UCSD, which has traditionally enjoyed red-carpet treatment from local media, has encountered a bit of turbulence of late.
Word that the school has been the target of its own auditors' public safety critique, first noted here, was picked up by U-T San Diego.
The paper next ran a story about a lawsuit by Marc Olsson, a Kearny Mesa business owner, charging that the university is illegally withholding documents regarding private work done by its state-subsidized machine shops.
“The UC is basically in the manufacturing business and is competing with small machine shops in San Diego,” Olsson was quoted by the paper as saying. “This is a moneymaking exercise for them.”
On the other hand, plenty of good news for UCSD can be found over at the Voice of San Diego, the nonprofit news-and-opinion website chaired by La Jolla investor and onetime venture capitalist Ralph B. Woolley.
A longtime UCSD insider, Woolley was cofounder of its Connect technology transfer and local business-boosting initiative.
"The program began when R.B. 'Buzz' Woolley Jr. of Girard Capital, Robert Weaver of Deloitte Haskins and Sells, and Daniel Pegg of San Diego Economic Development, along with Mary Wolshock, [sic] vice chancellor of UCSD, contacted about 40 firms with the idea,” the Union-Tribune reported in 1989.
“More than 30 responded, Wolshok reports, with $75,000 in seed financing."
Woolley — once the husband of UCSD then-counsel Ann Parode, who after her divorce from the financier married the university's ex-chancellor Robert Dynes — later recruited Walshok to join the board of his Girard Foundation, where she is secretary and receives $5000 a year, according to the foundation's latest federal disclosure, filed this May.
The Girard Foundation contributed $32,000 to the Voice in 2013, according to the filing.
Connect was subsequently spun off into a private nonprofit, but Woolley and Walshok — associate vice chancellor for public programs and dean of extension at the university — remain on the board of its subsidiary, the Connect Foundation, according to the nonprofit's website.
Last year the parent group lobbied heavily at city hall against the so-called linkage fee for subsidized low-income housing, arguing that it would cause businesses to flee the city.
This week the Voice launched a series bemoaning the departure of high-tech and other outfits from San Diego to Texas and elsewhere — moves which, according to the Voice, "amplify the growing sense that the city and state aren’t friendly to business."
Walshok and UCSD Extension enjoy prominence on the Voice’s site through their appearance in a feature called "Partner Voices." Says the site: "These messages are paid for by the nonprofits themselves, or by local businesses or philanthropists who support their efforts. They are not products of Voice of San Diego's editorial staff."
UCSD’s section has featured a large portrait of Walshok headlined, "Why Mary Walshok Keeps Pushing to Make San Diego Smarter." An accompanying write-up adds that the UCSD dean has spent the past four decades "converting UC San Diego Extension into a cherished part of San Diego’s education scene."
How much has UCSD Extension paid to the Voice for the running praise of its administrator?
A June 11, 2014, letter from Voice vice president of advancement and engagement Mary Walter-Brown to UCSD was released after a public records act request made to the university this spring.
It says, “The Voice of San Diego office received $10,000 from UC San Diego Extension on December 17, 2013.”
An additional $10,000 was provided to the Voice in so-called in-kind services, according to another document released by the university.
Material run in Partner Voices, the document says, “will include a medley of stories provided by UC San Diego Extension. Content and photos may be updated twice a month."
Additionally, the invoice promised, "Current CEO, Scott Lewis or other VOSD staffer will speak to any UCSD class or group on the future of media."
On December 2, 2013, as the deal was being finalized, the Voice’s Walter-Brown emailed Walshok and Devries. "I just wanted to make sure that you saw our Q & A with [UCSD chancellor] Pradeep Khosla. We just posted it today."
On March 21 of this year, extension director of communications John Freeman emailed staff regarding the project.
"I met yesterday with Emily Tillson of Voice of San Diego, who introduced us to Sofie [Casillas]. She’s been hired by VoSD to write blog posts about Extension and what’s going on in your Areas of Study...people, courses, events, trends, etc....
"Sofie, who’s a recent SDSU Communications graduate, will write exclusively for VoSD’s new ‘Partner Voices’ section, which now includes Extension and SDG&E.”
“To that end, Sofie will conduct a sit-down interview here with Dean Walshok on Friday, April 4 (after Mary [Walshok] returns from Europe)….”
Walshok did not respond to a previous request regarding the documents furnished by the university.
Reached by phone today, a spokesman said Walshok was currently on vacation and not available for comment, but confirmed the terms of the agreement as provided by the documents. We've left a call for Woolley at the Girard Foundation seeking further details.