Wednesday, January 27, 2010

UCI Medical Center Neglects Patients, Sells Body Parts, and Gets Bonuses

The UC Regents have voted to spend over $3 million on bonuses to medical center administrators during a time when they are raising student fees, reducing salaries (furloughs), laying off workers and lecturers, and pleading poverty. The justification for these raises is that the university needs to pay the market price for these extraordinary individuals. Of course, this means that all of the other workers are not worthy of market-based salaries. Moreover, the regents have argued that since only a small part of the medical centers’ budgets are funded by the state, the medical executives do not have to share in their current austerity measures. This claim neglects the fact that state funds have built the medical centers and these institutions gain access to grants and prestige because they are associated to the University of California.

On the same day that the regents voted on these special executive pay increases, the Los Angeles Times reported that the UCI medical center was once again facing an investigation by the federal government for the medical center’s lack of oversight. Here are some of the problems cited by the federal investigation:

* An 82-year-old man was mistakenly given a narcotic patch by a medical resident, without approval of doctors or pharmacists. The patch led to an overdose that required emergency intervention and may have contributed to his death a week later.

* A patient in the neuropsychiatric unit fell twice in three days and despite yelling "Help me, doctor, help me," suffered a head injury and had to be taken to intensive care.

* An on-call resident did not respond to repeated emergency pages from nurses in the neurological intensive care unit, where a patient with an irregular heartbeat languished for more than an hour.

• Pharmacists failed to monitor and store drugs correctly, allowing nurses to carry narcotics in their pockets and inject patients without proper oversight.

Of course, everybody makes mistakes, but when there is a long history of repeated mistakes, the administration should be held accountable.

As the LA Times story reminds us, “In 2005, the hospital closed its liver transplant program after The Times reported 32 people died awaiting livers in 2004 and 2005, even as doctors turned down organs later successfully transplanted elsewhere. In 1999 and 2000, the university's Willed Body Program drew criticism after its director performed unauthorized autopsies and sold body parts. In 1995, a team of fertility doctors at the school's Center for Reproductive Health was accused of stealing patients' eggs and embryos and implanting them in other patients without permission.”

One has to wonder if an institution with such a bad track record should be allowed to give its executives huge bonuses.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On Cary Nelson’s No University is an Island

Cary Nelson’s new book, No University is an Island, brings together many of the different issues currently facing the University of California and other higher education institutions. While his main theme is academic freedom, he is able to locate this central educational value at the intersection of several interlocking forces: privatization, casualization, corporatization, and globalization. Nelson, the current president of AAUP, asks the essential question of what happens to the ability of faculty to teach, research, and communicate when profit has replaced the public good, and when public institutions are being privatized while job security is being casualized. By invoking the general concept of neoliberalism, Nelson is able to show how even the most secure and privileged faculty are threatened by the growing power of business-oriented administrators who have wrestled most aspects of shared governance away from professors. From his perspective, without tenure, there can be no academic freedom, and without academic freedom, there can be no shared governance.

I was surprised to note that virtually all of the examples of corporatization and privatization that Nelson documents from around the world have recently occurred in the UC system. This includes administrators pushing expensive, untested online programs, faculty having their emails read, Right-wing groups trying to censor teachers, the creation of ad hoc committees to circumvent normal shared governance, the push to defund the humanities, the creation of false budget emergencies to enact hidden agendas, and the persecution of university whistleblowers to name just a few. Not only have I discussed all of these issues in my blog, but my program has been victimized by all of these destructive processes.

Not only did I discover this year that some administrators were receiving all of my program’s emails, but our campus, UCLA, recently had to fight an outside Right-wing group that was paying students to record teachers saying anti-conservative and “anti-American” things. If this was not bad enough, UCLA recently decided to set up their own internal web site so that students and other community members could report acts of bias. This type of digital surveillance system surely has a chilling effect on academic freedom.

Of course, one of the greatest threats to academic freedom that Nelson discusses is the growing use of contingent faculty who often have no academic freedom protections. While the union contract regulating the lecturers in the UC system gives the non-tenured faculty the same academic freedom rights as the tenured faculty, lecturers often have to self-censor themselves because many of them rely on getting high student evaluations to keep their jobs, and most of these contingent faculty members can be fired without just cause. We have found that even the lecturers with job security and due process can be eliminated if the university declares a fiscal emergency.

The greatest strength of Nelson’s book is that it constantly returns to the idea that only the faculty working collectively can defend the university as a public good. By chiding some of his colleagues for focusing too much on their own careers, he makes a strong plea for all of us to take back our institutions. Furthermore, by documenting cases of effective faculty resistance, Nelson provides a glimmer of hope in these dark times.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Connecting the Dots: UC Regents Meeting 2010

One of my favorite assignments for students is that I give them several headlines from the day's news and ask them to connect the different stories together. The idea behind this exercise is that people need to overcome the fragmented nature of our information society. So, let us take a look at the top five headlines from the January 21st UC Regents meeting: 1) UC approves bonuses for hospital execs; 2) Waiting lists to be established at most UC campuses, regents say; 3) UC regents approve Cal stadium retrofit; 4) Regents to back UC students protest at Capitol ; 5) UC leaders wary of governor's budget promises

At first these stories appear to go in different directions, but there is an underlying logic that connects the dots: The UC system is continuing its recent push to increase the compensation of its highest earners and embark on expensive construction projects as it limits undergraduate enrollment and attacks the state for not supporting higher education. While the UC administration says that it has to raise student fees and limit access because state funding is down, it also argues that it must pay top administrators higher salaries in order to keep them from going elsewhere.

The new twist to this old tune is that the regents and President Yudof are trying to co-opt the recent protests by students, faculty, and unions. We now have to imagine the regents and President Yudof locking arms with students marching through the streets of Sacramento demanding that legislators fully fund the UC system. In response to this fake claim of solidarity, several unions have released the following statement:

“To Defend Education, Reverse the Hikes and Cuts:
Open Letter to UC Regents and the People of California

The UC Regents claim to be on the side of students, staff, and faculty in defending public education, but their actions speak otherwise.

On January 20, UC President Mark Yudof and other UC Regents announced to the press that they support the March 4 Strike and Day of Action to Defend Public Education. Yet at that very meeting they awarded $3.1 million more in executive bonuses.

This is a cynical publicity stunt, and we do not buy it.

If the UC Regents were serious about supporting the students, staff, and faculty of the UC system, they would immediately reverse the 32% fee hike and roll back the catastrophic layoffs and cuts they have imposed. The future of public education in California for all working people and communities of color is at stake.

The UC Regents claim that the University of California is broke and therefore they argue that "we must work together to pressure Sacramento." But if the UC is broke, why are the Regents giving out millions in executive bonuses? If the UC is broke, why did the Regents recently loan the State of California nearly $200 million dollars? And if the UC Regents are "on our side," why have UC police consistently been sent in to repress peaceful protests?

Independent analyses of the UC budget testify to a simple and disturbing fact: the fee hikes and layoffs in the UC system are a result of a priorities crisis, not a "budget crisis." Indeed, the UC made record profits last year. The conclusion: UC Regents can and must use their millions of dollars in reserve funds to reverse the fee hikes, cuts, and layoffs.

Furthermore, we do not accept that the UC system be funded at the expense of pre-K, K-12, Community Colleges, the CSUs and adult education, as well as other public services. All levels of education must be fully funded and quality education must be equally accessible to all Californians and immigrants.

On March 4, 2010, tens of thousands of students, teachers, and workers and their organizations in all sectors of public education and across the public sector will organize mass strikes and protests against the priorities crisis of both Sacramento and the UC, CSU, CC, and K-12 administrators.

Until the UC Regents and Sacramento reverse the fee hikes, cuts, and layoffs, we pledge to continue to deepen this growing movement. We refuse to let this struggle be co-opted.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

As Protesting Students were Beaten, Regents Approved More Executive Increases

During the last UC Regents meeting in November at UCLA, while students were being tasered, pepper sprayed, and beaten for protesting a 32% fee increase, the regents were meeting privately doing what they do best, which is to grant special compensation packages for star administrators. While people often think the money for these escalating salaries and perks just comes out of thin air, I have been arguing that the money funding these increases is taken from reduced wages for most employees and increased fees for students. Of course, due to the fact administrators are often paid out of a combination of endowment funds, grant overhead, state funds, service profits, and student fees, it is virtually impossible to trace how administrative salaries are being funded, and this is one reason why we have called for a state audit of UC’s finances.

Reading the latest list of the approved exceptions to the UC’s own compensation policies, one gets a feeling that the regents are going out of their way to rationalize these high compensation packages during a time of a “fiscal emergency.” The discussion of new raises starts out by calling attention to the claim that the highest paid administrators are actually underpaid, “While the University is often criticized in the media for its compensation actions, individuals familiar with the relevant fields are concerned that the University does not properly compensate some of its highly qualified employees. This matter needs to be included in the University’s advocacy with representatives in the Legislature. Regent Blum recalled that the University’s compensation procedures were extremely inadequate three to four years earlier; there has been significant progress since that time. He expressed concern, however, about the salary level of UC chancellors and referred to a ranking of Association of American Universities institutions by the salary level of campus leaders; UC campuses were low in that ranking. This should be a matter of concern for the University.” As I have pointed out before, the UC often fudges its compensation studies by only including base pay in its comparisons, and as we shall see, a large part of the total compensation for administrators comes from non-base pay. Moreover, I am pretty sure that legislators do not want to increase the funding for the UC so it can use it for raises to top executives. In fact, Alberto Torrico, the Assembly Majority Leader, has said explicitly that he wants to make sure that any new funds going to the UC system are not just used to increase the cost of administration.

Here is a typical example of the many different perks that were approved during the regents meeting: “Appointment of Mona Sonnenshein as Acting Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer, UC San Diego Medical Center, effective August 22, 2009 and continuing until the effective date of the appointment of the new CEO. Continuation of current base salary of $514,700 and eligibility to participate in the Clinical Enterprise Management Recognition Program (CEMRP) with a maximum potential incentive of up to 25 percent of base salary. Additional items of compensation include: Per policy, standard pension and health and welfare benefits and standard senior management benefits (including senior management life insurance, executive business travel insurance, and executive salary continuation for disability); Per policy, a five percent monthly contribution to the Senior Management Supplemental Benefit Program; Mortgage Origination Program loan, previously approved by the Regents.” It is not enough for this administrator to get a salary of over $500,000, but she also is able to increase her salary by an additional 25%, and she receives costly senior management benefits, a supplemental benefits contribution, and a free mortgage. None of these extra perks show up in the official listing of her compensation, so we have no way of knowing her actual total compensation.

In their justification for several large compensation increases for medical administrators, the regents argue that these employees are not funded out of state funds, so they should be able to be granted these huge packages. However, Senator Grassley’s investigation into the UC’s medical centers is trying to determine how these positions are funded since they seem to be funded by multiple sources. Moreover, it is still unclear why the medical employees are treated as a special class; for instance, most of the medical faculty, who are the highest paid faculty in the UC system, did not have to participate in the furlough plan. The regents appear to believe that medical centers are their own special universe, and even though the medical facilities were built through state funding, and the medical centers continue to use state-funded faculty and students, this group of employees does not have to share in the fiscal emergency. Here is just a small list of some of the compensation increases approved during the last regents meeting:

1. Kenneth M. Jones as Chief Operating Officer
a. Promotion to Chief Operating Officer classified at SLCG Grade 115 (Minimum $416,300, Midpoint $541,200, Maximum $666,100).
b. Per policy, a base salary increase of $77,400 (16.5 percent) to increase his current base salary of $470,200 to an annual salary of $547,600.

2. Sheila Antrum as Chief Nursing and Patient Care Services Officer
a. Promotion and interim re-slotting to SLCG Grade 110 (Minimum $239,700, Midpoint $307,200, Maximum $374,500), with continued title of Chief Nursing and Patient Care Services Officer.
b. As an exception to policy, continued administrative stipend of $37,500 (15percent) to increase her current base salary of $250,000 to an annual salary of $287,500. Per policy, continued eligibility to participate in the Clinical Enterprise Management Recognition Program (CEMRP) at the Tier II level with a target of 15 percent and a maximum potential incentive of up to 25 percent of base salary.

3. Susan Moore as Acting Chief Financial Officer
a. As an exception to policy, extension of appointment as Acting Chief Financial Officer. This represents an exception to policy which allows for acting Senior Management Group appointments to be up to 12 months in length.
b. As an exception to policy, continued administrative stipend of $58,625 (25percent) to increase her current base salary of $234,500 to an annual salary of $293,125. Continued classification at SLCG Grade 107 (Minimum $172,300, Midpoint $218,700, Maximum $265,000) as well as Management and Senior Professional (MSP) Grade 7. Slotting for Acting Chief Financial Officer is SLCG Grade 114 (Minimum $372,900, Midpoint $483,400, Maximum $593,800).
c. The stipend amount will be increased as the base salary is increased, so the stipend will equal 25 percent of the base salary, at a 100-percent-time appointment.
d. Per policy, continued eligibility to participate in the Clinical Enterprise Management Recognition Program (CEMRP) at the increased Tier II level with a target of 15 percent and a maximum potential incentive of up to 25 percent of base salary.

We must remember that these raises and exceptions were given during a time of a fiscal crisis, and while the university appears to have no money to hire new faculty or to fund required courses and student support services, it always has enough money for a new administrative increases.

At one point in their discussion of raises, the regents do mention that they have frozen increases for executive salaries, but they follow this recognition of their own laws, with another call to suspend the rules: “At the January 2009 special meeting, the Regents approved the Proposal to Freeze Senior Management Group Salaries and Suspend Bonus and Certain Other Variable Pay Plans (Item C1), an action to freeze salary for members of the Senior Management Group (SMG) for fiscal year 2008-09 and fiscal year 2009- 10 and to impose certain additional restrictions on participation in bonus, incentive and variable pay programs for that same time period as well as fiscal year 2007-08. The salary freeze included a provision allowing for SMG members who hold an academic appointment in addition to their staff role, and who receive an academic merit increase resulting in the faculty salary exceeding the staff salary, to receive an adjustment to the staff salary so that the staff salary matches the faculty salary. Approval is requested for this type of salary adjustment for Vijay Dhir, Dean – Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, effective November 1, 2009. Mr. Dhir’s administrative salary has fallen behind his underlying adjusted faculty appointment salary ($300,300, inclusive of 2.5 summer ninths) thus disadvantaging him in serving as Dean. In addition, his salary reflects a significant market lag and has fallen behind more recent hires of deans of engineering at other UC campuses whose salaries more appropriately reflect market rates. The proposed action will bring Mr. Dhir’s administrative salary equal to his adjusted faculty salary and, as a result, better align him with his cohorts both within UC and in the marketplace.”

Of course, we would all liked to be paid our fair market value, but as I have shown before, only some UC employees are considered to be market worthy.

Four Real Ways to Reduce the California Prison Budget

Governor Schwarzenegger has recently argued that we need to increase the funding of higher education by decreasing the costs of incarceration; however, his suggestion to privatize the prisons is not only unlikely to save money, but it could result in increasing costs by having the private prisons fight for more prisoners.

If you really want to reduce the prison budget, there are four things that need to be done, and the first is to reduce the high rate of return to prison, which in California approaches 70%. Cleary, there is a lack of rehabilitation and education that is causing most of the prisoners to return. If you do not sop this revolving door, you cannot restrain costs.

The second problem has to do with sentencing laws, especially the three strikes rule. Many people are serving long and expensive prison terms because their third offense was for drug use or a failure to report to their parole officer. We need to make sure that the third offence is a violent crime and not a violation of parole or some minor drug charge. We also have to decriminalize marijuana use and other minor offenses.

The third issue concerns the fact that the majority of inmates never graduate high school. We need to invest in retention and prevention programs, and this means we cannot cut the K-12 budget like the governor recently proposed. In fact, while Schwarzenegger was right to point out the shift of state funding from higher education to prisons, he needs to realize that we can only reduce the cost of prisons if we get people to graduate from high school, and if more people graduate, we will also have to expand our funding for higher education.

Another issue is to restrain the rising costs of the prisons themselves. This would entail reducing prison administration and controlling salaries and benefits for correctional officers. Also, through telemedicine, the cost of medical care in our prisons can be controlled.

Most experts studying the costs of incarceration in California agree on these types of measures, but the governor, in his obsession with privatizing everything, simply picked a crazy free market solution that flies in the face of common sense solutions.

Defending Public Education and Public Workers at UCLA

UCLA students, faculty, workers, and unions have been organizing a series of events to help protect public education and public workers in the state of California. Here are some upcoming actions:

1. Jan 19th: No More Back of the Bus Education: A Rally in Honor of MLK. Noon, in front of Kerkhoff. Help Defend Underrepresented Students! (Click here for flyer).

2. Jan. 23rd at 1: UCLA Public Forum with Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (Moore Hall 100); Rally to Defend Public Education at Bruin Plaza at 2

3. March 4th: DAY OF ACTION: MASS RALLY & MARCH to Defend Public Education and Public Workers, NOON, BRUIN PLAZA

UCLA Fights Back Coalition meets every Tuesday, 6:00 pm, 3rd Floor Lounge, Public Affairs

At these events, we will be passing out petitions for the California Democracy Act. This constitutional amendment would allow budgets and revenue bills to pass by a simple majority (for more info click here).

We will also provide information on Alberto Torrico’s Bill to tax oil extraction and use the money for higher ed (for more info, click here).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How the UC Hides its Money

In notes from the Regents Committee on Finance meeting from Nov. 18 2009 , one sees how the UC is able to bring in a record level of revenue but still claim that it has no money. During Assistant Vice President Plotts presentation of the Annual Financial Report, we are told that, “The University’s total assets were $42 billion, an increase of approximately $74 million over the previous year. Total liabilities were somewhat over $22 billion. Liabilities increased by $2.3 billion over the same period. Net assets were slightly under $20 billion and declined by $2.25 billion.” This combination of good and bad news is highly confusing, but the first thing to stress is that the main reason that the liabilities have increased by $2.25 billion is that due to a recent accounting law change, the UC is declaring on its books over $1.5 billion in future healthcare costs for retirees. As the report later notes, the UC is not actually spending this money or saving it up; instead it is merely listing the projected future costs on its ledger, and this move allows it to hide a large chunk of its unrestricted funds. In Plotts’ own word, “The obligation for retiree health, mentioned above, is $1.5 billion; but the University has funded only $279 million of this expense. The difference is recorded on the balance sheet as a liability.” Through this accounting move, $1.2 billion that could be used for any purpose, like closing the UC budget gap, simply goes away, but in reality, it does not go anywhere.

The use of the unfunded healthcare liability to hide the true state of the UC’s finances is revisited later on in the report: “Mr. Taylor responded that the decline in unrestricted net assets is due to a variety of causes. The increasing cost of the retiree health program is probably the largest single factor. Campuses are drawing on different sources of revenue to bridge over difficult financial times, and spending down unexpended plant funds on construction projects.” In this statement, the budget director claims that the biggest reason for the loss of unrestricted funds, which could have been used to close the budget gap, is the retiree healthcare liability, but we have to remember that the UC is not actually spending this money. It is therefore unclear why he connects the healthcare of retirees with the fact that the campuses are spending down their reserves.

In a very telling moment, Plotts declares, “There is no free-floating reserve that can be applied to UC financial problems.” I think he protests too much in this report because he spends an extensive amount of time justifying the lack of unrestricted funds, while he also reveals an increase in revenue. Not only is the UC hiding its money through its unfunded retiree healhtcare liability, but it is clear that the system pools money from many different sources, and then invests it through its endowment and short term investment pool. Moreover, since these investments lost a lot of money in the fiscal year ending July 1, 2009, Plotts is able to declare that the UC has lost most if its unrestricted funds: “These assets have sometimes been mistakenly thought of as a free-floating reserve. These funds are allocated in advance to a wide variety of academic and student programs. Mr. Taylor emphasized that, on June 30, 2007, the University’s unrestricted net assets were $6.5 billion; now, two years later, on June 30, 2009, unrestricted reserves were at $3.54 billion, a decline of $3 billion. He projected that, by June 30, 2010, these reserves will be below $1 billion.” According to this statement, there are no unrestricted funds because all of the money is dedicated to academic and student programs; however, these funds have gone down over $5 billion in the last two years, and they will go down even more this year. The first thing to point out is that these funds have recently gone up quite a bit, so does that mean that several billion dollars are now accessible? Or does this mean that when the investments lose money, everything has to be cut, but when the investments gain, none of the money can be used?

This report indicates that the UC did have a lot of unrestricted funds, but this money has been lost by the poor return in its investments: “unrestricted net assets, not restricted by an external party but committed internally, declined by almost $1.8 billion.” As the unions have been arguing for a long time, most of the UC’s money is only restricted by its own priorities, and this statement admits that these funds are not restricted by law or some external authority; however, the new claim is that these funds have now been mostly lost.

Another way that the university hides its revenue and available funds is by simply misreporting funding its gets from different sources. While its own audited financial statements show that the UC received an increase in state funding for the year ending in July 2009, this report claims a massive loss: “The University will always show an operating loss, because State educational appropriations are required to be reported as non-operating revenues, which declined by about $1.75 billion this year. The decline in non-operating revenues reflects reduced State educational appropriations and a decline in the fair value of investments.” Since state appropriations actually went up during this period, it must be that these state funds were lost by being invested.

What I suspect is going on is that the UC is placing funds from many different sources, including student fees and state funds, into its investment accounts. By using this structure, the system is able to hide its unrestricted funds and to redirect money from its investment accounts into its chosen priorities, which is often increasing the compensation of the star administrators, faculty, and coaches. The end result of this process is that the UC declares that it is broke, while it raises record revenue and redistributes income from the poorest students and workers to the wealthiest employees

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Next Big Social Movement?: UC in The New Yorker

The New Yorker Magazine recently had an extensive article on the UC system, and the general frame was that President Yudof is deeply unpopular, the university is broke, and people are rebelling. While the idea that an institution with a record level of revenue has no money is ridiculous, the article did a good job at highlighting many of our recent struggles. For example, a very interesting quote came from Alberto Torrico, the majority leader in the state assembly, who was asked about his new plan to fund the UC system: ”If I gave them a blank check, they'd use it for administrative costs instead of education.” Torrico, who is one of the only legislators in Sacramento who is working on securing funding for the UC system, is right to stress that if the state gives the UC more money, they may just use it to hire more administrators.

Torrico’s bill, AB 656, which would put a 12.5% tax on oil extraction in California and send $1.3 billion to higher education each year, has received no official support from Yudof or the Regents. In fact, when Yudof was asked about this bill, he said that he was unhappy that only 25% of the funds would go to the UC system. In response to Yudof’s discontent, Torrico told The New Yorker reporter that he would say the following to the UC president, “"Do you want twenty-five percent of a billion-plus, or one hundred percent of nothing?" 'Cause I can give you that very easily.” Torrico is displaying here the sentiment of many Democratic legislators who are tired of being attacked by Yudof for never giving the UC system enough money.

Another thread of the article is that there is a new movement arising from the University of California fiscal crisis, and it is unclear, which direction the movement will lead. On the one hand, a new spirit of student and faculty activism is bringing hope to many people inside and outside of the UC system, but, the article stresses that it is unclear what can be accomplished and how long the students, unions, and faculty can work together.

In my travels to New York and Philadelphia over the winter break, I kept hearing about the revolution in California. It seems that people are looking at us to start a new social movement, even if no one can define the target or the goals of the movement. I was surprised to hear on one radio show in New York, the argument that the only progressive social movement in the country challenging the current economic system is the one at the University of California. As strange as it may seem, we have become a small ray of hope for people fighting the privatization of the public sphere and the casualization of the labor force. Let’s hope that we can live up to the expectations of those around the country. Everything starts in California—not only the bad but sometimes the good.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Governor’s Bold Plan or Another Media Event?

In his State of the State address, Governor Schwarzenegger proposed an ambitious plan for a constitutional amendment to support higher education. The central idea behind this new idea is that the state should reverse its current trend of spending more on incarceration than higher education. As the governor stressed, the state funding for public universities once represented 10% of the budget and prisons made up 3% of the budget; currently, UC and CSU take up 7.5% and prisons eat up 11%. The amendment, which has to be supported by 2/3rds of the legislators and a majority of the voters, would guarantee that universities receive at least 10% of the state general fund budget, and prisons would always receive a lower percentage.

On paper, this looks like a very hopeful proposal, but there are four major problems. The first issue is that the California budget is already dominated by voter approved funding mandates. Many experts blame the recent draconian budget cuts on the fact that not only is it difficult for the state to raise taxes, but lawmakers are forced to spend most of the budget on mandated areas. While the new amendment would treat the universities like K-14, by dictating a certain set formula for funding higher education, the result would be to further tie the hands of the legislators when dealing with budget deficits.

The next problem is that the governor’s main way of reducing the cost of the prison system is to privatize the prisons, and this is a highly unlikely solution. Not only would this amendment have to take on the powerful correctional officers' union, but there is no way of knowing how much privatization would save or if privatization is even a good idea. The real way to bring down the cost of incarceration is to reduce the number of prisoners, and this can only be done by changing the “three strikes” rule and by decriminalizing some non-violent offences like drug possession.

The third problem is that this legislation does nothing to deal with how universities spend the money they get from the state. It is possible that the universities would use the new funds to simply increase the number of administrators. Without tying funding to fiscal accountability measures, new money may just be funneled into old priorities, and the UC has shown that it has no problem using increased funding to support activities unrelated to the university’s core mission.

The fourth major issue is that this is a long-term solution that may undermine the current push to make changes in the UC system. If students, faculty, and workers believe that the governor understands their problems, and he is on their side, they may find that there is no reason to fight against the current decrease in services and the increase in fees. Like the election of Barack Obama, the social movement on the ground may disappear because the leader is saying all of the right things.

The governor did say that he will not cut higher education this year, and this is a good thing, but President Yudof is asking for a major increase in funding, and if he does not get this increase, we will probably see a continued move to raise fees, cut services, and lower the quality of public higher education. The university has already radically reduced its funding for undergraduate education, and there is reason to believe that this agenda will be pursued in the future unless people rise up on the ground and fight for a different vision of the university. In fact, in The New York Times article covering the governor's new proposal, his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, is quoted as saying that. "“Those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point." It appears our actions have had some effect, but we cannot stop now.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Auditing the UC System

A group of UC unions are planning to submit an official request for the state to audit the UC system. First of all, we want the audit to examine how the UC is spending state funds. Specifically, we are concerned that funds targeted for instruction and research are going for other purposes, and the result is that student fees are going up, but there are fewer classes and fewer teachers and researchers. As a state audit showed in 2001, state funds are often redirected to support an expansion of administration and staff, and we feel that an effective audit should be able to establish which job titles are growing and whether or not these position supports the core mission.

The audit also needs to examine the UC compensation policies and trends. In 2006, the state performed an audit of UC compensation policies and found many inconsistencies; however, this audit only looked at senior management, and we feel that the compensation issues are much deeper and wider. In 2007-2008, the UC had 6,647 employees making over $150,000, and 3,010 earning $200,000 or more. Furthermore, 1,538 people made over $250,000, and 779 earned over $300,000. We believe a thorough audit could determine where state money is going and how compensation is being decided. While the UC is an autonomous institution, the state does have oversight over the money the state provides.

The state auditor should also determine which funds are legally restricted in the UC budget. The university often claims that it has no money to pay for salary increases or to support student services because most of its funds are restricted. We believe an outside authority should be able to make this determination and clarify once and for all which UC funds are restricted.

Perhaps the most important judgment that a state auditor should make is whether the UC was really facing a fiscal emergency when it initiated its furlough plan and gave extraordinary powers to President Yudof in July 2009. There are accepted standards for defining a fiscal emergency, and we need to be sure UCOP met those standards.

We would also like to know how much money the UC system is saving through the furlough system, and where the savings are going. At first, the Office of the President said that furloughs would save $185 million, but after we calculated that the number would be closer to $600 million, the UC said that most of the extra money would be returned to the programs.

The state auditor should also determine how much the UC system has lost in state funding over the last five years. While this number should be easy to calculate, we have received many different figures. There is also a question of what happened to the federal stimulus money (ARRA) that was earmarked for the UC system.

Please give feedback on what you would like us to audit.