proposed a new vision for the organization of the UC system, a proposal that they seek to present as an act of "modernization." At its heart is a set of proposals for the devolution of the system focusing particularly on greater campus autonomy over tuition, the make-up of the student body (i.e. the relative number of California residents vs. out-of-state and international students), and capital planning. The plan proposes that the Regents would set general targets or ranges and that individual campuses would set planning in accordance with local rather than state-wide strategies. Birgeneau et al. also propose the establishment of campus level boards of regents who would allegedly possess more detailed knowledge of each campuses needs and opportunities as well as the ability to respond to campus projects and proposals more quickly than the statewide board.
In their telling, this proposal is a response to the ongoing budget crisis and a development of the logic of the funding streams model. UCOP would be reduced to the management of truly systemwide projects and to working with the Regents to negotiate with the state for funding and for setting the general guidelines for enrollment and tuition.
There are, I think, at least two ways to approach this proposal and, although they point in very different directions, I suspect they are both true. The first is to see this proposal as another attempt by the Berkeley administration and its allies to secede from the system without actually admitting that that is what they are doing and figuring out all of its implications (starting with state ownership of the campus). At the heart of their arguments are the importance of being able to set their enrollment targets and tuition and control their own building projects. The first two are unquestionably efforts to separate themselves from their obligations to other campuses. And as Yale Braunstein (not to mention Brian Barsky) has pointed out Berkeley's history of managing their own capital projects is hardly a good one. Birgeneau's effort in his Daily Cal interview to suggest that "Berkeley is more public than it ever has been" because in-state students are supported by the tuition of out of state students doesn't really reassure one that he is committed to Berkeley serving the public interest. In the context of funding streams and efforts at "rebenching" (although I suspect Berkeley will do fine with both) it is hard not to see this proposal as a way for Berkeley to secure its wealth at the expense of students and other campuses.
But there is a second vantage point. Berkeley is now declaring publicly what must be going through the minds of campus administrators throughout the system: that UCOP and the Regents have failed in their obligation to protect and preserve the system and to ensure that the campuses can function. As those who have listened to Regents meetings over the past several years will remember Chancellors have been forthright in laying out the severe damage that has been done to campuses from the Regents failed policies and the decline in state funding. UCOP, on the other hand, has insisted that through fundraising and tuition increases the system could weather the storm. Birgeneau et al. are taking this disagreement further and challenging UCOP more directly. To be sure, and this proposal only reinforces this point, there is no evidence that the Chancellors have any greater will to demonstrate to the State the importance of State funding. But at least they are clear about the costs of its decline. Berkeley's proposal is bring out into the light a simple reality: the Campuses cannot depend on UCOP for effective leadership.
President Yudof is reportedly unhappy with the proposal. And that is no surprise. For Berkeley's devolution would severely limit the power and authority of the President's office even if it (as it is obligated to do) continued to officially defer to the Regents. Like the earlier proposal out of UCSF, Berkeley's gambit would diminish UCOP considerably. That it might also destroy the system itself does not seem to worry Birgeneau et al. to any great extent.
So how to think about Berkeley and UCSF: As Revolts of the Rich? Or as Canaries in the Coal Mine? Probably both.
2 hours ago