The findings from a new investigation into UCOP’s interference with a state audit echoed those from a Regent-backed investigation into the same matter. California State Auditor Elaine Howle concluded UCOP attempted to mute criticism of the higher education system’s leadership, though her report stopped short of concluding President Janet Napolitano knew her aides were scrubbing damaging remarks. Howle’s report included some new information, including the revelation that Deputy Chief of Staff Bernie Jones, who has stepped down, attempted to identify a whistleblower. Howle’s report recommended “disciplining the UC employees involved, requiring training and education about whistleblowers and the inappropriateness of retaliation, and revising reporting so that university auditors report directly to regents, not to the UC president’s office,” according to the LA Times.
Editorial boards and columnists were split on calling for Napolitano’s resignation in the wake of the scandal. The San Jose Mercury News called for her to step down, but the San Francisco Chronicle condemned her actions without explicitly addressing her tenure. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s editorial board said it was not yet asking for her to resign, but that it would keep a close eye on UCOP.
Over Thanksgiving week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that 1,549 students visited UC Berkeley’s food pantry during a one-month span. Students are limited to five items per visit, a vital lifeline for those making due in an increasingly expensive region. In other news, the Berkeley College Republicans’ recently ousted president has sued an Antifa protestor for violating his first amendment rights.
In higher ed news, the Washington Post ran an in-depth piece exploring the growing conservative assault on higher education. The article implies that one reason higher ed funding hasn’t returned to pre-Great Recession levels is a perception among conservatives that universities are “elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market,” as the article notes. The piece cites a Pew study which found 72 percent of Democrats feel universities have a positive effect on the nation, while only 36 percent of Republicans feel the same way. In 2015, 54 percent of Republicans took a positive stance, evidence the article marshals to argue that higher ed has become a key symbol of the nation’s partisan divide. Meanwhile, the Guardian published a piece on a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA that is looking to compensate players and their families for the damage college football brings to players’ brains.
11/22 – State auditor finds top aides to UC President Napolitano interfered in audit, recommends reforms (LATimes): The article notes the two UCOP staffers who resigned received no residual UC benefits.
11/21 – Editorial: After audit debacle, fire UC President Napolitano (SJMN): The paper’s editorial board framed the audit interference as the final straw, citing Napolitano’s UCOP budget mess as an earlier (if less severe) offense.
11/24 – Column: How UC President Napolitano undermined state audit (SJMN): The author calls for Napolitano’s firing.
11/21 – Editorial: Napolitano, UC regents both failing Californians in audit fiasco (SDUT): The paper writes, “The U-T Editorial Board isn’t calling for Napolitano to resign — yet. But it’s hard to have faith in her or the UC regents now. They failed Californians — and need to prove they’ll ‘conduct themselves ethically, honestly and with integrity in all dealings.'”
11/18 – Editorial: UC Regents were right to discipline President Napolitano (SFChronicle): The editorial board falls short of calling for her resignation.
11/23 – Many college students going hungry, need donated food groceries and food stamps (SFChronicle): The article notes the rate of students signing up for food stamps has jumped in recent years.
11/23 – UC Berkeley conservative student sues Antifa member over threats, harassment (FoxNews): The former BCR president told Fox News, “The No. 1 public university in the world and the so-called ‘birthplace of the free speech movement’ is anything but. It is the place where America’s conservative youth are daily under threat of violence, lacking the support of the university administration, police, or city.”
Elsewhere in Higher Ed
11/25 – Elitists, crybabies and junky degrees (WaPo): At a recent speech, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, said of universities, “We’ll take $200,000 of your money; in exchange, we’ll train your children to hate our country….We’ll make them unemployable by teaching them courses in zombie studies, underwater basket weaving and, my personal favorite, tree climbing.”
11/25 – A tragic death and college football’s reckoning over brain injuries amid a new class-action lawsuit (Guardian): The article uses the story of a former college athlete to highlight the tragedy of brain damage.