Last week we distributed our memorandum on the Strategic Planning Process, outlining BFA’s priorities. We received a number of supportive messages, but the most challenging one came from James Holston, complaining about our limited imagination when it comes to university governance. He is on sabbatical at the Federal University of São Paulo, where he is helping to introduce a system of internal direct democracy. Such democratic governance, if it is to be meaningful, has to begin with a minimal budget transparency. In this regard we could follow the daring move of UC San Diego’s administration, which opened up its budget to the university community.
While on the subject of administration: it is interesting to see what happened to some of UC Berkeley’s administrators of yesterday. Spiraling in from outside, they advanced their pet projects and then, as it happened, spiraled down: John Wilton returned to investment and finance, while Nicholas Dirks has become Chancellor of a new K-12 private school venture with a global reach, built on the charter school model.
We are trying to be vigilant on the matter of faculty welfare, keeping track of what is happening to the health benefits of Emeriti. In July of 2017, the Council of UC Faculty Associations (CUCFA) sent a message to the Regents to maintain the 70% employer contribution floor for retiree health benefits. President Napolitano has appointed a Working Group to examine the issue in the light of UCOP’s view that escalating costs of health insurance for retirees make the current program unsustainable. Combined with the cut in pension benefits to new tiers of employees, any reduction in health benefits will likely have an adverse effect on recruitment and retention of faculty.
Chair of the BFA.
In an interview with the LA Times, former Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks compared the management of his prior institution, Columbia University, with Berkeley, saying the latter suffers from a diffuse and overly political oversight structure. Asked about the numerous sexual misconduct scandals during his tenure, Dirks said, “I wish I had paid more attention to faculty cases from the start.” He went on to say he’s writing a book about the assault on the reputations of American universities, which he believes is motivated by a perception that the top pubic schools are “not really open to the public.”
In other news, the states’ Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report on the governor’s proposed 2018-19 higher education budget. The document notes a number of factors driving up costs at UC, including planned enrollment growth, compensation increases, academic initiatives and facility projects. The report is critical of UC’s planned capital projects, noting some haven’t fully been justified based on current facility utilization rates. The report emphasizes a disjuncture between the governor’s proposed budget and UC’s proposed budget, stating:
The UC Regent’s draft budget plan assumes significantly more funding is available than implicitly recognized in the Governor’s budget. Whereas the Governor’s budget implicitly recognizes the $300 million in new funding, UC’s draft budget assumes $437 million. The largest revenue difference between the two plans is UC’s preliminary budget assumption that it would raise tuition by 2.5 percent. The largest spending difference between the two plans is UC’s preliminary request for additional salary increases for faculty and other non-represented staff. Other notable spending differences include UC’s preliminary request for $50 million for academic quality initiatives and $35 million one‑time General Fund for deferred maintenance projects. The bottom part of Figure 15 shows all the calls on the $69 million remaining under the Governor’s assumed spending level.
2/18 – Former UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks: The American university is ‘under growing attack’ (LATimes): Dirks said his accomplishments as chancellor included improving the undergraduate experience and bringing Berkeley and UCSF closer together.
2/15 – Report: Higher Education Analysis (LAO): The report also contains analysis of the CSU and CCC systems.
2/14 – UC Berkeley Consumer Law Center Created With Gift From Elizabeth Cabraser (Law.com): The center will be focused on low-income consumer issues.