UC Riverside Chancellor Tim White goes incognito for CBS’ ‘Undercover Boss’
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On Sunday’s episode of “Undercover Boss,” the guy roaming the UC Riverside campus with the waxy black moustache and the wire-rimmed glasses might have a strangely familiar air.
That’s because he’s actually Tim White, the chancellor of the university.
For the CBS reality show that puts top executives in disguise alongside ordinary workers, White went incognito for a week earlier this spring as “Pete,” a visiting staffer from a private college who comes to Riverside as a teaching assistant and coach’s helper.
“It gave me an unobstructed opportunity to be part of the heartbeat of the campus,” White said in an interview.
It also gave him an opportunity to be out of sorts at times, as the episode shows him fumbling with tasks such as turning on an overhead projector.
“I was very concerned about being recognized,” White said. But the costume and makeup department did an effective job, he added. “I walked right next to people who I talk to on a weekly basis and sit down in my office with, and they didn’t even flinch.... If they ever had any thought that it might have been me, it was the earring that deterred them from that conclusion - this one little purple earring in my left ear.”
Fun as the stunt was, White says he had a serious aim in doing the show.
“The public universities here in California and across the nation are being squeezed financially for a variety of different reasons,” he said. “I thought if I could learn some things about our faculty and our students and our staff and the way that this place works that allows me to be a better chancellor during our tough times as well as in our good times, then why not take advantage of that?”
He even learned a few things, such as the necessity of buying more reserve books for the science library, so students who can’t afford textbooks can get in more study time.
Ah, but didn’t people realize something was up when they saw cameras following him around?
“There’s cameras on Southern California campuses all the time,” White explained. “So that wasn’t unusual.”
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-Scott Collins (twitter.com/scottcollinsLAT)
Photos, from top: Tim White in disguise as “Pete”; White without disguise. Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS.