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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mark Yudof Says Yes-No to UC's Public Option

You didn't think Mark Yudof would come out in favor of 32% 1-year tuition hikes and full-speed privatization, and you were right. He opposes these things. "I am angry too" about higher fees, he says, and adds, "The closer that the university comes to being free, the happier I am."  This is nicely said.  In his last paragraph, he states, "We will not privatize the university.  We will continue to enroll students from all economic strata. We will not go the way of other states and rely on a vast expansion of nonresident enrollment." Also all good to hear.

On the other hand, Mark Yudof did propose a 32% increase 1-year tuition hike.  We can note some other anomalies.  He told the UC Commission on the Future that the Governor "gets it" on higher ed, and in this piece expresses the "highest respect" for the Governor who initiated the 25% two-year state funding cuts.  His main public message before the students got mad about the hikes has been about the importance of high executive salaries.  And he has praised "entrepreneurial" faculty without any nods to the enormous obscure public-service effort of teaching and advising and non-sponsored research in the social and cultural disciplines that helps hold the state together and tries to keep it moving forward.

We need to take seriously the details of the story Mark Yudof tells around his anger at his own fee hikes.  His explanation for how we got here is that the university has "for the past decade [engaged in ] faith-based budgeting. That is the approach that, somehow, if we wait, the legislature will turn on the spigot."

But this is not what happened.  UCOP wasn't waiting around in the 1990s and 2000s. It struck two deals with two governors, the second with the Schwarzenegger administration.  Called the Compact for Higher Education, it angered legislative Dems because it took place behind their back.  The Compact insured a shifting of support from public to private money, in two ways.  It built in 7-10% annual fee increases as part of the funding model, and as Stanton Glantz has had to note many times, it committed UCOP to "continue to seek additional private resources and maximize other fund sources available to the University to support basic programs."  UCOP may not want the kind of privatization that is now turning out to be truly unpopular, but about five years ago it agreed to move even its "basic programs" away from public and into private money. For basic programs like instruction, "private resources" = higher fees.

Some warped details in the piece contribute to a misleading picture.  "To begin to rebuild the university, we will have to raise tuition in two phases by a total of 32 percent over the next two years—from $7,788 to $10,302."  Unfortunately,  32% fee increases won't rebuild anything.  The mid-year increase in 2009-10 will net $75.1 million  (page 12), or less than 10% of the current cut.  The 2010-11 increase will partially offset who-knows-what cut next year.  These terrible fee increases are dirt at the bottom of a big hole, even if it is one that does not yet have a coffin.

Mark Yudof says a couple of things about filling the hole: "we are seeking other sources of support and pressing our case hard in Sacramento, the rest of California, and Washington. . . .We are looking for a reset."  I don't know what "reset" means - a return to 2007?  And what exactly is the case UCOP is making for public funding?

I won't harp on public funding here because I do it in the piece linked above and in lots of other places. But a meaningful relation to it would have do two things.  It would have to make arguments for what public money uniquely does at UC, and this piece does not do that.  Second, it would have to show support for the staff and faculty who perform the public function, and show a desire to unify them in a UC community that is reaching out to the state.

Instead of this unifying approach, Yudof dishes out needling and division.   Some misconceptions, Yudof writes, "come from well-meaning professors who refuse to accept just how severe this financial crisis has become—after all, it's human nature to hope for a painless reprieve from a difficult passage." I can only imagine that the point of this inaccurate and belittling comment is to split students from faculty who are allegedly too locked in their ivory tower to understand money or sympathize with suffering students.  It is your president, dear students, who truly understands you.

The paragraph continues,
I understand—and share—the frustrations of students, and faculty and staff members. But it is important to note that the numbers participating in a recent walkout to protest the handling of the budget crisis were modest compared with our 180,000 employees and more than 200,000 students. And many people focused as much or more on state support as on campus and system administration.
This seeks to isolate unions from students, and to sidestep criticisms of UC management.  Is it really possible that nothing in UC financial management can be improved, that no maldistributions can be found and corrected? Are students supposed to think that the whole budget solution is to get $1 billion back from a state that, as Yudof rightly notes, has been cutting UC for 20 years?  I'd bet that on Mark Yudof's 20 trips to Sacramento he heard from legislators at least 20 times that they haven't trusted UCOP financial management since the compensation scandal days, and won't give UC more money until there's real openness and change.  As a message to legislators, the statements in this piece don't cut it.

The legislature isn't Yudof's audience though - the audience is students.  UCOP doesn't have a plan for rebuilding public support, but it might be able to claw some money back if students and parents start pressuring Sacramento in a way they haven't before.  They should do this. Yudof is good on the benefits of UC that must be preserved. But he does not oppose, and in fact endorses, an Arnold-centered California politics in the very moment in which the Governor could have been isolated by a coalition of unions, academics, high-tech executives, and service workers in hospitals, schools, firestations, and the DMV as a Herbert Hoover throwback with plutocratic economics.

Where was UCOP when we lost the federal stimulus?  UCOP's political world aligns with key Regents, including the Board's many Schwarzenegger appointees, who have long supported cutting public support for more or less everything,  and if they have a reason other than lowering their own and corporate taxes I don't know what it is.   Gov Schwarzenegger's only real goal for California is lower public expenditures; his sole strategy for closing the budget gap was public funding cuts; his approach to student fees has been to raise them, except in the year that he was running for reelection; his approach to student aid was to propose the total elimination of the Cal Grants program; his approach to tax reform has been endorsement of his commission's proposal to cut the top state income tax rate in half in a moment in which tax revenues continue to fall through the floor, making the eventual recovery even smaller and further away.

Yesterday in the Senate Finance Committee, Sen Max Baucus said,  "I see a lot to like in a public option," and then voted to kill it. In concrete terms, where is UCOP's support for the UC public option?


Ralph Spoilsport said...

Thanks for the reminder to check President Yudof's Twitter page. He points with approval to Peter Schrag's analysis of the walkout, which concludes,

But insofar as that’s correct, it indicates again that last week’s protesting professoriate – the minority who took part -- was aiming at the wrong targets. The target in this case should have been themselves.

Is that the part the Presidet "loves"?

Or does he love the part that says UC should not be trying to duplicate its two "flagships", Berkeley and UCLA? Or that Irvine did not need a law school and Merced does not need to be planning for a medical school?

Or, did he like this part, where Schrag implied that fee increases are part of a cycle

to sustain the pursuit of ever more dubious and educationally marginal graduate, professional and research programs and other “faculty entitlements.” How many political science PhDs, Callan asks, does California need?

What is it about having an office at UCOP that renders distinguished scholars unable to respond to nonsense when they read it? Allowing statements like these to go unchallenged is very damaging, and more than offsets any positive effect from recycling the Regents speech in the Chronicle of Higher Education---better than the NY Times piece, at least.

I don't know which is worse, that the President "tweets" about anything that has a line or two supporting his agenda, or that he does so without actually reading such pieces.

Chris Newfield said...

Ralph - thanking you! really well said

Andrew Dickson said...

Be careful what you wish for. MY did tweet your commentary!

Chris Newfield said...

oh crap. He's Mr. Nice Guy!!

Anonymous said...

Why does one of the best Universities in the world have to spend $3,000,000 for consultants to do the work that can be done internally at UCB
In a nutshell we have a smart, worldclass, well paid ($475,000) UCB Chancellor Birgeneau who is unwilling to do the job he is paid to do by UC President Yudof. Stop spending $3,000,000 on consultants and require the UCB Chancellor to do hid job rather than outsource his job to consultants for $3,000,000. Do your job Yudof! Do your job Birgeneau!!

Anonymous said...

Take action on the $3 million excessive spending by Chancellor Birgeneau. Contact Chairwoman Assemblymember Carter 916.319.2062

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