This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.

UCLA response to story on travel expenses

Today an article by the Center for Investigative Reporting called into question the travel expenses of some campus leaders. Although UCLA made every effort to convey its side of the story to the reporter, some important points were omitted from the article.

Although the article criticizes UCLA for spending $2 million in travel over a four-year period from 2008 to 2012, it neglects to point out that UCLA generated more than $2 billion in gifts during that same period and received nearly $1 billion annually in research funding. This is due in large part to travel by our campus leaders, which allows them to cultivate relationships and engage colleagues, donors and alumni around the globe to enhance research opportunities, recruit faculty and raise money. At a top-flight university with 17 deans and executive leadership managing partnerships and interests all across the world, $2 million in travel spending over a four-year period equates to less than $28,000 each year for each of those campus leaders.

Travel by UCLA leadership was consistent with that of deans at most of our peer institutions, though UCLA has seen a more significant return on its investment than many of those other universities. In fact, UCLA's stature in respected global university rankings rose even as state support declined dramatically.

UCLA routinely ranks among the top universities nationally in higher-education fundraising. In its 2011 survey of contributions to the nation's colleges and universities, the Council for Aid to Education ranked UCLA No. 1 for fundraising among public universities and eighth overall.

For example, the dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management managed to raise $118 million in the time period CIR scrutinized — another fact we shared with CIR reporters that they chose to leave out of the article. While much is made of the UCLA Anderson dean's travel expenses, the article never made clear that such costs represent less than 0.2 percent of the funds she raised, and there was barely a mention of the fact that no taxpayer funds are used for travel or entertainment at UCLA Anderson.

As a public university, UCLA has stringent travel policies that allow for certain accommodations, such as business-class travel, with documentation from licensed physicians. This pertains to anyone with a medical directive.

It is also unfortunate that the article focuses exclusively on UCLA without providing suitable context or appropriate comparisons. CIR only mentioned the travel expenses of the dean at UC Berkeley's business school. The article neglects to point out, however, that UCLA Anderson competes with the leading business schools in the world, most of which are private, for faculty and students. No other comparisons were mentioned for UCLA as a whole or for any of its other programs.

The university's travel policy encourages all employees to seek reasonably priced accommodations, meals and transportation whenever practically possible. While today's times demand financial prudence, UCLA must make investments in travel and related activities in order to sustain and further elevate the university's reputation as one of the world's top research institutions.
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