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Monday, August 10, 2020

Monday, August 10, 2020
That may be my worst title ever but it's an important point.  So here we go. 

Where are university budgets near the end of our bad policy summer?  In a bad place -- a worse place than seemed likely during the weeks of activist government from mid-March to mid-May. In this post, I'll discuss the national issue, describe a flawed university budget discourse that makes universities more vulnerable, and link this to the failure of today's mainstream Democrats to accept the economic role of government.

The federal CARES Act was signed on March 27th, and sent universities $14 billion of the $46.6 billion they'd requested (with half of that going directly to students). Having gotten 1/6th of their stated need, higher ed advocates placed their hopes in a follow-up HEROES Act passed the House on May 15th, which Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, sat on throughout the summer.  Thus the nation's schools and colleges planned for fall in a state of deep uncertainty and growing dread.

This past weekend, POTUS signed executive orders (mostly "memoranda") mandating supplemental unemployment benefits at $300 rather than CARES's $600 per week, with another $100 to come from the states. He extended student loan forbearance from September 30 to the end of the year.  Even if these orders go into effect, there are no provisions for supplemental funding for education at any level, including nothing for the K-12 systems that POTUS and his Department of Education secretary have been trying to bully into opening.  If the states are forced to pay part of the federal unemployment supplement, which some say they can't, that will mean even bigger state cuts to education.

The American Council on Education has a helpful summary of the current situation:

There are technically three bills under discussion in the COVID-19 emergency aid negotiations. The first bill is the HEROES Act written by House Democrats and approved by the full House two months ago. The second is the HEALS Act, which represents the ideas of Senate Republicans and the White House. Finally, the Coronavirus Childcare and Education Relief Act (CCCERA) is legislation introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) that reflects Senate Democrats' ideas about education spending in response to the pandemic. . . . The bills all include emergency aid for students and institutions, but the levels of funding proposed differ greatly. ACE has estimated that institutions have a total of $46.6 billion in increased student financial need and lost revenues, and will spend at least $73.8 billion on new expenditures to reopen in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While CCCERA provides a total of $132 billion to meet these needs, the $37 billion provided for higher education in HEROES and the $29 billion provided in HEALS fall far short. 

The federal bill that comes closest to meeting actual higher ed need--at $132 billion--has no chance of passing McConnell's Senate.

Republican control of key governing bodies has artificially induced massive state failure in suppressing SARS-CoV-2.  The U.S. has the worst Covid-19 suppression record in the wealthy world, and, by failing to build public health infrastructure (see Jeneen Interlandi's superb overview), will continue to inflict massive suffering, disparately along lines of race and class, in all of the areas where common life should offer equal treatment, including education.  The failure of public infrastructure is damaging the private economy that Republican-driven premature opening was trying to protect. Republican opposition to a new stimulus increases the odds of a new depression (see Hiltzik and Krugman for summaries). 

Operating on this familiar political landscape, it's hard for people to maintain transformative ambition.  I sketched one version at the end of April ("Our Converging Crises III"), which involved massive public spending for full Covid-19 suppression, full employment, and educational experimentation. The American self-conception is of a nation that leads the world into a better future. The reality, given our decrepit social infrastructure, is a vast majority focused entirely on getting by. 

The Real Covid Budget Crisis

The same is true in higher education. There's been no follow-up on the early burst of federal effort,  and higher ed is engaged in a new round of austerity, translated as operations cuts, layoffs, and program downsizing. The Cal State system threw in the towel early, announcing on May 12th that it would be all-online.  This was at a time when most administrations assumed Covid-19 would be well in hand by fall; Cal State's Chancellor Timothy White could see pretty clearly that they didn't have the extra billion they needed for testing, tracing, isolating, cleaning, tent classrooms, and the rest. Since then, reopening plans have gone into full reverse, including at wealthy private institutions like Princeton and Johns Hopkins whose core value is small-scale face-to-face learning.  

University of California campuses are quietly joining Cal State's closures on a case-by-case basis.  Berkeley announced all-online on July 21st.  The other semester campus, UC Merced, will open August 26th with an unspecified ratio of remote and in-person. Among quarter campuses, which start a month later, UCLA has dropped its in-person proportion from the 15-20% announced in June to 8%.  UCSB hasn't officially updated its mid-June description of fall quarter as "some face-to-face," but is heading toward basically closed. UC Irvine is keeping its students in the "most classes will start remotely" twilight zone.  All sorts of intensive planning is going on behind the scenes.  And so are planning for budget cuts when UC needs that same extra billion that Cal State needed to open safely.

Although dominated by liberal Democrats, the California state legislature put stable CSU and UC funding in the hands of Mitch McConnell at at time when he was already holding it hostage.  In the final state budget, UC will get a 5% increase over 2019-20 if and only if California gets $14 billion in federal stimulus.  If there's no stimulus, UC gets what UCOP calls an 8% cut from 2019-20.  

In addition, the permanent state budget is cut either way: the federal stimulus money will be treated as a one-time backfill on the state cut.  Even that was a bizarre combination of "augmentations totaling $212.9 million and reductions totaling $471.6 million." Rather than offering higher ed affirmation and stability during the pandemic, the legislature provided a changing combination of cuts and increases that, without an unlikely Senate backfill, gives UC and CSU a major cut.

How big a cut, actually?  The legislature reduced the state allocation for UC from $3.938 billion in 2019-20 to $3.466 billion in 2020-21.   This is a year-on-year reduction of 12.2%.  Its a Covid cut of a size that a red-state legislature could brag about.

It's worth remembering all the way back to November 2019, when The Regents requested an increase of $422.1M in overall state funding, which would have brought state general funding to $4.360B (see the slide here minus $25M for the Riverside School of Medicine).  Annual base cost increases at UC are a bit more than 5%, and since that's 5% on less than half the revenues of the core budget, which comes mostly from (long-frozen) tuition, 5% state increases put core funding further behind.  Campuses have tirelessly tried all sorts of revenue workarounds, mostly involving overenrollment coupled with non-resident student growth, but it hasn't worked. (For the resulting long-term austerity, see "Three Essential Charts"). On top of its rather brutalist history, the California legislature now proposes to cut UC by $903.5M from its November request--barring a McConnell conversion like Saul's on the road to Damascus. The is a cut of 20.7% from the Regents's November request.  

Remember too that even had that $903.5 million November increase been enacted, many campuses were projecting deficits in 2020-21 or the following year. That was not a luxury budget. To repeat: becasue of prior cuts by Govs. Schwarzenegger and Brown, years of tuition freezes, and sub-inflation state growth, the non-miracle state budget cut that now looks likely is a 20.7% cut from pre-Covid's home for UC semi-solvency.

This would be a disaster for UC (and CSU). And it's likely enough to be treated explicitly in plans for both budgeting and the University's political engagements.

Budget Idealism at the UC Regents

This brings is to the July 30th UC Regents meeting. The Regents have absolute authority over budgeting, revenue strategies like borrowing, as well as political advocacy. If alerted to a budgetary emergency, the Regents might be expected to instruct UCOP to mount a massive siege of Sacramento and Washington D.C., pulling in their contacts in the tech community as well as in national politics.  But UCOP's budget presentation (see the July 30 afternoon session at the bottom of this page), rather than rallying the Regents, kept the real dangers behind the curtain. And Regental behavior encouraged this concealment. 

UCOP presented the budget as in basically good shape.  Medical losses for March-June 2020 are $1.7 billon rather than the earlier projection of $2.8 billion.  UC Health VP Carrie Byington had already suggested that the med centers have learned so much about Covid treatment that they won't repeat spring's revenue losses during the current and future infection spikes. 

Undergrad enrollments are "looking very strong," in the words of associate budget VP David Alcocer (11'47"). He said the same was true of international enrollments, in spite of a very turbulent policy picture on top of Covid travel problems.  He basically claimed that enrollment targets would be hit no matter what. I'm also a bit of an optimist on enrollments because I'm a pessimist on the economy: even remote-college looks good compared to a nonexistent job market.  Polling data suggest we're both wrong, and that colleges should expect a growing enrollment melt.

The presentation noted that housing and dining revenues will be down, but UCOP did not quantify or tie these to different durations of Covid-related reductions. A bit later, UCLA chancellor Block offered some campus numbers, and in later questions a couple of Regents clarified that only single rooms will be offered in the fall, though without revenue numbers for system losses. New VP for Research and Innovation, Teresa Maldonado, gave a candid appraisal of major disruption to research, UC's distinguishing educational activity. She was particularly direct on the damage to women and early-career researchers. But this remained a matter of delayed research progress more than a fiscal crisis.

The presentation of the state budget was a delicate matter (starting around 7'40"; I'm not following UCOP slide order). Alcocer explained the numbers in the slide below (they are different from my calculations above). He noted that the final July budget has a better upside than the May Revise and a smaller potential downside. 

He then went on to explain his right-hand column. He noted that "there's a lot of uncertainty here" because the range of outcomes is nearly half a billion dollars, or 5% of the core budget (9'20").  I can attest that the  uncertainty has created in campus planning a somewhat toxic mixture of paralysis, wishful thinking, gloom, and fatalism about cuts. Uncertainty is actually encouraging austerity by making the early stages seem very mild.  

But Alcocer's statement about uncertainty incurred an interruption from Chair John Pérez, who said, 

I just want to push back on the way we characterize this uncertainty. And here's why. The way this reads to me, in simple terms, is "uncertainty is bad, and smaller uncertainty is better than greater uncertainty." When in fact the final budget, in both the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario, are better for the University, than the May Revise. . .  "Uncertainty" is inherently a bad term, so if we want to look at "range"--some other way to characterize it--because we don't want a negative connotation to the spread we see in the final budget, when in fact it serves us better than the May Revise does."

This intervention forced Alcocer to repeat what he had said two minutes before, which was that the upside was better in July than in May. It suggested to me that Pérez has no idea how uncertainty is weakening the campuses. It also suggested that he would not tolerate university officials criticizing the state legislature in even a polite and indirect way. Any campaign to get a reliably flat budget from the state (not conditioned on McConnell's conversion to St. Mitch), or an increased budget that could cover Covid costs, would never get off the drawing board under Pérez.

The misty aura of fiscal stability was punctured only by Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ, who projected a $340M deficit through fiscal 2021 (or more than ten percent of the campus's $3 billion or so in annual revenues).  She read a version of her administration's July 15th statement, and stressed the dependence of the campus on tuition and state revenues. She stated that the latter were $100M below their 2008 level even though the campus enrolls 8200 more students today.  

If the Regents had paused to take that in, they'd get a glimpse of the system's deep structural woes. Berkeley is historically wealthier per student than any campus except UCLA, so a responsible Board might wonder what its woes say about the rest of the system.  This was the only time in living memory that a Berkeley chancellor has said point blank that privatization doesn't work and thus we need good state support. Actually Christ didn't say that, but she came closer than ever before to noting that the problem isn't just Covid but a flawed business model in which the University has let state funding massively decline.

Later, as Alcocer was about to move to UCLA chancellor Block for a campus view of losses in auxiliaries, Board chair Pérez interrupted to complain about how long the budget presentations were taking.  "This was identified as a thirty minute discussion. . . . when an item is 30 minutes, the presentation is no more than half of that. We've now exceeded 35 minutes, before we've gotten a single Regent engaged in discussion." (32'30"). The obvious remedy would be to allocate more than a half-hour to analyzing what may be most important fiscal crisis in the University's history.  The time overrun was entirely due to letting three chancellors say a few words about their campus finances outside of the UCOP PowerPoint story.  Things got even more rushed after that--and even more superficial.  

In questions, terribly delayed to minute 38, Regent Makarichian performed his solo role of asking for budget numbers, and guessed at overall losses by adding some numbers in his head.  Pérez instructed CFO Brostrom to have those figures in the September meeting. I know Brostrom had versions he could have produced then, but who would dare try the Pérezian patience by pulling up another slide?  

In the meantime, UC is covering its losses with borrowing. It floated a bond for $2.8 billion in July, with $1.5 billion in "working capital" and the rest for capital projects. (UC debt has doubled in a decade from around $10 billion in 2009-10  to $24.6 billion in 2018-19). The budget discussion ended with a hopeful wait-and-see good-case scenario which, as I've said, is translated on the campuses as cuts.  

A Plausible Scenario for 2020-21

The Office of the President and the campuses are all doing projections, so I'm going to adjust some internal UC numbers to draft a plausible negative scenario.  This is not a good case, but it's not a worst-case: for example, I optimistically assume that students who can enroll do enroll, and that all are willing to pay full tuition for mostly remote instruction.  The nicer scenarios assume a return to mostly-normal after the fall term. Based on our country's failed-state approach to Covid suppression, I assume that full fall impacts last through the end of Spring 2021.  I use the governor's January budget as a base for state funding, which was $220M less than the Regents' November budget.

The assumptions:

  • Tuition: full undergraduate enrollment.  Though 75% of admitted international students do not enroll, many are replaced by domestic non-resident and resident students. Waitlists and "appeal" lists are liberally used, maintaining overall totals.
  • Housing is converted to singles, and dining does not return to normal, costing campuses 70% of normal revenues.
  • Grad student enrollment. This falls 15%, slowing research, but it has little impact on revenues as campuses simply eliminate sections as necessary in remote courses, while canceled grad seminars free up some faculty to teach more undergraduates.
  • Research continues to be affected by outbreaks made worse by shortages of tracing and isolation programs.
  • Philanthropy is reduced by renewed turbulence in the markets, as is UC investment income.
  • Medical center and clinical revenues recover from spring 2020 levels but don't get back to normal.
  • The Republicans block higher ed stimulus funding in the Senate. Although the Democrats win back the Senate in November, President Biden wishes to govern from the center, and decides not to antagonize the 48 remaining Republicans by giving too much help to education.  Like public universities everywhere,UC goes to its lower permanent state funding base.
Here's a rough estimate of what this would look like by standard budget category.

Scenario B

Budget Category

Decline $Millions

Negative % Change

2020-21 Base



Student Tuition and Fees



Auxiliary Enterprises



Research Contracts & Grants



Philanthropy & Investment Income



Medical Centers



Educational Activities (esp Clinical Rev)



State General Fund Appropriation



Total Losses



Projected 2020-21 UC Revenues



Scenario B is a decent guess at one possible program for 2020-21: 17% revenue declines for the UC system overall, and 12% or so for the educational core.  Cuts like these would cause major damage to teaching and research, and of course prevent meaningful Covid-19 suppression.  If two things happen, first, Covid illness persists for several years, as some medical officials predict, and second, U.S. politics allows economic decline, then UC, like other universities, will be permanently downgraded.

The Governance Problem

The Republicans are obviously the biggest problem, but so are Democrats and their governing boards.  The Republican donor base sees government as a potentially victorious competitor to business and finance in economic management (through equitable tax policy and regulation but also better social infrastructure and more productive investment).  Weak government has enabled today's "plutonomy." Republican politicians logically oppose programs that will make government useful, effective, and popular and thus empower their direct rival.

But Democrats are also a problem when they reject both strong and weak Keynesianism.  In the strong version, public agencies spend massively to reconstruct society on the principle of equal treatment. This would fund a Green New Deal in which, for example, some of our tens of millions of unemployed people would be paid by the government to insulate the country's housing stock, starting with those owned by low-income people. I pointed towards this kind of spending in an April post.  Let's call it democratic-socialist Keynesianism, Sanders and AOC-style.  

There's also weak Keynesianism, a very useful combination of FDR and LBJ, in which public agencies spend massive amounts to keep an unjust and unequal status quo economy from imploding.  That would include the common-sense goal of keeping the education sector from shedding employees into a non-functional economy by giving schools and colleges stable funding. It would include the UK policy--enacted by the Conservative government--of covering 80% of the salary of laid-off employees so they can be furloughed rather than fired.  

Mainstream Democrats don't exactly oppose this kind of thing. But they don't promote it as their bread and butter. They also don't clearly expose the urgent need for it, or encourage others to expose it. At times, liberal Democrats like John Pérez actively block the creation of a budgetary need for weak Keynesian spending by preventing the open declaration of a budgetary problem. 

The current UC Board of Regents is chaired by the former Democrat Speaker of the Assembly. It includes the Democrat Lt.Governor, the husband of California's senior U.S. senator, and several former or current members of two Democratic governors' immediate office. It also boasts several wealthy and prominent Hollywood liberals.  There is really no reason for this group not to activate itself in centrist Keynesian fashion. They would then create an urgent obligation on the part of the state to sustain its educational workforce, infrastructure, and student population, whose lives are currently set to be permanently damaged by the Covid depression. 

I don't understand the complacency that demands the current UC budgetary vagueness in which nothing is true and everything is possible, until the only possibility becomes austerity. It feels like proleptic excuse making--"we didn't fail to act, because we didn't know." I don't understand the lack of ambition, even the bare ambition to keep the rising generation whole. We can obviously do that, but it will take much clearer budget work at the level of senior management and governing boards.  It will take boards willing to support unprecedented mobilizations of political will for higher education, or at least willing not to block them,

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

by Amie Campos, PhD Candidate, History 

Simeon Man, Associate Professor, History 

Rihan Yeh, Associate Professor, Anthropology 

On the morning of June 15th, approximately 200 Housing, Dining, and Hospitality workers at UC San Diego were given notices of “temporary layoffs.” Those who were at work that day were instructed by management to meet at a cafeteria, with a promise of free lunch. Citing a 90% drop in students on campus, management told the majority-Spanish-speaking workforce - via a management-appointed translator - that they would be laid off for the rest of the summer. They were handed some information, including a sheet on how to apply for unemployment, and dismissed with written assurances that they would be returned to their jobs in early September. Lunch, unsurprisingly, was never served.

This move came just two weeks after Chancellor Pradeep Khosla’s to the university community denouncing the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — a message that included a promise of “doing what can be done within our institution to make sure everyone feels that they belong and that they matter.” This juxtaposition reveals the unwillingness of the university to put its money where its mouth is. It has chosen a path that leaves 200 workers and their families, from low-income communities of color disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, without income for at least 2 months.

In a public statement regarding this mass firing, the university characterized the layoffs as inevitable. We should not be misled into accepting this austerity narrative. AFSCME, the union representing the majority of the affected workers, released its research findings based on publicly-available UC financial statements on May 18th. This report showed that the UC system can leverage its vast resources and stellar credit standing to lead California’s economic recovery by maintaining employment for its 227,000 workers rather than pursuing cuts. UCOP has not refuted AFSCME’s claims about usable reserves. Further undermining the austerity narrative,

the university advertised temporary positions in dining services following the layoffs. At the May 20 Regents meeting on “Projected COVID-19 Impact on 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 Revenue,” UC’s Chief Financial Officer Paul Jenny also presented a variety of options for weathering the COVID-19 financial storm, including dipping into the endowment’s unrestricted funds and applying for low-interest federal loans through the CARES Act at different campuses.

Without evidence that the University will face financial hardship if it does not enact layoffs, UCSD affiliates should not accept the administration’s chosen course. Dining service workers have an average annual salary of $41,000 -- well below San Diego County’s Area Median Income (AMI). While significant for workers, a two-month layoff has a negligible effect on UCSD’s overall budget. Chancellor Khosla, whose gross salary in 2018 was $477,384, has taken just a 10% pay cut, and the University continues to employ over 600 people whose regular payexceeds $200,000.

UCSD’s treatment of its workers also exposes the dangerous assumptions and inequities embedded in its much-publicized “Return to Learn” program. The majority of laid-off workers have been working on campus on rotating shifts throughout the pandemic, serving students who could not leave and staff who could not work from home. Yet since the university began its ambitious pilot plan in May to test all students on campus prior to the official start of “Return to Learn” in the fall quarter, UCSD has not offered its workers ample opportunities for free testing, nor has it provided them with adequate PPE or regular COVID-related training. Many workers have had to take precautionary measures themselves, in the absence of clear protocols or guidelines from supervisors, and have for months been worried about being exposed to the virus on campus and bringing it home to their families. The university’s demonstrated disregard for the health and well-being of its essential workers underscores the view that they are disposable and not part of the “campus community” deemed worthy of protection. This casts further doubt that the university will ensure the safety of other campus workers including students, and faculty as the “Return to Learn” program ramps up.

The effects of these decisions will reinforce existing racial and gender inequalities at UCSD and fly in the face of ongoing organizing by students, faculty, and staff, who demand that administrators address the institution’s own anti-Black, anti-Latinx, and anti-Indigenous realities. A 15-page list of demands issued by the Black Student Union (BSU) on June 22nd, which objects to these layoffs and calls for the defunding of the campus police, is one important example. Another is an op-ed published on July 4th by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS Local 94) titled “We Will Not ‘Return to Earn.’”

We reject the University’s plan to wait until early September to return laid-off workers to campus when they will have to scramble to meet the needs of arriving students. We view the plan as part of a flimsy and unethical strategy of UCSD administration hedging its bets to collect housing deposits from students who are promised a safe campus opening in the fall despite rapidly rising infection rates, while keeping labor costs down and reneging on its rehiring promise in the event that “Return to Learn” is unfeasible.

UCSD must reverse these layoffs, especially given Covid-19's trajectory and disproportionate impact on communities of color in San Diego. The close to 200 Housing and Dining workers and their families are invaluable members of the campus community and should be treated as such. UCSD is a major employer in the San Diego region that holds the livelihoods of many people in its hands. As a research institution, medical center, and major hospital, UCSD depends on labor provided by communities in San Diego, including low-income communities that have served as sites of clinical training, research, and experimentation for UCSD researchers. Reinstating these workers will be a small step in repairing the extractive relationships on which UCSD’s reputation as one of the nation’s top research institutions depend.

How you can support HDH workers: We call on the university to reverse the layoffs. In the meantime, donations can be made to UCSD Mutual Aid’s gofundme page in order to support workers facing financial difficulties. Chancellor Khosla’s office can be reached at 858-534-3135.

A Spanish language version of this piece is here

UCSD North Campus: Photo Credit  Erik Jepsen, Triton May 16, 2019


Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Monday, July 6, 2020

Monday, July 6, 2020
California is a state with nearly 40 million people (bigger than Canada and Poland, smaller than Algeria and Spain). It had a 2019 Gross State Product of around $3.2 trillion (bigger than India, Great Britain and France, smaller than Germany and Japan).  It has ten research universities with the letters "UC" in front of their place names. Each of those ten universities has a president, though the ten call this president a "chancellor."   Tomorrow, July 7th, the UC Board of Regents will announce their selection for UC president, a kind of president of presidents.  What functions might this new person perform  to avoid being superfluous, or worse, a conduit of oligarchic state policy into the university?

A few come to mind, moving from specific to general. The new president should:

1. Get separate state and federal funding for full Covid-19 mitigation. After two decades of austerity budgets, March-June 2020 losses of  $1.8 billion, and a likely 7 percent cut from the state legislature for 2020-21 (p 43), UC doesn't have the money to open campuses safely. Continuous testing alone could cost around $1 billion a year.  The many other needed changes  would pile costs on top of that.  UC campuses may eventually decide to put fall term (almost) entirely online (they will need to comply with today's ICE rule that international students in all-online programs cannot stay in the United States).  But they shouldn't have the program decision forced by sheer lack of funds for testing, tracing, isolating, and temporary facilities.  The new president will need to seek special Covid-19 funding for at least the two-year period 2020-22.

2. Undo top-down governance.  President Richard Atkinson (1995-2003) was not an organizational democrat, but UCOP rule-giving used to be balanced by new-program funding and distinctive UCOP expertise.  The latter was long ago duplicated on the campuses, and UCOP no longer supports growth or quality upgrades: the underdeveloped Merced campus is Exhibit A, the Riverside campus's medical facility is Exhibit B . . . UCOP never asks the state for enough money to cover the actual costs of combining full access with high quality. Several years of underfunded enrollment increases--the "surge" that President Napolitano negotiated with Jerry Brown and state government--caused serious damage to education on the campuses, but this news, which I and others still regularly try to convey in meetings with UCOP officials, has yet to be received.  Although they are removed from the everyday struggles of the campuses, UCOP monopolizes the University's public image as well as its governmental and financial policy.  Campuses spend quite a bit of time conveying basic information up the chain, with apparently limited success.  The next president will need to restore campus confidence in UCOP's ability to formulate policy that reflects campus needs, rather than trim campuses to fit state policy.

3. Fix the broken funding model.  In the coming years, the University of California needs to do a lot of things: increase racial diversity and equality of outcomes, expand STEM research, fully support social and cultural research, improve undergraduate learning, increase doctoral student pay to relieve rent burden, rebuild a deteriorating physical plant, reverse the adjuncting drift, and close employee pay gaps.  But UC doesn't have the money to do these things. The reason is that the half-privatized funding model doesn't work, and never did.  The only way to make up for low state funding is with massive, unacceptable tuition increases.  The only way to freeze or cut tuition is to increase public funding.  I've written volumes about this, with abundant data, but proof lies not only in the financial critique of privatization but in the policy of the privatizers themselves. The "compact" with UC and CSU devised by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his first finance director, Donna Arduin, cut state funding increases to 2-3 percent per year. But even they knew that neither UC nor CSU could live on that, so the compact required tuition increases of 7-10 percent per year.  Those folks didn't care about UC greatness, but they understood that if they held state funding growth to inflation then UC would need in-state tuition of around $20,000 by this year to keep the place afloat. Today, UC gets about 40 percent per student of its 2001-02 funding, had that kept up with enrollment and state income growth. The next president needs to rebuild the public funding model, not do extend and pretend with the current semi-privatized hybrid. This person will also need to explain that politicians who underfund  public universities are politicians who advance systemic racism.

4. Redefine university education around nonmonetary goals.  A college degree should lead to employment at good wages, but this is the only thing college presidents and politicians have been selling lately.   Economists and policymakers also fixatee on college's impact on upward mobility, which is another version of wage gains.  There are two problems with this.  First, private monetary effects are only a portion of higher ed's total effects, which are mostly social or nonmonetary or both. (Nonmonetary benefits include analytical skill, research findings, and dozens of others.)  So colleges hide most of their benefits behind a rhetorical invisibility cloak, and speak only of money all the time.  Second, the money payoff has never been more uncertain in the postwar era than it is today.  Net monetary gains have become harder and riskier as the cost of a degree goes up and automation and the gig economy chew into the white-collar vocations that seemed impregnable as recently as the 1990s.  Recall Robert Reich's "symbolic-analysts" inheriting the earth, then read Scott Timberg for a good overview of the 2010s in his book subtitled "the killing of the creative class."
The current economy weakens higher ed's financial arguments, but the next president should see this as an opportunity to take the PR eggs out of a shrinking basket, and educate everyone on the non-monetary and social benefits of universities.  The latter are more exciting and gratifying than wages alone, but more to the point, they are more durable in our post-knowledge economy in which universities are building a post-middle class.

Overall, I'm perhaps most sad about how hard it has been for UC folks to feel excited about and confident in the university's future.  Recent presidents have modeled a diminished realism, which has meant accepting less and learning the austerity mindset.  This is obviously at odds with the state and country's self-image as heroic leaders of technological and social progress, but who notices the contradiction anymore?  The Regents further demoralized the UC community by kicking everyone except themselves out of the search process, and making the selection of the next president an expression of their sole ownership of the University.  Then Covid-19 came along, and the immediate reflex was to start planning for cuts. With rare exceptions, administrators did not resist, even for a few days. It's obvious to me that the university, the state, and the country can only spend its way out of this crisis, and that we should spend massively on the things we want, like environmental sustainability, intellectual progress, and social justice. Universities should be central articulators of the solutions.  Do we have it in us? We've spent years just trying to hang on financially while ignoring the stupid slings and arrows politically.  Can we still go really big?  UC needs a president that wants a major role for universities in maximalist social reconstruction-- and will learn from the people of the university how to enable it.

UPDATE JULY 7: My first reaction to the widely-expected announcement that Michael Drake is coming back to UC as president is total relief.  He's an academic. He's an educator. He's a good administrator. He knows how UC works.  He will not require basic education--quite the opposite. He'll be the first president of color of a university whose student body is 27 percent white.   He is  certainly capable of doing the things listed above.

Two other things.  During the financial crisis of 2007-2011, when he was serving as Irvine's chancellor, he told the regents more of the truth about quality decline on campus than did any other officials. In March 2011, he told the Board that "faculty members now spend a great deal of time mitigating damage caused by cuts rather than building for the future. He described the situation of the University as one of slow decay rather than growth. Most effort is focused on protecting the educational path for students; innovation and growth are not being fostered."  He fudged it a bit, and said UC was going from A+ to A, but his statements of struggle and slow decline was a pointed heresy in a rigid, formulaic governing system. It got the regents to pay more attention to the chancellors.

On the other hand, Drake gave up on public funding in the 2000s. He may continue to think, as I wrote at the time, that "the budget shortfalls can be handled with regrettable but nonetheless manageable layoffs that have already taken place. The non-UC reader would think, well they’re tightening their belts and fixing their IT problems and we’ll end up with a UC that gets an A for only $2.5 billion in state funds. There is no screaming on our end that says no it cannot be this way and also no it need not be this way."

Michael Drake is an historic appointment--of a continuity candidate, in a time when continuity won't work, in the minimal sense of keeping UC solvent with an intact workforce.  If he is going to rebuild UC for the future, by doing those things listed above, he will need help and also pressure from faculty, staff, and students beyond anything that has been offered up before. Lots of work to do.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 2

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday, June 28, 2020
Answer: when students of color get access to and are included in a university that has become inferior to that built for whites.

This can happen across universities, or across campuses in a university system, or across disciplines on a campus, or across time in one university.  Victories for access don't take care of the problem of unequal educational treatment.

This isn't to belittle this month's access victories.

First, the University of California Board of Regents voted to phase out the SAT in admissions.  This will push UC and others towards the holistic, qualitative assessment of candidates that they should have been practicing since the Bakke decision of 1978.  It's true that the Academic Senate's report suggests this isn't a magic bullet for increasing the presence of underrepresented minority (URM) students. It's also true that the decision was not good for faculty governance (see John Douglass's new paper on both points). All I'll note here is that the SAT is not just a test. It's an ideology, one that has consistently and wrongly claimed that racial inclusion lowers academic quality.  Politicians have used SAT scores to make whites think that widening access victimizes them.  It has been a technology of racial resentment that has helped unmake the public university. (See chapters 3-7 in my book of that name for an extended discussion of the structural racism of what I called rank meritocracy, featuring 1990s Gov. Pete Wilson's use of SAT scores to induce the UC Regents to ban affirmative action.)  The SAT's suspension is a real victory for cross-racial access.

The same can be said of the temporary reprieve for the DACA program won by a UC lawsuit.  UC president Janet Napolitano and Board of Regents chair John Pérez noted that UC would continue to fight for full access to UC and to financial aid, legal services, and other support systems for undocumented students brought to the US as children.  
Such actions “expressed the desire of those of us in California to make sure that we expanded opportunity and worked towards broad-based immigration reform as well,” Pérez said.  And so I think it would be no surprise to anybody that this university is going to continue to commit itself to representing the interest of all our students."
This is another access victory, which universities will need to work to sustain.

And yet access raises the question, access to what? What is the university that Napolitano and Pérez, as those most responsible for UC's finances, offer access to?

In brief, they offer today's students access to an underfunded UC.  Today's increased proportion of undocumented, first generation, low-income, immigrant, and URM students have fewer educational and related resources than did the cohorts that came before.

I documented this in a recent post.  Even after today's students pay a multiple of the tuition paid by students twenty years ago, their UC of 2020 has sixty percent of the net per-student funding compared to that earlier UC.  I noted that Pérez, as Assembly Speaker, was a leading enforcer of this austerity.

But is this negative funding pattern a racial pattern? We can check by comparing the share of white students at UC to the share of state income the government allocates to the university. 

The state's politicians have defunded UC in the exact proportion of its decline in white student share.

This is not a coordinated intention, but it has happened anyway. White enrollment and funding go down hand in hand--except when funding goes down faster during major economic downturns. Republican and Democratic leaders give diverse UC less money than they gave a comparatively white UC. This is what racist inclusion looks like.

Higher ed funding expresses systemic racism, even as most members of college communities oppose it.  We've seen the national pattern of "separate but unequal" in which most new white students go to selective colleges while most new students of color go to open access colleges--which have less money and lower graduation rates. We've seen the UC campuses with higher shares of students of color get less funding from UCOP. ("Rebenching" did not fully fix this).  In our UC system case, we see California state leaders--including leaders of racialized, educationally underserved communities--coming up with excuses, year after year, to fund UC in inverse proportion to its diversity. 

One can be consciously anti-racist while supporting systemic racism.  This is a pattern in U.S. political life. The pattern is top-down austerity management for institutions devoted to racial equality and related forms of social justice.  While politicians of both major parties have deregulated and de-taxed the private sector, they have applied austerity to public institutions, which offer reduced quality of service to populations that are often minority-majority.

The historian Elizabeth Hinton recently outlined the longer-term pattern:
President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized the role police brutality and socioeconomic inequality played in urban uprisings when he convened the Kerner Commission in 1967. Its report warned that if American political and economic institutions failed to commit resources “sufficient to make a dramatic, visible impact on life in the urban ghetto,” the nation would become increasingly divided along racial lines and plagued by inequality — a “spiral” of segregation, violence and police force.
Though the Kerner Commission and much subsequent research created "blueprints" for changing the “socioeconomic conditions that led to [George] Floyd’s premature death,” these research blueprints were never implemented.
The tragedy of the war on poverty is that the promise of grass-roots empowerment and representation was not sustained on a wider level, or for entire communities, but only for individuals. While remnants of critical reforms are still with us, like the Head Start program, on the whole policymakers at all levels believed “maximum feasible participation” worked against their self-interest. By 1965, as many promising grass-roots initiatives began to receive the initial [Office of Economic Opportunity] grants, they were required to design programs with public officials and municipal authorities in top-level positions. Soon after, policymakers defunded and dissolved anti-poverty programs.

UC isn't being dissolved.  But it is being steadily defunded.  Napolitano and her OP, Pérez and his regents, aren't openly opposing the most likely scenario for the state portion of UC's 2020-21 budget--a net 7 percent cut from 2019-20's level, or -$260.8 million. This cut to the permanent budget would happen in a year when Covid-19 health and safety could add at least $1 billion to the system's costs.

The long defunding has reduced the power and vitality of UC grassroots--for example, of the academic departments with a fraction of their former funding for speakers and internal research, which now depend on the accident of private donations. Similarly, UC's equivalent of anti-poverty programs--for students facing food insecurity, housing insecurity, and mental health issues--are also funded at a fraction of estimated need.

Replicating the other key post-Kerner retrenchment, UC governance is more top-down than ever.    On the important matter of selecting the new president, the Board excluded the Academic Advisory Committee from basic participation in the search for the new president: even its Chair was not allowed to attend selection committee meetings. UCOP treated the UCSC wildcat COLA strike as a breach of contract discipline rather than as a desperate attempt to communicate basic needs. Participants still face disciplinary charges at Santa Cruz in spite of faculty objections. The Board of Regents remain literally inaccessible to faculty, who may not address the Board except through the president (Standing Order 105.2(e)).

Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Janet Napolitano, John Pérez, and their legislative comrades have replicated in higher ed the strategy that 1960s politicians applied  to cities after Black uprisings against police violence and racist underdevelopment.  They have expressed support for their developmentalist institutions while taking money and power out of them.  Of course the social damage done by underfunding public services for Black and other communities has been far greater than that wrought by underfunding of public universities.  But the practices are analogous.

The public university funding model is broken--and racist.  More inclusion as such won't fix that. Funding parity will fix it.  That means the 66 Dollar Fix or some similar Covid-era stimulus funding that gets per-student resources to the benchmark established for white UC.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 2

Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday, June 12, 2020
A newly formed group, the DIVEST/ INVEST UCLA Faculty Collective, submitted a letter to the Chancellor of UCLA today demanding immediate divestment from all police and law enforcement agencies. This letter was signed by the 33 members of the collective and is co-signed by 214 other faculty.

The Divestment Now Demands letter urges Chancellor Gene Block to commit immediately to “end [UCLA’s] relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department and other county, state, and federal police departments and security agencies, including but not limited to the LA Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Monica Police Department, Department of Homeland Security, and ICE.”

It also demands that UCLA defund UCPD and “replace it with anti-carceral forms of accountability, including restorative and transformative justice and community-led public safety.”

This letter stands in support of demands for action put forward by Black students and Black faculty at UCLA. Professor Kelly Lytle Hernández, Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA and a member of the DIVEST/ INVEST UCLA Faculty Collective stated: “The uprising for Black life is knocking on UCLA’s door and it has yet to answer.” She urged UCLA leadership to “meet the historic opportunity for systemic change by divesting from white supremacy and investing in Black life.”

The DIVEST/INVEST UCLA Faculty Collective is made up of faculty who played a key role in exposing LAPD’s recent use of UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium as a field jail for detaining protesters and processing arrests. When faculty wrote to UCLA leadership in protest, UCLA leadership initially claimed to have had no knowledge of LAPD’s use of the stadium, only to acknowledge later that they did know that it was to be used as a “staging area,” though not as a field jail. In the Divestment Now Demands letter, UCLA faculty insist that UCLA take accountability for having aided the field jail and point out that “as long as UCLA collaborates with LAPD and other police forces, it is complicit in, and bears responsibility for, police brutality and racialized state violence.”

Joining a UC-wide and national movement, the UCLA faculty call for the university to step up to the moment and commit to abolition as part of its commitments as a public university. This includes reinvesting the university’s resources toward research and teaching, especially in the areas of racial justice, supporting Black students, faculty, staff, and workers at UCLA, as well as the Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities impacted by police violence.

Sarah Haley, (203) 675-3653, sahaley@gmail.com
Ananya Roy, (510) 316-7731, ananyaucla@gmail.com

Photo Credit: Courthouse News

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 3

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thursday, June 4, 2020

TO: Chancellor Gene D. Block, UCLA
 Executive Vice-Chancellor & Provost Emily Carter
Vice Chancellor Michael Beck
Vice Chancellor Jerry Kang

We write in response to your “Violation of Values” Bruinpost of June 3, 2020, regarding LAPD’s use of the Jackie Robinson Stadium as a field jail. We are glad to see that our efforts at shining a light on this incident have led UCLA leadership to reflect on the university’s active collaboration with LAPD including through the use of UCLA facilities by LAPD. We look forward to concrete next steps to ensure the “commitment to equity, diversity, respect and justice” that you foreground in your letter.

But as we noted in our letter of June 3, 2020, it is difficult for us to have confidence in these next steps without knowledge of the full truth. Last evening, the Los Angeles Times published the following: “The LAPD said in a statement late Wednesday that it created a command post in the stadium parking lot on Sunday in preparation for planned demonstration in Westwood the following day. It said the facility had been used ‘for previous city emergencies and was obtained with the approval of the staff’ of UCLA.” We immediately wrote to VC Beck expressing concern that this very disturbing fact had been omitted from his multiple communications with us, despite our request for a full and public accounting of the decisions, permissions, and agreements that enabled the use of the Jackie Robinson Stadium as a field jail.

We include VC Beck’s reply to Professor Roy in its entirety so as to not misrepresent it: “Thank you for sharing your increased frustration in this situation. As I indicated in my earlier email to you today, the letter to you and the other faculty members last night was intended to deal directly with the issue that you raised and social media was questioning with regard to the use of the stadium parking lot as a “field jail.” It was never my intend to mislead you or others by excluding the information with regard to the site being used for a staging area. We have a BruinPost that should be going out any minute, which clearly states that we were aware that the site was being used as a staging site for the LAPD command post as it has been used many times in the past. We acknowledge that such use in this situation was inappropriate and apologize for not being more sensitive to this reality. It is important to clarify a point in the article below, which is that LAPD did not request the use of the property from UCLA. They requested authorization from the VA directly. In the end that is less important since we became aware of the staging site on Monday. In addition, as is customary in the efforts to coordinate with mutual aid police agencies, we had a Lieutenant at the command post during the protest. The lieutenant left prior to LAPD deciding to, without our knowledge or permission, convert the site to a field processing center later in the evening and he was unaware of that use when he left. The LAPD has acknowledge [stet] that they did not tell UCLA that they were going to use the property for processing of arrestees. I am happy to answer other questions so that the record is clear." 

If earlier we were both incredulous and alarmed that you had no knowledge of the field jail, given its scale, scope, and duration, now we are even more incredulous and alarmed. We are incredulous because none of us as faculty would accept from our students the line of argumentation that VC Beck presented to us last evening. If you were aware that the site was being used as a staging site for the LAPD command post, then the omission of this fact from previous communications with us (which included other details of how the site has been used, for example by LAFD) is a violation of the full truth. And we are alarmed that UCLA leadership is unwilling to acknowledge the direct connection between this command post and the subsequent field jail. Are we as scholars under the impression that the police hand out lemonade to protesters at these “staging areas”? Especially troubling is the detail in VC Beck’s email about the role of what we presume is a UCPD Lieutenant, raising question about active UCPD-UCLA collaboration in the policing of protests.

As we noted in our initial letter, such active collaboration with the police state stands in sharp hypocrisy to the statements of solidarity with protest that the UCLA leadership has issued recently. It undermines our confidence in the sentiment expressed in yesterday’s “Violation of Values” post. The withholding of information, in the face of the anguish and trauma of those detained at the Stadium and despite our quest for the full truth, confirms our concerns about the relationship between UCLA and LAPD and extends to UCPD as well. It reminds us why Black, Brown, and Indigenous students, faculty, students, and workers do not feel safe on this campus, and brings us more forcefully to our call to end UCLA’s relationship with LAPD and other police forces.

We once again ask for a public accounting of all communications, permissions, and agreements pertaining to the use of the Jackie Robinson Stadium AND other UCLA facilities as staging areas and command posts by LAPD. We hope that we do not have to spend more time explaining what we mean by the full truth. This should be evident to all parties concerned.

We once again emphasize that if the field jail was LAPD use of property without authorization from the lessee, in this case UCLA, then we expect the university to seek compensation for such use and invest these resources in a manner that provides a modicum of remedy.

In addition, as noted in our letter of June 3, 2020, starting next week, we the UCLA faculty, will form a Divestment Working Group, which will work closely with student and community organizations, with an initial demand that UCLA divest fully from any relationships with LAPD.

Such a Divestment Working Group will build on the long-standing work of departments, centers, and initiatives at UCLA that are already engaged in studying and dismantling structural racism. We will share with you our concrete, actionable recommendations toward implementing the goal of divestment, as well as that of investing in alternatives to policing.


The Executive Committee of Concerned UCLA Faculty

Ananya Roy
Laura Abrams
Leisy Abrego
Hannah Appel
Sarah Haley
Kelly Lytle Hernández
Grace Kyungwon Hong
Gaye Theresa Johnson
Michael Lens
Shannon Speed
Noah Zatz
Maite Zubiaurre

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 4

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Dear Vice Chancellor Beck,

     We write in response to your communication of June 2, 2020, regarding the use of the Jackie Robinson Stadium to detain protesters and process arrests on the evening of June 1, 2020.

     You state in your letter that “the use of the Jackie Robinson Stadium parking lot as a ‘field jail’ was not done with the administration’s permission, collaboration or knowledge.” You also state that from time to time, city agencies like the Los Angeles Fire Department ask UCLA’s permission to use the parking lot as a staging area during fires or other emergencies” and that UCLA “typically grant[s] those permissions.” You note that this was the case a few weeks agowhen “LAFD asked UCLA’s permission to utilize the parking lot as a COVID‐19 testing area and the university granted that permission.”

     Taking into account these facts, addressing you, Chancellor Block, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Emily Carter, we request the following actions:

1. UCLA leadership issue a public statement that LAPD undertook unauthorized use of the Jackie Robinson Stadium as a field jail on June 1, 2020, and issue a public letter to Chief Michel Moore demanding both explanation and compensation for LAPD’s use of the property without permission from the lessee, i.e. UCLA. Since this amounts to civil trespassing or the commandeering of property, we ask that UCLA leadership, at the very least, demand compensation for this unauthorized use of its property, if not file a formal complaint and charges.  Our UCLA Law faculty stand by to provide guidance and expertise on this matter.

2. Your letter notes that “LAPD has vacated the property” and that UCLA “will inform them that future use as an arrest processing center will not be granted.”

     a) We ask that you share a copy of this specific communication with LAPD immediately with the UCLA community including this group of concerned faculty. This will assure us that UCLA has taken a measure of action.

      b) As per our first letter, we continue to ask that you make public all information you have pertaining to the use of Jackie Robinson Stadium by LAPD on June 1, 2020. We would like to know when and how you were notified of such use and by whom.

     c) Given that UCLA occupies Jackie Robinson Stadium and the surrounding land only under the authority of the West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016 and the lease agreement between UCLA and the Department of Veteran Affairs executed on December 23, 2016, both of which provide that UCLA’s activities under the lease will principally benefit military veterans, for whose specific benefit the land was granted to the United States Government, we ask that you make public all information regarding the other uses of the land you have given over to the City of Los Angeles since the execution of the lease, and all communications between you, the City of Los Angeles, and the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding such uses, including communications tending to show that
such activities benefited veterans in any way.

     d) We are not assured that the use of UCLA facilities, whether the Jackie Robinson Stadium or other sites, by LAPD, will not take place in the future. If UCLA leadership, including yourself, was unaware of such use, we are now additionally concerned about the breakdown of lines of communication and reporting within UCLA and between UCLA and city agencies.

Our first letter shared chilling testimony from protesters detained and processed at Jackie Robinson Stadium. We have now heard from more of them, including UCLA students, who were arrested in downtown Los Angeles for curfew violation, bused to the stadium, and held there for seven hours before being processed and released at 3 am onto the streets of Westwood, far from their homes. We have also heard from a criminal defense attorney who was contacted by one of the arrested protesters who needed medical attention. After repeated 9-11 calls received no response, the attorney decided to himself go to the Jackie Robinson Stadium to serve as counsel accompanied by a physician to provide medical help. What the attorney witnessed was an “organized scene” of detention and arrest processing, a massive set-up with many, many buses and scores of LAPD officers. Given the scale, scope, and duration of this field jail, we are incredulous that you and other UCLA leadership were unaware of the situation. How can we be assured that this will not repeat itself, putting many people in harm’s way, only to be later told that it happened without UCLA’s knowledge and permission? Responsibility lies with UCLA whether permission was granted or not.

We ask that UCLA leadership issue a public statement stating that LAPD will not be able to use UCLA facilities, whether those leased or directly owned by the university.

3. This incident has made it clear to us as concerned faculty that LAPD is not a trustworthy partner for UCLA. What is at stake is much more than remedy for unauthorized use of UCLA facilities. As we stated in our first letter, NOW is the time for UCLA to make a robust commitment to ending collaboration with the police state. Across the country, and especially in Los Angeles, community organizations and justice movements are working hard to ensure that public resources are invested in education, health, and housing rather than in policing. It is vitally important that UCLA follow the lead of other public universities such as the University of Minnesota and take action to sever ties with LAPD. Starting next week, we the UCLA faculty, will form a Divestment Working Group, which will work closely with student and community organizations towards the common goal of Divest/ Invest.

We ask that UCLA leadership join us in making an immediate public pledge to such a goal and commit to working with faculty, students, staff, and workers to ensure such outcomes of justice on our campus and for our communities. As faculty, we want UCLA to prioritize the educational mission of teaching and research over policing.


The Executive Committee of Concerned UCLA Faculty
Ananya Roy
Laura Abrams
Leisy Abrego
Hannah Appel
Sarah Haley
Kelly Lytle Hernández
Grace Kyungwon Hong
Michael Lens
Shannon Speed
Noah Zatz
Maite Zubiaurre

Photo Credit: Daily Bruin
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0