Chris pointed out, there was a striking gap at last week's Regents' retreat. On the one hand, there was a new discourse of educational decline--but it remained strikingly vague. On the other hand, there were a precise set of financial proposals--but they were neither new nor up to the challenge. As is so often the case with the Regents, their distance from the actual functioning of the University (especially as it takes place on the campuses) became clear. But we would be hard pressed to think that the business officers were any better.
Appropriately, much of the discussion focused on the cuts in state funding and their effects. It appears, that Oakland is finally recognizing that they can no longer issues warnings about the potential damage of future cuts but must instead begin to demonstrate the already existing damage resulting from prior cuts. That recognition is welcome. But if it is to lead to something new it must be accompanied by a second recognition: that it is unclear that UCOP is prepared to act effectively on that realization. There are what one might call an external and an internal dimension to this problem.
Externally, the gap between what is needed and what Oakland's financial wizards have on offer is so great that it is long beyond time to question the deference that has been given to the strategies of Peter Taylor and Nathan Brostrom. Short of unacceptable and unsustainable tuition increases, it should be clear that they simply do not have the capacity to do more than nibble at the edges of the Universities financial challenges. The assumption that there is some privatized solution to the decline in state funding needs to be put aside: unless Oakland is willing to put aside the entire idea of the University of California itself.
This external problem mirrors an internal one: it is time for a serious and open discussion of the role of UCOP in the system itself. There is a financial dimension to this question. But there are also organizational and normative dimensions that need to be confronted. Both demand a examination of UCOP and ultimately of campus administrations and senates as well.
First, the financial question. As the University moves to implement "Rebenching" that follows upon the implementation of the "Funding Streams" model of campus generated revenue it is increasingly clear that the cost of OP and the tax it levies on campuses is an ongoing problem. Despite all the rhetoric of increased efficiency at UCOP, the fact that UCOP needs to only justify itself to the Regents and not demonstrate to the community as a whole its costs and benefits means that its contribution to the educational (and by that I don't only mean instructional) purpose of the University remains unclear. Rather than starting with UCOP as is and having it tax campuses, we need a discussion of what UCOP the university needs and then what budget will enable that UCOP to function effectively.
I want to make clear that I am not suggesting a back door effort to eliminate UCOP. As some comments on Chris's post (especially that by Xicano) made clear, there are issues where it is essential that UCOP ensure that campuses do not fall back into historically unacceptable practices. And achieving proper balances in terms of rebenching and funding streams requires the sort of enrollment management fairness that only UCOP can provide.
But the point remains that UCOP needs to justify its practices in terms of the University's educational goals and not simply be allowed to determine its own fate.
Of course, this sort of demand for justification applies equally to campus administrative structures and practices as to system-wide administrative structures and practices. We are all aware of the proliferation of new administrative positions at the same time as faculty lines are being cut. This problem is not simply an effect of the costs of new high-level administrators (although that is an issue) but rather of the systematic presumption that what the University needs is more administration and more control from the top. But a challenge to that assumption will require that campus Senate's begin to more forcefully challenge and question the actual educational benefits from administrative expansion just as the system-wide Senate will need to challenge the taken-for-granted role and organization of UCOP.
The Question is: Is the Senate up to that Challenge?
9 minutes ago