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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Michael Meranze, "Jefferson's Epitaph"

From Michael Meranze, Professor of History at UCLA, a meditation on what Jefferson thought significant among his life's achievements and what the budget cuts mean for higher public education in California.


Gerry Barnett said...

Well, UC and the legislature did decide to raise taxes in a way--but on some faculty and staff (in the form of furloughs) and on, apparently, middle class students and their families who can't get financial aid and aren't rich enough not to care.

The line is, "in this recession, relatively well paid state workers should lose a bit of their handsome income and some middle class folks will have to work harder to pay their way for an education."

This, instead of, "in a recession, some UC faculty should take it out on other UC faculty" or "UC faculty should take it out on the administration" or "UC faculty and administration should pass the pain to lecturers and support staff" or "UC should pass the pain to the students and their families in a visible way to make a teachable moment for everyone" or "we agree with sharing the pain, but we want to spend a whole lot of our time putting a fine point on distributing the pain in an elegant way." These all sort of suck. What's a better set of alternatives?

1) find new sources of revenue, and keep feeding the existing beast? (raise taxes, raise tuition, more fundraising, more research, sell bonds....)

2) restructure UC to cut out useless and unproductive stuff? (digital campus, eliminate campuses, cut departments with trailing reputations, eliminate UCOP, restructure the master plan across all of CA higher ed....)

3) restructure the political process and funding mechanisms to restore UC's position relative to state support (reconsider prop 13 or its application, reform districting, reform no-debt annual budgeting, create a state endowment for education so funding isn't dependent on the immediate budget cycle "the bagpipe approach"...)

4) compete against other interests in the state budget, arguing that the costs in the UC budget are more valuable than expenditures elsewhere (for what? water commissioners? Coastal Commission? historic building preservation committees? prisons? perks for legislators?....)

5)go ahead and adopt the methods of private universities, raising tuition, relying on financial aid (abandoning the idea of easy access for a middle class that's withering anyway, or at least making it someone else's problem....)

6) meditate on the pain of it all and ride it out (preserving the ability to criticize whomever one wishes, or leave for better opportunities, having warned everyone this might happen....)

None of this really sings, does it?

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