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Daily Cal: UC Commission on the Future Releases Final Report

The Daily Californian Online
UC Commission on the Future Releases Final Report
By Jordan Bach-Lombardo
Contributing Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010
Category: News > University > Higher Education

With the University of California facing an increasingly precarious financial situation, the university’s Commission on the Future unveiled its final recommendations for maintaining the UC’s fiscal viability on Monday.

The recommendations focus on various methods to generate revenue for the university in a time of drastically reduced state funding for the system’s 10 campuses, including increasing the number of out-of-state students, negotiating better cost recovery rates to reduce research overhead costs, increasing the amount of money yielded through private fundraising and increasing the revenue generated by the UC’s self-supporting programs.

“UC is intent on maintaining its historic support of California’s intellectual and economic eminence … and (sustaining) excellence despite fiscal constraints,” said UC Provost Lawrence Pitts during a phone-in press conference held Monday to present the report.

The report’s release culminates almost 18 months of work since the commission’s inception in July 2009, during which the commission’s members – including 26 UC regents, professors and administration members; three California business leaders; and two UC Student Association representatives divided into five working groups – worked towards its stated goal of developing “a vision for the future of the University that will reaffirm our role is sustaining California’s economy … while recognizing that our limited state resources require us to be creative and strategic in meeting that mission,” as laid out in a July 16, 2009 letter by UC Board of Regents Chair Russell Gould when he formally established the commission.

But systemwide Academic Senate Chair and UC Davis law professor Daniel Simmons said the report failed to provide an overall strategic plan for the university.

“There’s ideas for cutting costs, there’s ideas for raising revenue and standing alone a lot of it is good,” he said. “But it really doesn’t overall provide a cohesive direction for (the UC).”

Additional proposals recommend reaffirming the UC’s commitment to the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education and easing transfer students transition to a UC campus while others suggest reducing a student’s time to degree and further developing online education.

The last two recommendations in particular have come under fire, with the Berkeley Faculty Association saying the reduced time to degree could wrest academic decision-making away from UC faculty and decrying the online project as a “boondoggle.”

But during the press conference, Gould lauded the time to degree proposal, saying, “I can’t think of a better way to keep costs down for students, for taxpayers and their families and to allow students to achieve their dreams quickly.”

The report includes a series of “contingency recommendations” – such as raising or eliminating the cap on the proportion of out-of-state students enrolled in the UC system, curtailing undergraduate enrollment and charging differential tuition by campus – that were not endorsed by the commission but could be reconsidered should “the fiscal crisis deepen and State and other funding sources continue to decline to a point where the University can no longer sustain its longstanding commitment to academic quality and increasing access,” the report states.

However, UC President Mark Yudof said the university is not in a position where it needs to consider such controversial proposals.

Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said “the state must live within its means,” as he proposed a $7 billion cut in state spending on Monday, leaving the future of state support for the UC up in the air.

“If things get worse or uglier, people are going to have to rethink where we’re headed,” Simmons said.

Article Link: http://www.dailycal.org/article/111428

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2 Comments

  1. UC Berkeley senior management team have provided ample reason to question their competence to lead Cal. (I don’t say this lightly or floppantly) Cal.’s Leadership Crisis
    (The signs of UC Berkeley’s relative decline are clear. In 2004, for example, the London-based Times Higher Education ranked UC Berkeley the second leading research university in the world, just behind Harvard; in 2009, that ranking, due largely to an expanding student-to-faculty ratio, had tumbled to 39th place)
    University of California Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.
    A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Competent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up to $150 million of inefficiencies….until there was no money left.
    It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.
    In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC president, Board of Regents, and California legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, Academic Senate, Cal. Alumni, financial donors, benefactors await the transformation.
    (PS. The signs of UC Berkeley’s relative decline are clear. In 2004, for example, the London-based Times Higher Education ranked UC Berkeley the second

  2. The signs of University of California Berkeley’s relative decline are clear. In 2004, for example, the London-based Times Higher Education ranked UC Berkeley the second leading research university in the world, just behind Harvard; in 2009 that ranking had tumbled to 39th place. Source Forbes.
    Operational Excellence (OE) needs to overcome Chancellor Birgeneau’s stonewalling OE from probing senior management decision making and operating practices.