Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Nature Post Mortem on the Scripps-USC deal and Faculty Rebellion

The journal Nature took a look this week at the vicissitudes at The Scripps Research Institute, including its now defunct, $600 million merger with USC as well as the Scripps faculty uprising.

The July 15 piece was written by Erika Check Hayden, who reported,
“Scripps faculty members…felt that the (USC) deal sold them short. In interviews, they noted Scripps’ coveted ocean-front location: La Jolla is one of the priciest zip codes in the United States. The $15-million annual payments over 40 years offered by USC would be the equivalent of a $250-million mortgage, they say. That would not even cover one year of the institute’s operating expenses, which were $400 million in 2013.
“’It didn’t make a lot of sense financially,’ (Scripps researcher Martin) Friedlander says  ‘You can’t ignore a $20-million deficit, but there are many other creative ways of addressing the financial shortfall. We certainly do not have our backs against the wall.’”
The nearly done deal with USC came about because of Scripps’ financial plight. The faculty took umbrage when they learned about it late in the game and called for the removal of President Michael Marletta. The deal then collapsed, and Scripps said it is going to look at unspecified alternatives.

Hayden has interviews with a number of folks, including both from within and without Scripps. She concluded,

“Marletta has said that he is seeking more donations for Scripps, but is disadvantaged by being a relatively recent arrival; he was chair of the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley, until 2010.
“’Philanthropy is about long-term relationships with your donors; it’s not something where you just turn the spigot and say, ‘OK, we’ll go out and raise a billion dollars’,’ says Salk president William Brody, who initiated his institute’s fund-raising campaign soon after arriving in 2009.
“Still, Brody and other observers say that Scripps should be able to find a way out of its current dilemma that does not involve dissolution or losing its independence.
“’If they can stick to their knitting and stay the course, they will be successful,’ Brody predicts.”

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