and so the chickens come home to roost

hot on the heels of last week’s election results, the deepening of california’s fiscal crisis, and the news that the cal grant program would likely be losing a lot of funding, comes the news that the california legislature wants to have some actual control over the uc system and its board of regents. to which i say, about damn time. now, i’m not a huge fan of the california legislature, most of whom couldn’t find their asses with both hands and a flashlight, but if an institution that fucked up can realize that the uc system is out of control, you know you’re in trouble:

The Senate and Assembly bills have Republican and Democratic co-sponsors who say they are fed up with what they call the exorbitant salaries and perks paid to UC executives at a time of budget crisis and the university’s resistance to public disclosure, feedback and accountability.

If approved by two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate, the proposed amendment would be put before the voters – its outcome decided by a simple majority vote.

As proposed, it would remove the autonomy of the UC Board of Regents and allow the Legislature to enact statutes affecting UC policy – similar to the Legislature’s oversight of the larger California State University system.

Even though the state provides funding to UC, the university’s president and governing Board of Regents have sole authority to conduct daily operations and set policies with limited public oversight.

the regents? they’re less enthused, obviously:

Richard Blum, a member of the Board of Regents, dismissed the value of the Legislature’s input.

“So are we led to believe that the state government being run in Sacramento is an example of how we’re going to make the university even better? I don’t think so,” Blum said. “The university is better run today under President Mark Yudof than any time in the recent past. …

“Our forefathers back in the 1860s had a great vision when they decided to make the University of California an independent land grant institution that was basically there to deliver the best public education for the students of our state,” Blum said. “The system has grown to where it is the envy of the world.”

He cited UC’s superior academic rankings, its national prominence as a research institution, and its accessibility to low-income students.

“The problem is that California has consistently underfunded the UC system,” Blum said. “If you look at it on a constant dollar basis, the amount of contribution for each student by the state has dropped in half and has been made up by us having to raise tuitions.”

now, Blum here does have a point – it’s not like the state government is doing a bang up job at the moment, or at any time in the recent past. but as i’ve pointed out before, it’s disingenuous for the Regents to blame all of this on the loss of state funding. has state support of UC dropped alarmingly in the past ten years? absolutely, and that’s something we should all be concerned about. but the Regents have done nothing to mitigate these problems except raise fees. this year they’ve also started talking about furloughs, cut backs, and salary reductions (although who, exactly, those will effect is not yet clear, my money says it won’t be the people at the top). at the same time, they’re paying administrators insanely high salaries.

i was talking this over with a friend the other night. we both attended UC schools, and we both work for UC now, so this is an important issue for us. in fact, we were discussing the fact that we’re damned glad we went to school when we did, because it would cost us nearly twice as much to be a student now. and of course we don’t want to lose our jobs, nor do we want to face salary reductions. but we’d feel a lot better about it if we somehow felt that the burden of this crisis was being shared equally. but how can you expect your employees or the taxpayers to support you when you blatantly tell them that the UC president is worth so much more than the average worker? because honestly, i’m not seeing it. has the system really gotten so much better in the past year? is Yudof really worth that $800K? the Regents talk a good game about needing the best and brightest to steer the ship, but what about the thousands of workers who make that ship run? if we can’t offer decent wages to the rank and file, how are we going to attract the best and brightest there? is it enough to have (allegedly) top of the line administrators if we can’t hire decent workers? or any workers – with staff and salary reductions, will we have anything left for the administrators to administrate? 

bottom line here, we’re in crisis at every level in this state. and that means sacrifices have to be made – by everyone. for the uc regents to completely disregard the people they supposedly serve – the ones who pay their salaries via tax dollars – is exactly the kind of arrogance that alienates people. you’d think with all that money they’ve allocated for marketing the university, they’d have figured out some simple PR measures.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said Tuesday that the UC regents and executives have been acting “absolutely above the law.”

“Enough is enough,” said Yee, a graduate of UC Berkeley and a frequent critic of those running the university system.

“Their arrogance and autocratic attitude has got to stop. This is a public institution, it’s not a private club for anyone. We’re leaving it to the regents to run the UC, but it ought to be responsive to the people and the state Legislature.”

damn straight.


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