On June 24, Denice Denton, chancellor at the University of California’s Santa Cruz campus, jumped 44 stories to her death from a San Francisco luxury high-rise apartment building where her lesbian companion, Gretchen Kalonji, lived. Denton was reportedly suffering from severe depression triggered by thyroid problems, and her suicide was a tragedy that was likely beyond her control.

But here’s the problem: Denton had been on the job for only 16 months when she jumped to her death. And according to the San Jose Mercury-News, her mental and physical problems surfaced soon after she took her $275,000-a year job in February 2005 as UC-Santa Cruz’s highest-ranking administrator and continued right up to her death, which occurred on a medical leave she had taken:

“Campus sources said the chancellor had disappeared from campus three times since arriving in February 2005, and had skipped official events with such regularity that they were not surprised when she didn’t show up at commencement exercises earlier this month.

“The first incident was about two weeks into her turbulent tenure, when Denton called her assistant in a panic from Yosemite National Park and said she couldn’t get home….

“Denton’s next extended absence occurred in November and December, when she disappeared for several weeks, the sources said. Campus officials trying to reach her were never given an explanation for the absence.”

Denton, formerly engineering dean at the University of Washingon, was also a focus of controversy, partly because UC-Santa Cruz had furnished her with some $600,000 worth of home improvements to the chancellor’s house before she moved in, including a $30,000 dog run–at a time when the cash-strapped campus was cutting its budget and putting off faculty raises.

Then came this revelation:

“The University of California created a $192,000-a-year job for the partner of the new UC Santa Cruz chancellor, a move that is being criticized by employee unions.

“Union officials representing staff at the 10-campus system say the move is a mistake at a time when the university is cutting budgets and raising fees.

“According to UC President Robert Dynes, Kalonji’s hiring was part of the recruitment package offered to Denton, her partner of seven years. Denton will start at UC Santa Cruz in February and will receive a salary of $275,000 and a moving allowance of $68,750.”

And then, this:

“Denton was also ensnared in the controversy that erupted last fall over revelations that UC executives were granted millions of dollars in bonuses, housing allowances and other perks without proper approval.

“An independent audit released in April found that Denton received a series of benefits in violation of UC policy, including a $21,000 moving allowance and a $16,000 signing bonus.”

What I wonder is this: How did a state-funded university come to hire a top administrator who clearly already had severe mental/physical problems that essentially rendered her unfit to perform her job (what’s college graduation, after all, without the CEO to hand out the diplomas?)? And not only did UC-Santa Cruz hire Denton; it was willing to break its own rules and engage in taxpayer-subsidized nepotism to do so. No wonder Kalonji could afford to live at San Francisco’s fanciest apartment address.

The answer, I fear, is that just weeks before she was hired, Denton publicly dissed former Harvard president Larry Summers for daring to say that men and women have different mental aptitudes:

“She took issue with his suggestion that women are less likely to achieve top professional positions than men because they are encumbered by child-rearing and family commitments…..

“Denton and other critics said that Summers played down the role of discrimination as a significant factor in preventing women from reaching the top and paid too much attention to unproven research into genetics and “‘aptitude.'”

And at a painfully politically correct campus like UC-Santa Cruz, Summers-bashing will land you a lucrative job with lucrative perks, even if you’re in no physical or mental state to perform it.