Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Continuation: Newfield Response to Chris Edley

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You and I have met once – when you presented Berkeley Law’s financial planning to the Senate’s systemwide committee for Planning and Budget (UCPB) while I was chair – but I remember you as a charming, rigorous persuader, and have always respected your passionate advocacy for your law school unit.

You may not be aware that I have written two books about universities as cultural, intellectual, and financial institutions, as well as many articles on the subject in the US and abroad. But I know you know the UC budget reports I co-authored, which did three things: 1) they correctly predicted the gravity of the current crisis at a time when UCOP insisted that everything was fine; 2) they showed that only undesirably high tuition increases could make up for chronic and now massive cuts in the state portion of UC’s budget; 3) they called on UCOP and the Regents to make the public “ask” for a correct level of state funding.

The history is relevant here. Our Senate budget group calculated a reasonable recovery route as a return to the 2001 state funding effort for UC. In 2006-07 this meant we were down $1.1 billion from where we would have been had we continued to grow at the same rate as state personal income after 2001. The systemwide Academic Senate endorsed this recommendation for a return to the “2001 Pathway” through a UCOP/Regental deal with the legislature for a sustainable ramp-up. That was before the current crisis, when we could imagine this happening reasonably soon.

I and then-chair of the Senate John Oakley presented the Futures Report and the recommendation to the Regents in May 2007. The next year, my committee wrote the Cuts Report showing that the Governor was doing exactly the opposite of what UC required, which was to go beyond the worst of our four scenarios for reductions of public funding. That report recommended that UC set a minimum for state investment per student and not go below that. This would set a floor to the degradation of resources, after which we would reduce enrollments.

UCOP and the Regents ignored these formally endorsed recommendations. Even though we showed that the restoration of proper public funding is the only way to have a high-quality public research university with the widest possible access, I do not know of a single statement made by any UC official that has called for a major restoration of public funding. Instead, this was widely written off as a “non-starter,” although it is exactly how Pres. David Gardner got UC back on track in the 1980s – massive, repeated general fund increases – and although we all know that you will never receive if you don’t even ask in the first place.

You don’t tell us about any of “zillions” of ideas that have been considered - and in failing to offer even one concrete instance, your response reflects the lack of transparency and the vagueness of the financial analysis that the petition signers are rightly concerned about.

But I do know about one idea that you have advocated publicly and with your characteristic energy and eloquence: the era of public funding is over. I also know about your main solution: you got permission from the Regents to raise the fees at some UC professional schools to market, and you have nearly doubled Berkeley law tuition to almost $36,000 a year (Stanford is $42,420). The in-state fee exemption has also disappeared, although I assume Berkeley law still receives a good multiple of state general funds beyond that received per-student by the campuses.

This has protected Berkeley Law, but it is a doomsday scenario for UC as a whole. You help discourage UC from ever asking for correct levels of funding, even though you know that we neither can nor want the Berkeley Law solution of $20,000 rising to $40,000 tuition. We are caught in a trap that is in large part UC officialdom’s own making, and so far, Chris, you are making it worse.

This years cuts are a complete catastrophe for the University of California system. Please redirect your guns not at your own colleagues but at the downsizers who are degrading higher education for a now- minority-majority population at a time when we all need it the most.
It would be great to have you with us and not against us.

Best wishes, Chris

4 comments:

Lisa Parks said...

Thanks for your thoughtful and detailed response to that attack on the petitioners, Chris!

dm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harry Nelson said...

Thanks Chris. I've come around to the viewpoint that the Regents and Senior Administrators are asking or maybe even pleading for the help of the vast group of faculty, staff, and alumni to guide the State of California back on track with respect to higher education.

However, social practice in contemporary high-level business management precludes them from being direct in their request for help. It just isn't cool for them.

Your work is really a beacon of light in this dark time. Fiat Lux, Harry

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