Monday, February 15, 2010

State Senate is Considering an Audit of the UC System

On Wed, February 16th, Senator Leland Yee will present an official request for the state auditor to examine the finances of the University of California. This audit request has been developed by Yee’s office in conjunction with the California Federation of Labor, UC-AFT, UAW, AFSCME, UPTE, and CNA, and the central areas of concern are how does the UC spend state funds, what levels of unrestricted funds does the university have at its disposal, how does the UC fund administrative positions, how much money is going to instruction, and what does the university do with the overhead income generated from external grants. The state auditor will also be determining how the university allocates and tracks funding for non-salary expenses, like travel, consultants, entertainment, and supplies.

The unions have been asking the university to provide this type of information for years, and we hope that if the senate approves of the audit, we will finally have the answers to many of our questions. In Senate Yee’s press release concerning the audit request, he stresses the fact that the UC budget has not been transparent, and the university seems to generate a new financial scandal every month. One of Senator Yee’s major concerns is the accountability of UC’s administrators, and he hopes the audit will shed light on how the UC spends funds coming from the state and student fees.

While some faculty and students may fear that this is the wrong time to look at how the UC spends its money because any negative finding could result in a further decrease in state funding for the UC system, the unions and several legislators feel that the best way to ensure future funding is to enhance the university’s budget transparency. Once the state has a better understanding of how the university spends its public and private funds, it will be easier for the state to allocate needed funding for the core mission.

If you are interested in supporting this audit, please write an email to Senator Yee’s office at Nicolina.Hernandez@sen.ca.gov

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for keeping us aware and informed. Your blogs are extremely helpful. Keep 'em coming.

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  2. Good. Hats off to Yee. Now sit back and watch the folks in Oakland go apoplectic.

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  3. i believe your description of the process is slightly off when you wrote "we hope that if the senate approves the audit"

    **the JLAC decides if the audit happens or not**

    it is a four person joint house committee that decides if the audit happens or not.
    It does not get decided based on a state senate vote-- which is what is implied in your post.
    I have posted the process on my site--
    please correct me if I am wrong.

    the other point i would like to make is that- as you noted- there are a small group who do think that these issues should not be looked at because they believe it will affect future funding - but what I have been trying to say all along-particularly to those folks- is that there are MSM stories everyday about serious problems at UC -- the general public are becoming more and more aware of them! so management/administrators are not serving the UC cause very well-- that is precisely why I post recent headline stories on my site -- because there is this disconnect between some insulated members of the UC community and the public at large-- a failure to see that others already see UC in an unfavorable light- and, frankly, now we are at the point of "reform or die=privatize". So, imo the books need to be opened and the real dialogue must happen in order for UC to reclaim itself. I hope the "head in sand group" is not very large --or UC is in very, very deep trouble indeed. Fiat Lux

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  4. one version of a support letter...

    Dear Ms. Hernandez—

    I would like to express my full support for Senator Yee's request for a state audit of the University of California.

    As a doctoral student and teaching assistant in the English Department at UCLA, I have become convinced by what I have witnessed over the past nine months that the UC administration needs to be held accountable for its hasty and un-democratic approach to decision-making.

    Allow me to share just one story that highlights the negative impact of recent, unnecessary cuts to programs. Last week an undergraduate biology major, Alex M., walked into the teaching assistants’ office in the English Department seeking help with editing a pair of faculty commendation letters he had written. When asked why he had come to our office, Alex explained that he was a junior and a recent transfer from a California community college. He had received a good deal of mentoring and assistance at his previous school, and he wanted to commend two of his teachers for their graciousness by writing to their respective deans. However, at UCLA he had encountered a research-centric faculty with little time for him and, what's far worse, no system of support to provide for his tutoring needs.

    That day, he had gone from on-campus tutoring service to on-campus tutoring service without luck. Covel Writing Tutorials, the primary program for undergraduate students, closed its doors this year. No luck. AAP tutoring is only available to first-generation college students. No luck. The student-run tutoring group is frequently booked solid weeks in advance, as it was when Alex visited earlier that day. No luck. And the grab-bag of private tutoring services that have sprung up in Covel's wake are too expensive for Alex's pocket. No luck. Eventually Alex, determined as ever, ended up roaming from campus facility to campus facility until a thoughtful staff-member suggested trying the Humanities Building. In that building, the head office manager for the English Department recommended that Alex give the TA cubicles in the basement a shot. He walked down a final flight of stairs, shared his plight, and finally received help from a gracious TA--help that was neither funded nor documented.

    Learning on campus no longer comes as a right or even as a purchased commodity; it comes in the form of charity and sheer luck.

    No one in the UC system has made a tenable case, backed with facts from a fully transparent budget, that programs such as Covel Writing Tutorials needed to be cut. More generally, no one has articulated a case in defense of the steady privatization of the UC system (ongoing since 1978 and accelerating since 2004) that takes into account the needs of California's citizenry; the problems resulting from the implementation of high-fee/high-aid models at other large public universities (Michigan, Texas, and Virginia); and the UC system's unique situation and mission. A move toward full budgetary transparency, beginning with Senator Yee's audit request, is the first step toward forcing such arguments to be articulated fully and publicly. Only then can they be properly refuted.

    The dedicated members of the UCLA community thank Senator Yee and his office for requesting this audit in the name of defending public education.

    Sincerely,

    Jeremy

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