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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Up in the Berkeley Hills

As many of you have no doubt already heard, the senior administration at Berkeley (three of the five authors are, left to right, VCA John Wilton, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, and EVC George Breslauer) has 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.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with the idea that this devolution proposal is a covert effort to destroy UC or privatize it or for Berkeley to secede from UC. My own perspective is that this is indeed a clear statement that UCOP and the Regents need to concentrate on what only they can do well: interface to the state government (and play backroom politics if need be). This means that they need to concentrate on bringing state funding to UC. That's their main job and one that they have been failing at. (The campuses produce stellar graduates, world-renowned research, etc... We're doing our jobs pretty well.)

At the end of the day, if we want a stellar public university (and I believe that most of us want to have exactly that), we need the *public* to keep investing in the university. The campuses can produce scholarly reports showing that UC is a net-positive to the CA economy, that we have seriously positive return on investment, etc... But it is UCOP and the Regents job to turn this information into political leverage and get the votes for added revenue and get Sacramento to actually invest in what is good for us all.

If UCOP and the Regents are bogged down with voting for administrator raises, figuring out which construction projects to approve, and deciding on tuition, then they can use that as an excuse to not do the hard part of their job --- making Sacramento listen. If UCOP and the Regents do their job, then all the campuses will benefit, not just Berkeley, UCLA, UCSF, and UCSD. If UCOP and the Regents don't do their core job, all the campuses will suffer --- but the smaller and newer campuses (and the poorer and more economically disadvantaged students that that attend them) will suffer disproportionately. This second fact isn't tied to devolution or centralization, it is the simple reality that the newer campuses have fewer alternatives to the core state funding. If anything, the smaller campuses are better off having the flexibility that devolution provides them in optimizing for their situation. Otherwise, they will tend to get overshadowed by the big campuses when push comes to shove. It is better for them to have a guaranteed slice of the state funding than to risk being sacrificed.

Devra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Chancellor’s and Provost ‘s tuition increases make it impossible to keep the promise of equality of opportunity: access, affordability is farther and farther out of reach. Self-absorbed Chancellor, Provost are outspoken for elete public UC Berkeley ‘charging Californians much higher’ tuition. Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau, Provost Breslauer leave an indelible legacy on university access, affordability.

Cal. tuition is rising faster than costs at other universities. Number 1 ranked Harvard is now less costly. Birgeneau, Breslauer decision to ‘charge Californians higher tuition’ for eletist Cal. make it the most expensive of the expensive public universities!

Birgeneau ($450,000) Breslauer ($306,000) like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving them every dollar demanded. The ‘charge Californians higher’ tuition skyrocketed fees by an average 14% per year from 2006 to 2011-12 academic years. If Chancellor Provost had allowed fees to rise at the same rate of inflation over the past 10 years they would still be in reach of most middle income students. Breslauer Berheneau increase disparities in higher education and defeat the promise of equality of opportunity. An unacceptable legacy for all Californians.

Additional funding should sunset. The sluggish economy and 10% unemployment devistate family education savings. Simply asking for more taxes to fund self-absorbed Cal.senior leadership, old inefficient higher education models and fund excessive faculty staff compensation, burdensome bonuses, is not the answer.

UC Berkeley is to maximize access to the widest number of Californians at a reasonable cost: mission of diversity, equality of opportunity. Birgeneau’s Breslauer’s ‘charge Californians higher’ tuition denies middle income families the transformative value of Cal.

The California dream: keep it alive at Cal. Birgeneau resigned; fire (honorably retire) Provost George W Breslauer.

Opinions? UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu Calif. State Senators, Assembly members.

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