Friday, January 28, 2011

The State of the State: Fighting Budget Cuts One Day at a Time

For the last several days, I have been in Oakland and Sacramento trying to work out a deal to limit the state budget cuts to the UC system. I testified at the Assembly hearing and met with the Legislative Analyst for Higher Ed and Governor Brown’s point person for the universities. So I will begin with what I know for sure: I know nothing for sure. There is a flurry of activity, and no one knows what Brown is going to end up doing. He is asking for a lot of feedback from a lot of people, but each conversation is framed with the idea that things are going to be bad, and they might get even worse.

While the governor’s initial budget proposal calls for unallocated cuts of $500 million to the UC system, many legislators believe they should make targeted cuts. To help the legislature in this process, I have worked with AFSCME to propose a deal where the state would only reduce the UC by $250 million in exchange for the UC cutting the salaries and perks of the highest compensated administrators. We have also supported the position that there should be no additional fee hikes or enrollment cuts. In fact, I believe I have convinced several key people that the worst thing the UC could do is to cut undergraduate admissions. I have shown that last year, the UC brought in $23,000 per undergraduate in fees and state funds, but only spent $8,000 in direct instructional costs. It would thus be financial suicide to reduce undergrad enrollments since undergraduates subsidize research, graduate education, student services, and administration.

Yes it would be great if we were in a position to advocate for no cuts right now, but there are going to be reductions, and so we should try to make sure that they do not hurt the core mission of the university.


  1. Bob - thanks for this account. I hope the message is still clear from AFSCME et al that the cuts are devastating to core education. The mixed messages on whether we really need the state money or not has been one important factor in our 20 year decline. I am personally not in favor of giving the legislator line item control over individual salaries and other parts of the budget. This is a slippery slope if there ever was one. I'm also not inclined to reward Legislators who whack us first with more authority - I don't see the smart politics or the justice is that.

  2. Although the UC Admin may be all the things you say, Bob, it still decides on how to administer the cuts... Administrators Administer. So there is a logical box that is hard to break out of... if we fire all the administrators (or cut their salary in 1/2 and they leave (hope-hope)) then who will administer the University?

    I'll bet the core of the $24,000 versus $8,000 difference is faculty research time. Darned little in the faculty evaluation/salary emphasizes teaching... in fact, if anything, you get dinged in salary for undertaking the teaching of the >100 student classes, which are most efficient in terms of $ outlay. And salary is no longer decided by UC... faculty go on the circuit and offers from Duke, MIT, Stanford, Caltech, etc, and UC always matches those offers. Part of that retention culture is... reduce my teaching load too to match the offer of U Chicago, Caltech, etc.

    Who knows how to break that Gordian's knot...

  3. Last time I checked we do not have an indentured servitude in this country. Outside offers (the real ones, not the bogous "market price" cited by our administrators to inflate their salaries) are about the only objective measure of one's real worth. I do encourage the UC to have an honest conversation about what they can afford in terms of talent, but I do think the talent has a real tag price. The outside offers are as honest an estimate of that price as one can get. I am sick and tired of of all this BS about serving the needs while getting psychic rewards. Btw, I do teach sufficiently well, my evaluations are routinely above the average, but the main reason I am here is that I can do my research. Don't like the price? It's a free world (as free as I've seen, having come here from oversees). An by all means, have an *honest* conversation about what the state is willing to pay for. Just don't demonise the research -- you are really off the mark here. Want to find the real culprits -- dump on the administration and the infinite "compliance" rules that breed their ilk and are imposed by (a real shocker!) the state that is nigh broke.

  4. No one is mentioning indentured servitude. If you have another offer you are free to leave.

  5. I'm so happy to have found such a great writing piece, I agree with its author as well. Honestly speaking, we are all sick and tired of of all this BS about serving the needs while getting psychic rewards. Thanks and get in touch with online.

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