Wednesday, May 19, 2010

UC Ponders New On-Line Revenue Stream

Timothy Hampton
Professor of French and
Bernie H. Williams Professor of Comparative Literature
U.C. Berkeley

This just in. . .

Dateline, Oakland, CA. Officials of the University of California are reacting cautiously to a new proposal floated by advisors to the campaign of Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Meg Whitman. The proposal aims to help close the Budget Deficit of the struggling ten-campus system. Whitman,
whose development of the eBay on-line auction site has made her a billionaire, has long been a critic of the size of the California Government, and has vowed, if elected, to cut thousands of jobs from the public sector, including UC and CSU. However, advisors close to the Whitman camp have recently advanced a new approach for funding public education that would harness the power of the Internet to reduce the size of UC.

The program, provisionally dubbed uBay, would enable citizens to place on-line bids to purchase pieces of the vast ten-campus system, from parcels of land, to buildings, to campus furniture. “Let’s face it, UC is as bloated as the rest of the public sector,” announced Helmut Sitzbad, an official close to the Whitman Campaign. “This innovative program would enable the average taxpayer, people like you and me, to help slim down some of the fat. Just log on, select your item, and click. Presto, UC will be smaller and you will own a piece of California history.” Sitzbad noted that buildings all across the System could easily attract wealthy developers looking for investment opportunities in a slack real estate market. “But the beauty of this idea is that everyone can own a piece of UC,“ he added. “We’ve got classrooms on all ten campuses with too many chairs, tables, and desks—not to mention chalkboards that don't get written on and windows that don't get closed. With the coming of recycling even the waste baskets are under-utilized. Through our plan Californians could purchase these appealing items with a simple click of their mouse. The University would shrink, its budget would grow, and the citizenry would feel itself linked to UC in an entirely new way. Some might complain that this is a form of privatization. However, at the end of the day, we see this as a way of putting the University literally back in the hands of the taxpayers.”

UC officials have been cautiously optimistic about the new uBay proposal. University spokesperson Bob Furlong noted that the plan could help alleviate some of the logistical problems on campus. “Cuts to teaching budgets mean that we’ve already got overcrowded classrooms all across the System,” he
said in an e-mail. “By eliminating desks and tables we should be able to create more space in some of our bigger lecture halls, thereby increasing standing-room capacity. The sale of windows and doors would bring knowledge to students unable to squeeze into the rooms where lectures and seminars are held.” He added that, while selling off entire buildings might seem like a big step, small departments could conduct some of their business outside during nice weather and faculty could “bunk” with each other by sharing offices during the rainy season. “We’re always promoting collaborative research, and this might well further our efforts in that direction,” he noted.

UC officials plan to solicit faculty input on the uBay initiative, but the University is confident that the pushback will be minimal. “These days UC is all about moving on-line,” noted C. Johnson Hacker, Assistant Director of Administrative Obfuscation for UC’s President’s Office. “We are moving at warp speed toward on-line courses, and next month we’ll be unveiling two exciting new initiatives to market the UC name over the Web. Our innovative digital advisement program, ‘Download-a-Dean,’ and our live-chat teaching program, ‘The Tweeting Tutor,’ both hold enormous promise for filling UC’s
coffers while engaging with the public in exciting new ways. In our view, it’s part of the University’s public mission to make UC available to everyone with a Paypal account.”

Officials close to the Whitman campaign caution that the fledgling uBay project is still on the drawing board, and they are undecided as to the extent of its reach into the often arcane world of Academe. “We’re excited about the idea of reducing bloat by selling off buildings, land, and perhaps a few professors,” noted spokesperson Sitzbad. “We’re less clear on things like bacteria, which have enormous revenue potential because they reproduce like crazy, but could, in the wrong hands, be dangerous. We’re very concerned to keep the great treasure that is the University of California
away from people who might behave irresponsibly."

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