Fox tip-toes out of Bridgepoint's hen house

Ex-UCSD chancellor departs investigation-beset private college company

Marye Anne Fox
  • Marye Anne Fox

An ex–University of California chancellor and UCSD chemistry professor who made a gross annual state salary of $212,711 in 2014 has surrendered another lucrative corporate board seat in the world of private education.

"On March 17, 2016, Dr. Marye Anne Fox resigned from the Board of Directors of Bridgepoint Education, Inc., effective immediately," says a notice filed by the San Diego–based company with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Dr. Fox's decision to resign from the Board was for personal reasons not related to any disagreement with the Company relating to the Company's operations, policies or practices."

Linda Katehi

Linda Katehi

The former UCSD chancellor's exit follows by less than a month the March 1 resignation by current UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi from the board of for-profit college company DeVry Education Group; a week earlier she had accepted the $70,000-a-year position.

The ensuing controversy over Katehi's private-sector involvement, including her receipt of $420,000 during a board gig for publisher Wiley & Sons, drew calls for reform by state legislators, including San Diego state senator Marty Block.

"It’s become apparent in the last 24 hours that some of the CEOs of these campuses have more than one job and make a lot of money in other places,” Block said.

“Chancellor Katehi is the case on the front page of The Sacramento Bee today and my guess is there might be others.”

Pradeep Khosla

Pradeep Khosla

As if to illustrate the point, in February Fox's successor as UCSD chancellor, Pradeep Khosla, joined the board of the Avigilon Corporation of Vancouver, British Columbia, a maker of high-tech face-recognition and related electronic-surveillance systems.

"His expertise in engineering and computer science, in particular with video analytics and artificial intelligence, is a valuable asset to Avigilon's innovation and growth," said Avigilon chief Alexander Fernandes in a news release.

An inveterate mega-money board-joiner during her tenure as UCSD chancellor from 2004 to 2012, Fox signed on with the controversial Bridgepoint in November 2011.

“By harnessing creativity, knowledge and proprietary technologies, Bridgepoint Education is re-engineering the modern student experience,” Fox said in release at the time.

“I am honored to join Bridgepoint Education's board of directors and look forward to being involved with this exciting organization.”

At the time she was also on the boards of software company Red Hat Inc. and WR Grace & Co., maker of construction products and chemicals.

In January 2006, at the height of her moonlighting, Fox was a member of ten boards, including those of Boston Scientific Corp. and Pharmaceutical Product Development Inc.

"The real benefit is the university's profile is enhanced by board service by chancellors and presidents,” she told the Union-Tribune at the time.

According to data collected by Forbes magazine in 2013, Fox received compensation from Red Hat, including stock, of $265,080. W.R. Grace & Company paid her $180,035, and Bridgepoint provided $132,032.

Fox quit the Red Hat board last year.

In addition to her corporate activity, in 2014, the latest period for which data is available online from the University of California, Fox was paid $212,711 in her position as Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSD.

On February 9, former Bridgepoint executive filed a whistleblower suit in federal court alleging that the firm had cooked the books regarding student-retention rates.

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A strategic disclaimer from Bridgepoint to the SEC about ex-UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox's reasons for leaving their board. How do they get away with such whitewashing? When Bernie Sanders becomes President, academicians will be too embarrassed to feather their nests in this gross manner. (Maybe this marks the nadir of 35 years of national infatuation with "the business model" in every aspect of American life.)

Bridgepoint is a sleazy operation, so their "whitewashing" is not surprising at all. Like Corinthian Colleges, let's hope Bridgepoint is eventually shut down, and forced to pay huge fines. Those sub-par, for-profit colleges are basically criminal rackets, and have cost taxpayers $billions.

A more descriptive headline would be "Fox slinks out of Bridgepoint's den." She was the wiliest of all the chancellors at UCSD. There was no way that she was a full-time leader of the campus with all that board service. Greedy, greedy, greedy.

The problem is allowing all these private for profit educational institutions in the first place. Their mission is to make money not educate. The boards are made up of the lowest forms of capitalists bilking people out of money and selling them nothing that will do them any good in the real world. Fox is the lowest of the low lending her name to an worthless "college" while taking taxpayer money.

It might be worth noting that the lawsuit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law ended with a verdict in favor of the school. While the plaintiff wasn't the most sympathetic or one with a particularly strong case, I thought the proof of misleading stats was there, and in spades. But the jury disagreed, and she gets nuthin'.

According to reports in the New York Times and Rolling Stone (Matt Taibbi) over the last few years, the federal government actually makes money on student loans. One of the first things Obama did was cut out some of the middle men. They started busting college whose hard selling school where recruiters were on commission, which came with treble damages for hooking up student loans, further aggravated by the fact that were never likely to get paid off and there was less than nothing to repossess. Yet monkey business continues. It takes a house of mirrors approach to make the taxpayers keep paying for unworthy deals like that. There's no reason executives of public institutions shouldn't be required to open their tax return to at least a discreet review board. Their pay from the state is public record. So should their other associated benefits be, during and for a reasonable period after the revolving door stops.

The more that the system, whether it be academia, government in general, or research institutions, proclaims "transparency", the less transparent it becomes. People like Fox and Kosla should be severely limited in their outside commitments. They surely proclaimed how hard and long they toiled at their day jobs, yet found and find time for board service. Those boards probably have some members who are there for window dressing, but usually the working board members expect some real effort from the other board members. So, while that outside employment can be most lucrative, it still detracts from full-time effort in the main position. And this phenomenon is just part of the rot that afflicts so much of our economy, and adds to income disparity.

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