying for the position, accepting the appointment, and resigning from their ‘sure thing’.  If a candidate was that stupid, they should not be operating at so high level.


    You are on a board of a company that is doing millions in business with the Department of Homeland Security during a time when DHS figures to have a potential adversarial relationship with the university on a host of immigration-related issues.

    In the Bee article cited by Keith,

    May earned $288,280 in cash and stock in 2015 as a member of the board of Leidos, a Virginia-based defense and technology company

    and, from David,

     Leidos will provide mobile scanning systems to CBP, which will help border agents find illegal materials in vehicles and cargo.

    Doesn’t sound like Leidos is in the ‘deportation industry’.

    If the new chancellor follows his conscience he may recommend to the President of UC/Regents “defending” ‘dreamers’… irrespective of that, he may be directed to.  If, in any event, he goes against the Regents/UC president, he’s toast.

    If CBP pressures Leidos, to pressure May, rest assured there would probably be a congressional investigation called for… if that were to occur, Leidos could remove him from their board, or he could resign.

    And to have someone say that to be ‘moral’ he should dedicate 35% of his income to defend ‘dreamers’, perhaps they should show some initiative and leadership, and do likewise.

    As a Chancellor we will judge him by his actions or inactions… he’s not here yet… as David correctly notes, we shall see… am seeing a lot of innuendo/”what if’s”…

    Read more here:


  5. Mark Kropp

    Done deal-why waste any more ink? If UCD gets 8 hours for 500k and Leidos the other 8 hours for 300k there is no conflict of interest, however, the UC system expects donations, jobs and technology. Leidos in return does get to influence the decisions made locally. Now we are talking about the military industrial complex instead of books and private university aka Wiley&Sons and DeVry!

    1. Mike Hart

      Agree.  It was a complete non-issue with Katehi and is here again.  You can’t run a billion+ dollar year organization with people getting paid less than basketball players and actors…  He sounds like a solid choice and the defense ties are simply irrelevant.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for