According to The San Francisco Chronicle, UCSF had to actually pass a policy to tell their faculty and administrators to limit their wine drinking to less than $75 dollars a bottle (or $15 dollars per glass). By the way, this just covers their medical department. Now, while college administrators are often known for being a little more upscale, this certainly takes the cake. Or not. Here in Texas, many may remember the case of former Texas State University Priscilla Slade who was accused of using university funds to lavishly maintain her home and entertain people. With a hung jury, she seems to have gotten lucky. But in her case, there was no mention of fancy wine dinners (as far as I can tell). Now, in the interest of disclosure, I have to point out that I am a wine drinker. I think my two readers, if they have been paying attention, probably know this. However, I am an academic librarian in a small state institution. I don't get paid enough to afford a $75 bottle of wine. Heck, if I were to take some work-related travel, and I bought a glass of wine during a dinner for $5 (using the campus allowance), it may just be enough to get the auditors after me. If I buy it myself, and I keep it off the receipt I turn in, it's ok. You have to love the rules of the bureacratic state machine. Anyhow, I rarely drink when I go out on professional travel, and if I do, it is on my dime (that way it is no one's business but my own). But I digress. The point is that I find it both mildly amusing and mildly irritating that a time when things are tight, educators have to be told to limit their drinking on their university's dime. So, let's look at the SF Chronicle article some more. Because this is the kind of stuff that falls under "I could not make this up if I wanted to." As usual, the snarky commentary is mine.
- "The maximum reimbursement: $75 per bottle of wine, or $15 per glass." Notice that $75 is actually the maximum reimbursement. They are not being chided for spending that amount; just telling them to keep it at that number or less.
- "There is no explicit limit placed on how many bottles of wine may be purchased for such occasions, according to documents obtained by The Chronicle." On the other hand, you can purchase cases of wine as long as you keep the cost per bottle to $75 or less. Here in Texas, you can go to one of the fine state wineries (no, I am not being snarky about the fine wines; Texas really does produce some excellent wine, but that is another post) and get plenty of good wine for a lot less. Plus you would be sponsoring the local industry and keeping the local economy working. I am sure in California, known for its wines around the world, they could come up with some good deal with some winery or two in Napa for higher education entertaining. Yes, I understand college presidents and administrators once in a while have to entertain certain guests (say, donors). I am thinking what better way to have a good glass of wine with that fancy meal than going local. Don't get me wrong. I am sure you can get expensive wine in California wineries, but I am also sure you can get something as good if not better for a more modest price. Besides, it is known that in blind taste tests, the cheap wine and the expensive wine are not really different.
- "Additionally, [Michael] Chen [ a senior finance manager in the Department of Medicine] stressed another new policy at UCSF: "No reimbursement from university funds is allowed for mixed drinks or hard liquor." So you can forget about that nice martini before dinner or the even nicer cognac afterwards, at least if you expect the college to pay for it. And let's not even go into cigars here. However, may I suggest that maybe Kentucky could make an exception so that bourbon can be an option? I have no idea how colleges in Kentucky handle the wine issue, but again, thinking about the local economy and all. By the way, I have done parts of the Bourbon Tour (the link I put just now), and it is worth it. I am going to try to do the rest this summer. Stay tuned.
- "'Those meals have a real business purpose. But that doesn't mean they have to be treated like a banker or a corporate executive,' he said. 'Coming to UCSF means being willing to be a part of a public institution and be proud of it. We want people who are passionate about the patient care and research that we do.'" The "he" is Mr. Chen. So, in other words, we are not bankers or AIG people, dang it, so act accordingly. Translation: you work for a public university, so bring your passion and sense of service, because we sure as heck are not going to pay you what you may actually be worth or what you likely would get in the private sector.