Sunday, September 27, 2009

Senate Leader on Mark Yudof after One Year


Let me try to make a case in favor of the current administration, as I see it. I think one of the most important things Pres. Yudof has accomplished has been to rebuild the Regents' confidence in the Office of the President and to help restore the respective governance roles of the two organizations to a more proper balance. Recall the situation 18 months or two years ago when we had a president who had essentially been fired by the Regents but was still wandering around. The university was being run by Rory Hume who was being kept on a very short leash by Regent Blum. The Regents were quite vocal in their criticisms of UCOP and spent much of their time struggling to deal with all the compliance rules that they had initiated in response to the compensation scandals of that period that were truly scandalous. Now they have delegated much of the transactional authority back to the president and are trying to work with him to figure out ways to have positive impacts in things like improving UC's advocacy strategies.

I believe Yudof has made some progress in stepping up our historically woeful external relations efforts, although this is the sort of thing that takes time, so we'll have to wait and see if this new initiative actually gains traction. But for example, his office and some of the regents have been actively lining up groups of business leaders in high tech, bio-tech, etc. to advocate for UC in Sacto. You may be familiar with ACA 4, Sen. Yee's attempt to get an initiative on the ballot to revoke UC's constitutional autonomy and put us under the direct control of the legislature. It is hard to imagine the voters ever approving that, given their disgust with the legislature, but it never got out of committee in the senate because of the lobbying efforts on our behalf by of a group of business tycoons organized by Yudof. As another example, the campus alumni associations have been mobilized to send out coordinated advocacy messages to their alumni mailing lists. For the first time I can recall, I received an email as a UCSB alum from our alumni association, not requesting money, but rather asking me to write my state representatives to protest the budget cuts. I'll admit it is difficult to see how we can make any significant headway as long as we have such a dysfunctional state government with republicans holding veto power over any tax increases and democrats unable to even agree among themselves about how to cut the prison budget. Too bad we can't figure out how to convince the legislators that being soft on higher ed is one of the deadly sins of politics. It seems like the only way to gain really substantial influence in Sacto is to mount a credible threat to the politicians' future electoral ambitions. That means lining up some of the individuals and organizations that bankroll campaigns in the state to add support for UC to the pledge checklists they get candidates to sign in exchange for campaign funds. The president and some of the Regents are in good positions to do this, and I believe they are starting to look for more opportunities.

With regard to the budget, I would say that UCOP is trying to figure out how to move us forward, but problems are large and the solutions difficult and unpopular. I have been on a joint senate/admin working group on budget that Pres. Yudof set up last fall or winter (co-chaired by Gene Lucas). It will now be folded into the new commission on the future of UC, I gather. We have looked at a number of ideas on raising revenues and cutting costs, and there are no magic bullets, as you might imagine. The increased fee for engineering courses was one of our suggestions, and I think it can be justified based on either costlier instructional needs or more job opportunities, or both. Another revenue source will be increasing undergrad out of state admits by modest amounts. Nothing new or earth-shaking, but basic stuff that will help offset diminishing state revenues. On the cost cutting side, most of the decisions devolve down to the level of the campuses where decisions about cutting programs reside. Perhaps the Gould commission will be able to articulate some overarching principles to guide the shrinkage and cutting, but most of hard work will still have to happen on the campuses. I don't think we would want it any other way. If you have any ideas that the rest of us haven't thought of, I would be glad to carry them forward. I'm not overly confident that the Gould commission and its associated working groups will actually accomplish anything substantial, but there will be a lot of discussion, debate and effort put into it by many people, which may be positive, in itself.

Finally, the furloughs. Nobody is happy about them, but the senate was not uniformly opposed to the furlough plan, per se. There were striking differences of opinion that tended to break along disciplinary and generational lines. The Academic council felt that there was honest, legitimate consultation by the president and provost and that they did respond by accepting a number of our recommendations about the specifics about the plan. We unanimously endorsed a statement to that effect at our July meeting. We obviously did not agree with the decision about furloughs on instructional days, but I feel there was honest consultation with the council on that, as well. They also consulted with the chancellors and EVCs who were almost unanimously strongly opposed to the council position (Henry and Gene went against their counterparts). Larry and Mark made the wrong choice from our perspective, but it was their choice to make and they weren't out on their own on it.

By a long-term senior Senate leader (not Harry, Larry, Dan, Mary, or Michael . . .)


Anonymous said...

"I believe Yudof has made some progress in stepping up our historically woeful external relations efforts, although this is the sort of thing that takes time, so we'll have to wait and see if this new initiative actually gains traction."

Our external relations just hit their nadir. Yudof was served an opportunity to speak to the nation in the NY Times, and he punted education into the graveyard.

He must go.

Anonymous said...

One of the main problems with Senate "leadership" is the cozy relationship that evolves between the administration and said "leadership." The lead folks at system-wide (Mary, Harry, etc.) reside at system-wide, and like and respect Mark Yudof. And they probably think he's funny, too. The bunker "us-against-them" UCOP mentality that so forcefully emerges from Yudof's NYT fiasco infects them (remember, OP does pay their salary, and often gives them jobs after their Senate tenure--as with Pitts and Blumenthal).

And, folks who reside on Council too long often become smaller versions of the same thing. In short, these folks evolve into something pitiful, ugly and horrible--truly "creatures of OP."

So, with all due respect to the campus "Senate leader" you quote here, I would direct to them the following questions---How long have you been in your current role? Do you think it might be far too long? Have you ever really opposed anything of substance that the administration proposed? Given the previous answers, could you see how others might view you as a pathetic administration shill?

Anonymous said...

And our second "Anon" comment (with mine soon to be the third) proves that the vitriol and complete lack of civility that pervades many of our national debates also permeates the UC culture.

...and we wonder why we're so badly broken. =/

Anonymous said...

The internal reasons that we're so badly broken are largely because of lousy leadership--at OP, as we've once again been reminded by Mark Yudof, and with a serially inept and utterly compliant system-wide Senate. We can only hope things change within those parts that we have influence over. But, given "long-time Senate leader's" extended OP apologia, there's only reason for pessimism there. With respect to civility in times when lousy policy decisions and pitiful advocacy (by OP!) are causing lots of good people to lose their jobs, and students to leave the university because of the expense, all one can really say to the previous commenter is, "Buck-up, buttercup--you probably have it darn good!"