by Gerald Barnett, University of Washington
Here is my summary of Charles Schwartz's plan. It is worth considering. I apologize if I bungle stuff here. I’m aiming to draw out some of the points in the plan that recommend it to my thinking. I recast the plan’s points under 3 major heads and rearrange the parts somewhat to help me get it clear.
Make budget and policy discussions open
Use language proper to education and scholarship
Lead the Regents and nation on these matters
Account separately for undergraduate education costs
Cap total resident undergraduate fees at the total undergraduate education costs
State subsidizes undergraduate costs for the needed, and generally as it is able
Research & Administration Reassessment
Justify or eliminate $600m/yr in recent administrative growth
Cap executive compensation at 2x average the compensation of full professors
State commits to reliable funding for core research (faculty, grad students, and overhead)
This approach opens two dialogues with the state--one for undergraduates and one for research/graduate education /administration. Doing so allows UC to argue for funding elements separately that may have different bases of political support. If there are state concerns about one of these elements but not the other, then the problematic one is holding the other one hostage. Disaggregating the two will allow UC to see if this is so. This step might be iterated for elements in the research dialogue as well, giving the state an opportunity to show where the support is stronger or weaker for various elements. This step ought to be done regardless of anything else. If both funding streams lack support, there will be no difference in the overall outcomes of state funding. But if undergraduate education has the stronger support, then at least the undergraduate component can be taken care of, and attention turned to what is needed, politically, to make a case for the rest of the funding.
Following Prof. Schwartz’s analysis, undergraduate fees appear to cover their costs. If this is the case, then there is no cash flow problem for undergraduate education but for UC administration *making it part of the problem*. This would be an expected “budget trick” for working the legislature in typical times. UC doesn’t have that now, however, so a new approach is called for. A clear, open accounting by UC would confirm or qualify whether undergraduate fees cover the costs of undergraduate education. The state is asked to help needy students and provide a general subsidy for undergraduates as it can. That's something the state can do within the present funding to UC. This approach makes a clear proposal for the state: will you support these talented students? Whatever the state comes up with is “on the margin” and is passed on as a direct benefit to students, both needy and generally. It’s the best proposition UC can offer the legislature with regard to undergraduates. Certainly it is better than raising tuition by 30% now, and no doubt more later, in some sort of crisis-bound administrative lupus attack on students and families.
The bargain over research and graduate education is a separate issue. This is a deeper challenge. There is more going on here than with undergraduate education, with a greater range of budgets and inter-relationships. Also, it is where the status of UC would appear to rest, where the strategic importance to the state in training graduate students gets sounded out, and with it the distinctive position UC has within the California higher education scheme in the conduct of research. The plan takes the form of a bargain. It is a true bargain, not just “compact” that UC will have business as usual and the state will throw money at it, but that each must commit to something of value to the other. Whatever happens, a plan with a bargain in it—one that UC can show to the public—provides traction. For this bargain, UC must first account for its own administrative growth in terms of positions and compensation. At least $600m is in play here. Without a complete, open, intellectually honest accounting, one might argue that UC supporters in state government have little leverage to work on UC's behalf. There will have to be cuts for this bargain to work—of positions, of salaries, of layers of organization. One might even expect that the more UC trims, the more likely there will be support for what is strategically important to the state in what’s left. Again, there is an easy “budget trick” of threatening to lop off something valuable or noisy (a journalism department makes good noise this way, historically), or both, and then use that available rallying energy to bring the legislature around. This budget trick also has to go. The stuff to trim off is the stuff no one really needs in a time of crisis. It’s not faculty or academic programs. At least not until the administrative part is made right. I do not know of anyone outside of UC administration that is willing to make the case that UC administration is hunky dory and its something else that has to go. That’s a political reality, whatever the self-rationalizations that might go on. If there’s going to be a fight, let’s have it be over what parts of administration we don’t need in a crisis, rather than pitting science faculty against humanities, or core faculty against professional programs, or campuses with higher rankings in some Chinese university or popular magazine-compiled list against campuses that are lower on such lists. The Schwartz plan brilliantly ends these skirmishes and places the burden on administration first.
If there is to be UC contraction, it must start with administrative positions, organization, and compensation. If there is less of UC—and there already clearly is that—then there needs to be a lot less of the administrative component. This is sad for individuals involved. I don’t wish anything ill on them. We are talking about tails and dogs, however, and honestly, administration is nearer the tail end. In a time of crisis, that’s what needs to go. If various administrative positions are unproductive relative to the new economic realities of UC, then these need to go first, not be drawn into an extra administrative burden of deciding what academic programs to cut and how to manage, say, faculty furloughs and respond to student protests. Finally, if UC compensation is a problem, then if there are going to be losses due to reductions in salary as people take better offers elsewhere, these should start with the administrative side of the house. If these adjustments are unacceptable, then new leaders should be identified. If there is going to be a brain drain, then it will start with the administrative brains. One might add: administration is not management. Management is not the brains of the operation; faculty are not the labor. Administration serves the faculty in the proper order of things, and in a financial crisis it serves the faculty by sacrificing its convenience and privileges. The public expects this. The public is waiting for UC administration to admit it. There will be no leverage in the legislature until it is done. ‘Twere good that it is done quickly, then.
The state support for this core budget beyond undergraduate education also opens up a discussion of the role of UC in providing research for the state. It’s one thing to have a generally wonderful world stature. It’s another to be able to show a direct interest in the research needs and advanced degree training needs of California communities, industry, and local governments. This is a key part the land grant ethos, as well as part of the founding instruments for the University of California. In assessing priorities for funding, UC might expect that the general reputation of campuses (such as “rankings”) might not be nearly so compelling to the people of the state as showing that UC expertise and significant research efforts the state is asked to fund have direct benefits for the state. Perhaps an open, intellectually honest accounting for these efforts would also go some way toward giving the state reasons to argue for funding the state component of the research budget, especially if the university has cleaned house with regard to multiple layers of administration.
These are not easy things to do, but then nothing is these days. Contraction of administrative and state research elements rather than contraction of the whole at the expense of undergraduate education appears to have a lot of merit as the place to make the bargain clear. Make a commitment to the undergraduates, the most vulnerable of people in the whole arrangement. Then work out how the rest of the state supported work will be funded. For that, there won’t be any movement without a miracle or a bargain, and as the former does not admit of planning, one might think the latter has much to commend it.
4 hours ago