Monday, July 13, 2009

Continuation: Berkeley Law Dean Tees Off on Petition Writers

It's as if the authors read none of the news accounts of the budget battles over the past eight months; or the letters, videos and memoranda distributed widely by the President and Chancellors; or the invitations to town hall meetings and academic senate discussions. The implication that UC administrators and Regents have done too little to lobby the legislature and Governor is just provocative fantasy.

Things would be far, far worse had they not been as effective as they in fact were over successive rounds of state budget reduction exercises -- including the one going on around the clock right now. Are the petition authors ignorant of the other state cuts that will cause tremendous pain to the neediest families in the State? The suggestion that the proposed cuts be suspended is reckless because it simply means that deeper cuts (or higher fees) will be required over the remaining months of the fiscal year. As a law school dean, that frightens me. I know enough about the campus and System budgets to know that would create many more layoffs -- because such a huge proportion of UC expenditures are in salaries.

And, of course, zillions of alternatives have been considered and continue to be considered -- at UCOP and at multiple levels on every campus. That's been in the works since the mid-to-late 2008, when the economy tanked and yet another state budget crisis became inevitable.
The petition suggests . . . what? That masses of faculty and staff spend the time to become proficient in budget tradeoffs, and sensitive to competing values and goals? How practical is that? Delaying things in order to have another 20 town hall meetings and another 30 public
speakers at a future Regents meeting will accomplish nothing substantive, and almost nothing in governance terms.

I've only been in California and at U.C. five years. These problems are decades in the making, with head-in-sand, make-believe planning the principal response while threats to quality grew. The hysteria today is too little, too late, and badly misdirected. UC constituents must
do better at our politics and our planning. Stop protesting the present circumstances and start engaging vigorously about a different and better future. (As suggested by point 5 of the petition.)



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