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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wednesday, February 17, 2021
An Open Letter to University of California President Michael V. Drake and the University of California Board of Regents

Dear President Drake and Members of the UC Board of Regents, 

We write to you today with our backs against the wall. As department chairs and program directors in the most racially diverse college at one of the two most racially diverse campuses in the University of California system, we in UC Riverside’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS) and our staff and faculty colleagues across UCR have been struggling for years to make ends meet. Already chronically underfunded by the state, UCR was devastated by the budget decisions made by then-President Yudof and the Regents at the height of the Great Recession. We have worked in staggeringly understaffed and underfunded conditions since then. Yet on top of our chronic underfunding by the state, we now face an additional – and permanent – 11 percent budget cut. This is not just unsustainable financially, it is unsupportable on grounds of fairness, equity, and most importantly, of racial justice – pillars of the University of California’s mission. 

UCR’s budget is made up almost entirely of salaries and benefits – in CHASS, the proportion is 98 percent. Thus any permanent budget cut inevitably is a cut in people. We hemorrhaged staff and faculty during the Great Recession, and although we have been able to hire additional faculty in subsequent years, our student population has grown rapidly enough to largely outpace those gains, leaving us severely overcrowded and still struggling to rebuild. Our world-class research university already operates on a shoestring; further cuts would be devastating. For many of us, this pattern of systemic neglect and chronic underfunding of a university serving a student body composed of at least 85 percent students of color is troublingly reminiscent of redlining, the practices consolidated after the Second World War that devastated thriving neighborhoods made up predominantly of people of color. We are writing to implore you to stop the redlining of UCR. 

With roots stretching back to the turn of the twentieth century, UCR has a distinguished history in the UC system. A former agricultural experiment station, UCR was meant to serve as a flagship undergraduate institution in the UC system, serving the Inland region of Southern California. UCR is second only to UC Merced in the percentage of students of color, has one of the highest percentages of Pell grant recipients in the nation, and serves a student body that is well over 50 percent first-generation college students. Yet our increasingly brown and working-class campus has frequently been overlooked or sidelined within the UC system. 

This is not simply a symbolic move; even after a post-recession reconfiguration of the UC system’s distribution of state funds to its campuses, UCR currently receives approximately $8,500 per student, whereas UCLA receives closer to $11,500 and the Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, and San Diego campuses receive $10,000. Yet our student-to-faculty ratio is higher than the UC system average, and our student-to-staff ratio is fully 38% higher. We applaud the recent “re-benching” decision that will bring the funding of UCR and other under-funded campuses to within 95 percent of the systemwide per-student average by 2024. But as with redlined neighborhoods, the damage to UCR’s resources from decades of neglect cannot be reversed simply by bringing our support from the system up to an amount that is only slightly below average rather than grossly below average, nor will the phased-in implementation of this plan help us avoid devastation in the present moment. We were facing an 11 percent budget cut before the announcement of the re-benching; we are facing the same budget cut after its announcement, because rebenching is not enough. 

It takes more funding, not less, to create an educational environment in which first-generation college students and students of color can thrive. UCR has been lauded for closing the gap in graduation rates between white students and students of color, and for the past two years US News and World Report has ranked us the top US university for social mobility. We have an internationally renowned faculty that includes two Nobel Laureates, close to fifty Fulbright and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellows, and nineteen Guggenheim Fellows. But in addition to being highly accomplished researchers, scholars, and artists, our faculty are something more: many of us came to and have remained at UCR because of our deep commitment to serving first-generation and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students. UCR educates Californians – 96 percent of our students are California residents – and in return, because we do not expand our budget with out-of-state tuition, we suffer. Were all UC campuses facing the same dire circumstances, we would weather the storm shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Instead, we are being left out in the cold yet again: when many colleges at other UC campuses are losing only two to three percent of their budgets, we are facing the stark decisions demanded by an 11 percent permanent budget cut. This abandonment by the President’s office and the Board of Regents is a demoralizing example of structural racism. 

For nearly a year, we have all witnessed the disproportionate impact of both COVID-19 and the pandemic-induced recession on BIPOC communities, some of them the same communities devastated by redlining and nearly destroyed by the Great Recession. Communities subjected to decades and, in many cases, centuries of systemic racism have few of the resources that have helped many white communities to remain safe and financially solvent during this crisis. Systematically deprived of resources through decades of neglect, our campus – with one of the brownest and poorest student bodies in the entire UC system – is facing economic devastation. How will staff who already do the work of two people take on more, if we have to cut our staffing even further? How will departments that are already stretched to breaking stretch further? Should we increase our teaching load even more, and destroy the stellar educational system we have built in favor of an impersonal factory model? Should we turn away from our research and creative production and deprive our students of the cutting-edge insights and opportunities afforded by a world-class faculty? With a globally engaged student body, should we meekly accept the elimination of UCR from the UCDC program and others like it? The UC system clearly believes that students at other UC campuses deserve these opportunities; are our students any less deserving? 

The correlation is glaring between the fact that we serve one of the highest numbers of BIPOC students in the system, the historic lack of systemwide investment in our campus, and the offer of a solution that brings the UC system’s support of us to less far below average over the course of the next several years. In a time of long-overdue attention to the destruction wreaked by systemic racism in the US, it should finally be clear that UCR’s students deserve a fully equal investment from the UC system, including support to correct for years of economic marginalization. It’s time to stop redlining UCR. 

Respectfully, 

Juliann Emmons Allison, Director, Global Studies

Sheila Bergman, Executive Director, UCR ARTS

Heidi Brayman, Director, Liberal Studies

Rogerio Budasz, Chair, Department of Music

Edward T. Chang, Director, Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies Christopher K. Chase-Dunn, Director, Institute for Research on World-Systems Walter A. Clark, Director, Center for Iberian and Latin American Music Derick A. Fay, Acting Chair, Department of Anthropology

Tod Goldberg, Program Director, Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing & Writing for the Performing Arts

Weihsin Gui, Director, Southeast Asian Studies Program

Sherine Hafez, Chair, Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies

Steven M. Helfand, Chair, Department of Economics

Rickerby Hinds, Chair, Department of Theater, Film, and Digital Production Tamara C. Ho, Director, California Center for Native Nations

Matthew King, Director, Asian Studies Program

Jacques Lezra, Chair, Department of Hispanic Studies

David Lloyd, Chair, Department of English

Tom Lutz, Chair, Department of Creative Writing

John N. Medearis, Chair, Department of Political Science

Yunhee Min, Chair, Department of Art

Jennifer R. Nájera, Chair, Department of Ethnic Studies

Daniel Ozer, Chair, Department of Psychology

Andrews Reath, Chair, Department of Philosophy

Ellen Reese, Co-Chair, Department of Sociology and Chair of Labor Studies Judith Rodenbeck, Chair, Department of Media and Cultural Studies

Jeff Sacks, Chair, Department of Comparative Literature and Languages Michele Salzman, Chair, Department of History

Joel Mejia Smith, Chair, Department of Dance

Glenn Stanley, Co-chair, Department of Sociology

Jason Weems, Chair, Department of the History of Art

Melissa M. Wilcox, Chair, Department of Religious Studies 


Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday, January 29, 2021

by Dylan Rodríguez


2020 Freedom Scholar


Professor, Dept. of Media and Cultural Studies


University of California, Riverside


Police Restoration at the University of California


Collective movement against antiblack policing has proliferated among University of California (UC) faculty, employees, and students since the summer months of  2020. Influenced and led by the practices and frameworks of Black radicalism—specifically, Black diasporic, Black feminist, and Black queer and trans abolitionist organizing—a growing number of people affiliated with the UC system are challenging the university’s complicity in the normalized state violence that kills people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Korryn Gaines, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Tyisha Miller, and so many others.


The formation of the abolitionist Cops Off Campus campaign led by the UC systemwide group UCFTP (of which i am an active member), emergence of the Divest/Invest collective at the UCLA campus, and statements of commitment to abolitionist principles by the University of California Student Association are just three prominent examples of recent mobilizations that have drawn from campus-based groups, including contingent faculty, labor unions, student organizations, mutual aid organizations, and even some research centers.[1]Almost inevitably, this surge of activism has been accompanied by dozens of public statements from UC departments, university administrators, and police chiefs expressing varieties of concern, outrage, sympathy, and disgust over police killings of Black people.[2]


The administrative response of the UC system to revolts against antiblack police violence and “systemic racism” mirrors the broader national drift toward a reformist restoration of law-and-order, political stability, and respectable policing.  Relying on the triage and public relations model of administratively appointed “campus safety task forces” (in which university police are core members), UC administrators exemplify a process of institutional consultation, auditing, and piecemeal reform that installs the reproduction of police power as a premise of deliberation.


Campus safety task forces are not merely inadequate to the task of slowing, interrupting, or ending the asymmetrical terror produced through modern campus policing—including but not limited to gendered antiblackness, Islamophobia, queer and transphobia, misogyny, ableism, white supremacy, and racial violence.  Beyond this fundamental and unsurprising inadequacy, these task forces work to sustain and re-legitimize police power while extending the parameters of policing as a layered infrastructure of state and state-condoned violence.  To echo UCFTP’s January 2, 2021 statement, “Task forces allow universities to preserve and protect the violent institution of policing…. Declining to serve on task forces… recognizes and exposes task forces for what they are.”[3]

 

Audit, Wash, and Repeat:  The UCOP Task Force on Universitywide Policing (2018-2020)


Former UC President Janet Napolitano—who served as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama—exemplified the logic and function of such police reform task forces in the creation of the 2018 UC Presidential Task Force on Universitywide Policing. While it is beyond the intent of this short contribution to thoroughly detail the content and outcomes of its full report, it is worth emphasizing that the Presidential Task Force was solely concerned with improving the UCPD’s internal efficiency and restoring its institutional legitimacy in the aftermath of multiple, prominent incidents of police violence against students during the 2010s.  While Lt. John Pike’s pepper spraying of UC Davis students during a nonviolent demonstration in 2011 was the most notorious such spectacle, examples of the UCPD’s proclivity for physical and chemical violence against campus and community members abound.[4] Yet, of the task force’s twenty-eight recommendations, none alluded to this archive of violence as cause to reconsider the campus policing paradigm.   Instead, 

 

·      15 recommendations focus on data “transparency” and the rationalization of processes for filing and investigating complaints against the UC police;

·      7 recommendations address “use of force” protocols and police training for “procedural justice, implicit bias, mental health, de-escalation, cultural sensitivity, sexual orientation and trauma-informed interviewing” as well as “educational and awareness presentations for students, staff and faculty;” and 

·      5 recommendations outline the need for campus based “independent advisory boards” alongside measures to improve the UCPD’s “community engagement.”[5]

 

(The 28th recommendation is to create the implementation plan itself.) While Napolitano’s task force completed its work in 2019, it seems clear that the variously titled UC “campus safety” task forces created since June 2020 have drawn from her administrative blueprint.


The mandate for a renewed, public-facing round of campus police reform seemed clear in July 2020 when the UC Regents announced their selection of Michael V. Drake to succeed UC President Janet Napolitano. [6] During the late winter and early spring, under the authority of Chancellor Cynthia Larive, the UCPD had violently repressed the graduate student-led wildcat COLA (cost of living adjustment) strike at UC Santa Cruz.  In June, the Los Angeles (city) Police Department prevailed on an agreement with the UCLA administration to convert Jackie Robinson Stadium into a temporary outdoor jail for people arrested during mass demonstrations throughout Los Angeles after the police killing of George Floyd.[7]  


At the time of Drake’s appointment, widespread condemnation of UC administrators’ history of sanctioning law enforcement violence seemed to mesh with the incoming UC President’s poignant account of his own encounters with police harassment: “It’s been a part of American life for all too long, and it’s something that needs to stop and we need to find better ways of being able to keep our communities safe.”[8] (Widely acclaimed for his impressive academic and administrative credentials, Drake is also the first Black President of the University of California.)

 

To “Reflect Our Values”:  The UCR Campus Safety Task Force (2020-present)


During the latter part of 2020, Chancellors at individual UC campuses convened various task forces and advisory boards as part of an urgent administrative attempt to navigate the crisis of police legitimacy. Upon forming the UC Riverside Campus Safety Task Force in September, UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox described its purpose as a “review of our overall campus safety efforts, focusing primarily on operation of the UCR Police Department and its relationship to other entities on campus and throughout the community.”  While Wilcox offered the Task Force wide latitude “to prioritize topics that they believe to be more important,” he took special pains to address what he considered to be the limits of its charge:

 

I am not asking the Task Force to opine on the issue of whether we should maintain a police force. We are better served as a community by having our own police force, which reflects our values and reports to the campus. Without our own police, we would fall under the jurisdiction of the Riverside Police Department and the Riverside County Sheriff.[9] [emphasis added]

 

Two parts of Wilcox’s qualifying statement clarify the assumptive premises of the UCR Task Force’s convening.  First, while it is a common rhetorical convention for elected officials, police chiefs, and other institutional executives and administrators to invoke a universalized notion of “our values” in the course of narrating their policies and decisions, such pronouncements avert sober consideration of the ethical premises of the university:  What if “our values,” read as the institutionally enforced priorities of the university, effectively (though tacitly) encompass systemic, discursive, normalized antiblackness and antiblack policing at the very same time that they fetishize notions of Black student “success” and graduation rates?[10]


Posed another way: How does the policing of Black people, Black presence, and Black (intellectual, cultural, and social) life form the historical conditions of possibility for “our values,” which in turn cohere institutional notions of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” especially when they are applied to the work of university policing task forces?


Second, Wilcox’s preemptive dismissal of abolitionist forms of campus safety as a concession to the jurisdiction of the city police and county sheriff is a red herring.  This is because of the longstanding practice of “concurrent jurisdiction.”[11]  Put simply, city and county police already have shared authority with the UCRPD on campus and campus-owned property, and such is a common arrangement for campuses that employ their own police forces.


Under concurrent jurisdiction, a campus administration creates a mutually recognized agreement (memorandum of understanding) with city police and county sheriff’s departments that allows the university/college police to operate with relative autonomy on campus grounds (or, in the UCPD’s case “within one mile of the [campus’s] exterior boundaries”).[12]  Importantly, there is no inherent prohibition on the possibility of a university negotiating concurrent jurisdiction with external police departments in the absence of a campus police force, provided alternative forms of security and safety are instituted in place of the UCPD.  


The spectacle of the UCR Task Force’s one hour virtual “town hall,” held on November 12, 2020, evidenced the administrative leadership’s lack of preparation, research, and seriousness in grasping their topic.  This was despite the fact that, according to Associate Chancellor Christine Victorino, it was provided with a “shared drive with scholarly work in the area of police abolitionism [sic] and racial profiling.”  (Full transparency: this shared drive apparently includes at least one of my published scholarly articles on policing and police violence in the UC system.)


The hourlong town hall provided ample reason to conclude that the Task Force’s primary purpose—in resonance with the Chancellor’s protective pro-UCPD dictate—is to support and defend the existence of the campus police, while making non-binding, consultative suggestions to modestly revise some of its internal and public-facing practices. 


While the Chair of the Task Force (a local attorney and UCR alumnus) assured the hundred or so audience members that the group was “open” to considering abolitionist alternatives to the UCRPD, the prominent (and rather defensive) presence of UCR Police Chief John Freese constituted an embodied rebuttal of the Chair’s generous claim. 


In response to Freese’s description of the “diversity” of the UCRPD (“We have twenty-two male officers, three female, one Asian [sic] officer, two Black officers, seven Hispanic [sic] officers, and fifteen white officers”), i posed a written question to the panel:  Is the Task Force aware that increased diversity of police personnel does not lead to less racist, less sexist, less transphobic, less antiblack police practices?  The Police Chief’s rambling response to this rudimentary question further undermined confidence in the Task Force’s credibility and analytical rigor, given Freese’s central role in its deliberations:

 

We—like all police departments—we hire from the human race.  It doesn’t matter what color our police officers are.  Our police officers, just like any human beings, can have, um, feelings and things that are part of their lives and that they act on, sometimes subconsciously. As the leader of this department, I’ve always had a clear stance that we do not stand for any kind of prejudiced behavior from our officers….  [T]he best way I can answer that question, is that we do the best with hiring from the human race. I acknowledge that it doesn’t matter what color or the makeup of our police department or any police department, you’re, you’re uh, you’re dealing with human beings.[13]

 

Especially revealing is a passage from the minutes of the Task Force meeting held immediately after the Town Hall:

 

[UCR Police Chief] John Freese raised his concern about a recommendation for abolishing the police force; [Associate Chancellor] Christine Victorino suggested focusing on developing justified, well-founded, and implementable recommendations.[14]

 

While the Town Hall was nothing short of an administrative shitshow, the Task Force continued its work unabated, spurred by a January 2021 deadline to submit “recommendations” to the Chancellor.  Serious questions about the Task Force’s credibility have persisted, due in part to administrative incompetence in the appointment of its members:  at least two Black student appointees were not initially asked to consent to be publicly named as Task Force members, and one was no longer enrolled at the university at the time of their appointment (their name was still listed as a Task Force member in early January 2021).  Yet, questions of credibility and competence ultimately have little to do with the Task Force’s most important purpose: to simply exist for a finite period.

 

Task Force As Police Power


The public ritual of the “campus safety task force” reproduces the legitimacy of police presence by inviting criticism of its excess, dysfunction, mismanagement, corruption, antiblackness, racism, misogyny, queer phobia, transphobia, ableism, and white supremacy (etc.).  Such task forces are a production and performance of police power and are thus constitutive of, rather than external to it; their deliberations (including task force reports, white papers, and recommendations) extend the technology of policing to incorporate the ceremonial participation of critics, individualized and communal targets of police terror, and survivors of acute (and homicidal) police violence.  These processes tend to not only incorporate the direct participation of police, but also extend the reach of domestic counterinsurgency as a defense of the fundamental legitimacy of police power (violence) and police militarization (domestic war).  This counterinsurgency serves to protract and reproduce antiblack (etc.) state violence at the very same time that it solicits indignant outrage against it.  Yet, the omnipresence of police reform task forces at university and college campuses also occasions an overdue reflection on the continuities of policing and police power beyond “the police.” 


The university administration is police power, and university police are the direct expression of administrative power.

 

UCRFTP Statement on the UCR Campus Safety (Policing) Task Force is HERE

Signing page is HERE

 

NOTES   Photo Credit

[1] See UCFTP social media sites at  https://www.facebook.com/UCFTP/https://twitter.com/ucftp, and https://www.instagram.com/uc_ftp/ (accessed January 2021); UCLA Divest/Invest website, https://challengeinequality.luskin.ucla.edu/abolition-repository/ (accessed January 2021); UCSA June 2, 2020 press release, https://ucsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/UCSA-Statement-Anti-Blackness-Police-Violence-6_2.pdf; and Thao Nguyen, “Coalition launches campaign to remove police from UC campuses,” The Daily Californian, September 4, 2020, https://www.dailycal.org/2020/09/04/coalition-launches-campaign-to-remove-police-from-uc-campuses/ (accessed January 2021).

[2] By way of example, see University of California Office of the President, “UC statement on protests, violence following George Floyd’s death,” Sunday, May 31, 2020, https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/uc-statement-protests-violence-following-george-floyd-s-death (accessed January 2021); UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive, “Statement on George Floyd to UC Santa Cruz Community,” May 29, 2020, https://news.ucsc.edu/2020/05/statement-on-george-floyd.html (accessed December 2020); UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, “Chancellor’s Statement on George Floyd,” https://leadership.ucdavis.edu/news/messages/chancellor-messages/statement-on-george-floyd (accessed December 2020).

[3] UCFTP, “Against Task Forces,” public statement issued January 2, 2021, https://twitter.com/ucftp/status/1345460418714562560 (accessed January 2021). 

[4] See Dylan Rodríguez, “Beyond ‘Police Brutality’: Racist State Violence and the University of California,” American Quarterly (Currents), Vol. 64, No. 2, June 2012, p. 301-313; Gabe Schneider, “UC Campuses Have Disclosed Virtually No Records Under Police Transparency Law,” Voice of San Diego, May 12, 2020,

https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/public-safety/uc-campuses-have-disclosed-virtually-no-records-under-police-transparency-law/ (accessed January 2021); Tyler Kingkade, “University Of California Campus Police Have History Of Excessive Force Against Protesters,” The Huffington Post, December 9, 2011, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/california-campus-police-clash-with-protesters-ows_n_1125537 (accessed January 2021); Paul D. Thacker , ‘Shock and Anger at UCLA,” Inside Higher Ed November 17, 2006, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2006/11/17/shock-and-anger-ucla (accessed January 2021); Lauren Hernández and Sarah Ravani, “Students protest UC Berkeley police arrests they say were racially motivated,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2019, https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Students-racially-profiled-brutalized-by-13701947.php (accessed January 2021).

[5] University of California Presidential Task Force on Universitywide Policing Implementation Report, June 2020.

[6]

Michael V. Drake to become 21st president of the University of California

UC Office of the President

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/michael-v-drake-become-21st-president-university-california (accessed January 2021). 

[7] See Summers, L., & Gougelet, K. (2020). Whose University? When Police Pass the Baton to Campuses, Society for the Anthropology of Workhttps://doi.org/10.21428/1d6be30e.8cc96f6fhttps://saw.americananthro.org/pub/whose-university-when-police-pass-the-baton-to-campuses/release/1(accessed January 2021); Nina Agrawal, “‘Violation of our values,’ UCLA chancellor says of LAPD’s use of Jackie Robinson Stadium,” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-06-04/ucla-chancellor-calls-lapd-use-of-jackie-robinson-stadium-to-process-arrests-a-violation (accessed December 2020); “Statement on LAPD using Jackie Robinson Stadium,” June 4, 2020, https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/ucla-a-violation-of-our-values (accessed December 2020); 

[8] Teresa Watanabe, “UC President-elect Michael V. Drake knows firsthand about harsh police tactics,” LA Times, JULY 8, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-07-08/uc-president-elect-michael-v-drake-knows-firsthand-about-harsh-police-tactics (accessed January 2021).

[9] Chancellor Kim Wilcox, Campus safety task force announcement, September 14, 2020 https://insideucr.ucr.edu/announcements/2020/09/14/campus-safety-task-force-announcement (accessed January 2021).

[10]

Teresa Watanabe

African American students thrive with high graduation rates at UC Riverside

Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2017

https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-uc-riverside-black-students-20170623-htmlstory.html (accessed January 2021).

[11] University of California Universitywide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures, January 7, 2011, p. 8. https://policy.ucop.edu/doc/4000382/PoliceProceduresManual (accessed January 2021). Cited in UC Senate Systemwide Public Safety Task Force Final Report Submitted to the University Committee on Faculty Welfare (UCFW) 

June 1, 2018, p. 71. https://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/_files/reports/SNW-JN-gold-book-task-force-report.pdf (accessed January 2021)

[12] Ibid.

[13] Task Force on Campus Safety Town Hall, November 12, 2020 https://chancellor.ucr.edu/task-force-campus-safety (accessed December 2020).

[14] Task Force on Campus Safety, UC Riverside Office of the Chancellor, https://chancellor.ucr.edu/task-force-campus-safety (accessed December 2020).

Monday, January 25, 2021

Monday, January 25, 2021

Two years of context helps to understand the state Democrats' plan for UC, expressed in the Governor's budget proposal this month.

 In November 2019, UCOP sought to end UC's worst modern budget decade with a some meaningful funding growth. The 2010s had brought many negative net revenue effects:

  • state funding cuts and subpar annual general fund increments
  • tuition freeze (welding shut UC's revenue safety value)
  • restart of pension contributions with no permanent state support for employer share
  • end of state funding for new construction
  • no state funding for deferred maintenance (backlog estimates ranging from $6.2B to $14B)
  • Campuses had diligently followed instructions to seek multiple revenue streams.  The two most familiar are non-resident tuition and for-profit degree programs (SSDPs).  

    A third revenue stream has been institutional debt. It stands at $26.7 B (page 16), up 85 percent from $14.4 B in 2011 (page 15). (UC debt is also up year-on-year by around $2B from 2019, mostly in the form of new Medical Center Pooled Revenue Bonds. This does not include an additional $2.8 B in Covid-related borrowing in summer 2020, with more to come.)

    Even before Covid-19 appeared, three UC flagship campuses were projecting deficits in the first half of hte 2020s. See "Destined for Deficits" for flagship details; see "The Essential Charts" for the twenty-year system pattern. Funding crises have long been visible on the campuses: UC Berkeley's VP for Finance and Administration called the funding model unsustainable in 2013.

    Such news doesn't usually make it into presentations to the regents, so in this context UCOP's November 2019 budget document was unusually graphic.  It identified many areas of functional deterioration at UC. These included sharp increases in the number of students per ladder-faculty member, the same for student:staff ratios, and faculty salaries that had spent at least 20 years at around 10 percent below comparators. 

    The document identified a chronic problem with state funding that usually escapes notice: net new funding is generally a fraction of the headline state increase, because it must cover terminated previous one-time funding or new mandated activities. 2018-19's headline increase of 7.1 percent yielded 0.7 percent as a "net available for sustaining core operations"--a fraction of that year's 3.5 percent inflation rate (Display 7). 

    UCOP established this 2019 narrative of UC damage to justify that year's proposal for a modest "cohort-based" tuition plan, which would allow tuition increases at about inflation, fully in place after 4 years. It was a toddler-sized foot in the door, but it was a foot. The overall plan would have brought UC's state general fund allocation to just about $4 billion.

    The result: Newsom cut the Regents' request for $447M for 2020-21 down to an increase of $217M. Then there was Covid, and the state cut UC $300.8 M instead.  The Department of Finance puts UC's general fund allocation for the current year at $3.465 B.

    In November 2020, the regents adopted a UCOP request for an additional $518.2 M for 2021-22.  Once again, UC would be inching towards the magical $4 B level.  $300.8M of this was trying to fill in the 2020-21 cut--to keep that reduction from forming a permanently reduced baseline. There was $157.6 M for mandatory cost increases--salaries, benefits, and debt service--and about $60 M for improving student outcomes in ways mandated by the legislature.  

    This month, Newsom came back with a proposal for $136.0 M. He will not backfill the permanent cut of  $300.8 M, even on a one-time Covid-19 emergency basis.  UC keeps that hole and is to receive 86 percent of what it had defined as mandatory cost increases (negotiated wage increases and benefits, among other things).  That was one of five General Fund items the regents voted in November to request. They got none of the other four, though Newsom did recommend $225M in one-time funds for deferred maintenance and some other items.  The governor's proposal would put UC's general fund at $3.6 B. That's about the level of 2017-18. It's also about the level of 2007-08, unadjusted for inflation.

     In a regents' committee meeting on January 20th, UCOP officials summarized the governor's budget in a few slides. 


     The 3 percent base increase is on the new, permanently-reduced amount. The rest are line-items that normally a public university would fund out of general operating money. UC PRIME is an example-- a diversity-oriented medical education program for underserved areas that UC Health should just pay for out of operations. Same for legal services for undocumented students, which should be funded as one among many permanent student services.  

    Next slide: DM gets $175 M in one-time funds, and more earmarks are added. The DM figure is about 1.25 percent of a reasonable estimate of system-wide deferred maintenance, so at this rate UC will fix this year's back log about 80 years from now.   Except it's not annual money . . .


     The final slide notes the continuation of the tuition freeze and an accelerated deadline for closing equity gaps in student attainment.

    These are all long-established goals, particularly turning UC into a workforce training system, which hails from the 1980s and 1990s, and which was re-emphasized by Newsom in his first budget. Such goals are also priced in to allocations, so new efforts at pursuit will never receive a reward. 

    In short, Newsom restores Jerry Brown austerity in the form of frozen tuition and sub-inflation net state funding. We all hate the phrase, but this is classic "do more with less"--with no state interest in its effect on UC viability.

    This budget presentation to the regents was more negative than UCOP's previous messaging about the governor's proposal. After Newsom's release, the UC president immediately thanked him for, in effect, providing one quarter of his request. This signaled to the media that the governor was being very supportive of higher education and that his proposal was good news. Poor Teresa Watanabe, the LA Times's UC & higher reporter, with her colleague Nina Agrawal, had to try to write a coherent story. They cited all three system heads calling the budget a "welcome reinvestment," to quote CSU's chancellor Joseph Castro, while noting that Newsom did not use the unexceptedly good state revenue picture to undo the current year cuts or to come close to matching the requests. The only figure in the story who suggested damage to educational quality was a (former) chancellor,  George Blumenthal, with direct experience of a campus.  

    Taking the LAT coverage and the UCOP budget presentation together, we have these budget stories.

    • It's under control. Wait until next year (UCOP budget officials)
    • Funding is very complex. UC is the greatest public university (UC president)
    • The governor is reinvesting in higher education (heads of UC, CSU, & CCC)
    • California Democrats are degrading the quality of UC (and CSU & CCC) through underfunding (the occasional chancellor plus random bloggers)

    One of these tales is not like the others. It is far less pleasant to consider. It is also true. But in the absence of budget context, budget history, and budget needs--absences actively generated by the first three stories--the fourth can't establish a claim on reality.  The situation keeps the quality narrative obscure. If it does, the gap between means and funds will continue to grow.

    Figure 1: State General Fund Allocations to the University of California Compared to State Per-Capita Income Growth, 2001-2022, with Regents Budget Request 2020-22.


    The gap is learning and research (and eating and rent-paying) that doesn't happen.

    ***

    Data from California Department of Finance (UC general fund allocations) and from the Legislative Analyst's Office data and forecasts for state personal income growth.  Charts with tuition revenue and other details are presented and discussed here.   Photo Credit