During their Jan. 15–17 meeting at UC San Francisco, the UC Board of Regents discussed the implications of Prop 30 toward current budget affairs, as well as a variety of fiscal strategies.
Ex-officio regents Gov. Jerry Brown, assembly speaker John Pèrez, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state schools chief Tom Torlakson also attended the meeting.
On Jan. 18, UC President Mark Yudof announced he will resign from the board in August 2013, due to health-related complications, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, include recent gallbladder surgery, a broken shoulder and bronchitis. President Yudof plans to resume teaching law at UC Berkeley.
While many gave thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown, voters, and related parties for their help in the passing of Prop. 30, Gov. Brown and Speaker Perez implored the regents to remain vigilant in their budget strategy.
Gov. Brown released his proposed 2013–14 budget on Jan. 10, which would increase state funding for UC by $125 million. However, Gov. Brown emphasized a gap between his proposed budget and that of the regents’.
“Let’s get real,” Brown said. “I’m proposing 5 percent more [funding] in your budget. You’re proposing 11.6 [percent more funding].”
Brown expressed his hearty support for decreasing top administrative salaries and reducing faculty benefits, referencing a recent 23 percent reduction to his salary.
The regents counter-argued that decreasing the cost of leadership would accrue the long-term cost of decreased quality.
While acknowledging the regents’ point, Brown rebutted that California is a large enough state to draw the best and most competitive leaders from within its population.
“How do you make up the [revenue] gap?” Brown said. “Either students make it up in tuition increases — this year and forever — faculty does something different, or in some way we change the model, or the people of California decide they want to invest more than they have historically in higher education.”
Chair Sherry Lansing said she did not think tuition fees increases would be likely through next year.
The regents revisited the topic of online education in lieu, they said, of tabling its advancement under the harsh conditions of frequent budget cuts.
Gov. Brown expressed his hearty support for the UC Online Education Initiative, toward which his proposed budget allocates $10 million.
The UC currently offers several online courses, although few students take them for credit and many of the courses are campus-specific.
The regents agreed to assess reports of online education pilot programs, which currently aim to augment high-demand and primarily lower-division courses students must take, at every other meeting in the future.
Provost Aimee Dorr gave a report on UC faculty diversity as part of the UC accountability auditing process.
While UC showed more ethnic diversity and gender equality than several other leading universities, the data drew terse criticism from the Board.
“In a state where almost half the students graduating from high school are Latino,” Regent Eddie Island said, “a faculty that is less than 5 percent Latino is embarrassing … how much longer do we have to wait to make the UC faculty demographics look like the state?”
The data showed a continued increase in the diversity of new faculty, but the regents asked Provost Dorr for additional research into what can be done to shift UC faculty into greater diversity.
Graduate/Professional Degree Fee Increases
After having removed the topic from their last meeting agenda, the possibility of raising graduate program fees by up to 35 percent again drew a diverse debate from the regents. The increase could generate $28 million in revenue for UC.
Erik Green, External Vice President of the UCSC Graduate Student Association (GSA), voiced GSA’s strong disapproval of the proposed increase, adding that an additional strategy of only increasing fees in some graduate programs counters the fundamental tenets of UC education.
The topic was tabled without a date set to vote on the potential increase.
Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president of business operations for the UC encouraged the regents to participate in debt restructuring with the state.
Because the UC has a higher credit rating than the state of California, managing $2.5 billion of the state’s debt could accrue the UC $80 million in savings — as opposed to cuts.
Gov. Brown also advised the regents to calculate UC’s operating costs more thoroughly when generating revenue and debt strategies.
“You said [the budget crisis was compounded because] you had to pay your retirement costs,” Brown said. “That’s part of the cost of doing business … internal to the cost of education.”
“We’ve got to think big here,” Brown said. “We’re a research university. Lets do some research. Lets not get imprisoned by paradigms of the past that are now obsolete.”