How UC-Berkeley Can Dig Out of Financial Hole

UC BerkeleyDesperate times call for desperate measures. So it was in June, when the University of California-Berkeley created Ideaction, a website for friends of Cal to pitch their money-raising ideas for the university. Suggestions have rolled in: charge for valet parking, host furniture sales, repurpose Memorial Stadium for clubbing, and so on. These submissions would be amusing if not for the fact that Berkeley and the UC system face a larger problem, which no amount of parking transactions or furniture sales can fix.

The University of California system has long faced financial challenges and controversies, many of which are self-inflicted at the campus level. In 2015, for example, after the system received an increase in state funding, it promptly gave its highest-earning administrators a raise over student objections. The current situation at Berkeley is particularly acute: Berkeley has what outgoing chancellor Nicholas Dirks described as a “substantial and growing” $150 million deficit, which imperils its long-term solvency and growth. Solving that budget crisis won’t be easy, given declining state funding, an in-state tuition freeze, and annual increases in merit pay and cost-of-living adjustments.

Instead of hunting for creative, untapped revenue sources or making piecemeal changes, Berkeley administrators need to turn inward and take a comprehensive look at their own spending choices. How did the situation become so dire? Any sober analysis of the institution’s budgeting makes the indulgences — particularly on administrative spending — immediately apparent.

Berkeley’s excesses start at the top: Chancellor Dirks, who recently announced his resignation, earns an annual salary of $532,226 — ten times the median American household income. The university spent more than $200,000 on his image consulting and more than $1 million on renovations to the chancellor’s University House, including almost $700,000 for a fence and $90,000 for new Persian rugs. Dirks himself came under investigation for allegedly misusing funds. Below him, Berkeley has lavished spending on full-time administrators, growing the ranks by 56 percent between 2005 and 2015, to a total of 1,281 people. There are now almost as many administrators at Berkeley as there are faculty — one for roughly every 21 undergraduates.

An analysis conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni of publicly-available data found that between 2009 and 2014, Berkeley’s administrative spending grew faster than that of any other institution in the UC system, at a rate dramatically outpacing instructional spending growth. Both physical and human resources are squandered. As is true at nearly all UC campuses, tenured and tenure-track faculty generally teach a maximum of four courses per year, often fewer. Many classrooms sit empty, especially on Fridays and the whole of the summer. Berkeley’s renowned research reputation doesn’t preclude a modest increase — appropriately rewarded — in teaching responsibilities. Even one more course every other year would make a huge difference. That, and the full use of classroom and lab space, would open opportunities for deserving California students and bring a robust stream of new tuition dollars to the campus, without further taxing the public.

Research has shown that colleges and universities could save as much as 10 percent of their instructional costs simply by reorganizing curricula. Berkeley can follow the example of its Pac-12 colleague, Arizona State University. By consolidating related departments, ASU has already saved more than $13 million without eliminating any faculty positions. For example, it once had separate departments for biology, plant biology, microbiology, and molecular and cellular biology; today, it has a truly interdisciplinary School of Life Sciences. Berkeley is ripe for similar innovation.

A $150 million deficit is daunting but not insurmountable, though it requires changes that may be uncomfortable. The cost of inaction as budget shortfalls loom would be far more harmful, especially at a time when overstretched students, families, and taxpayers have already seen their tuition bills rise by more than 30 percent over a five-year period. UC–Berkeley is a remarkable institution with more than 480,000 living alumni, but to preserve its tradition of academic excellence, university and system leaders must finally address long-festering financial problems. Its challenge now is to become a model for academic excellence and management responsibility.

Dr. Michael Poliakoff is president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

This piece was originally published by City Journal Online.

UC spent $158,000 on campaign to counter critical state audit

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

In the wake of a scathing state audit released in March, the University of California mounted a $158,000 publicity campaign to dispute claims that its admissions policies had disadvantaged resident students.

The campaign included a report rebutting the conclusions of the audit; digital ads on websites, Facebook and Twitter; and sponsorships on public radio stations throughout the state, according to documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee.

Dianne Klein, director of media engagement and strategy at UC’s Office of the President, said no state or tuition revenue was used for the campaign. She said it was paid for out of the “endowment cost recovery fund,” which collects a small percentage of endowment earnings for administrative purposes, including projects to enhance the university’s fundraising efforts.

“Negative tends to stick in the public’s mind much more than positive news,” she said. “Rather than let a blemish take over the whole state, so to speak, we felt it was necessary and good to get out a positive message.”

Klein added that …

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California legislators continue to push for UC Davis’s chancellor’s resignation

UC DavisTwo state lawmakers took to Twitter on Thursday and joined the growing chorus of Democratic legislators who are calling for the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi after a series of unflattering stories by The Sacramento Bee.

On Wednesday, The Sacramento Bee reported that the university paid consultants at least $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative postings about thepepper-spraying of students in 2011, in an effort to improve the school’s and the chancellor’s reputations.

The Bee also reported that between 2009 and 2015, the school’s strategic communications budget increased from $2.93 million to $5.47 million.

In response, Democratic Assemblymembers Freddie Rodriguez of Pomona and Mike Gatto of Los Angeles took to Twitter to condemn Katehi and demand her resignation.

Other incidents

In March, it was reported that Katehi, who receives $424,360 annually as chancellor, earned an additional $420,000 between 2012 and 2014 as a board member for textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons.

Katehi had also came under fire in March for violating University of California policy by accepting a $70,000 per-year seat on the board of DeVry, a for-profit university.

Katehi has since stepped down from DeVry board and pledged $200,000 in John Wiley & Sons stock to a scholarship fund. And she apologized.

But those actions weren’t enough and Democratic Assemblymembers Luis Alejo of Watsonville, Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, Kevin McCarty of Sacramento and Evan Low of Campbell had called for her resignation, who Gatto and Rodriguez have now joined.

In Katehi’s defense

UC Davis spokesperson Dana Topousis would not say whether Katehi intended to step down (which likely means the answer is “no”). In a statement responding to only the most recent article from The Sacramento Bee, Topousis defended the overall cost of communications.

Here is the entire statement:

“Communicating the value of UC Davis is an essential element of our campus’s education, research, and larger public service mission. Increased investment in social media and communications strategy has heightened the profile of the university to good effect.

“As part of this overall communications strategy, it is important that the excellent work underway at UC Davis with respect to educating the next generation of students, pursuing groundbreaking research, and providing important services to the State is not lost during a campus crisis, including the crisis that ensued following the extremely regrettable incident when police pepper-sprayed student protesters in 2011. Communication efforts during this time were part of the campus’s strategic communication strategy. In fact, one of the main objectives during this time was to train staff on how to effectively use digital media to improve engagement with our stakeholders.

“Communicating the value of UC Davis is among the many reasons why our campus was able to increase its endowment to $1 billion last year, garner more than $700 million in research grants, and attract the highest caliber of students and faculty from around the country, with a record number of student applications this year.

“Most of the growth in the communications budget is tied to raising the visibility of our College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the School of Veterinary Medicine, both rated the best in the nation.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

UC System Pushes Back Against Anti-Israel Movement

BDSposterThe BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement has been gaining momentum at American colleges in recent years with its message that Israel’s policies toward Palestinians amount to apartheid. According to the last annual report issued by the Israel on Campus Coalition, in the 2014-15 school year, there were 1,630 anti-Israel events at 181 colleges and universities in the United States. The main group behind the BDS movement — the Students for Justice in Palestine — grew by a third in terms of campus chapters and now has a presence at 150 schools.

But the University of California may slow that momentum. At a Board of Regents meeting Tuesday in San Francisco, a proposal meant to curb harassment of Jewish students at UC’s 10 campuses was unveiled. It declares “anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California” and that university officials must “challenge speech and action reflecting bias, stereotypes, and/or intolerance.”

This is significantly stronger language than a previous proposal unveiled last year — and quickly rejected — that was more generally worded without a specific reference to anti-Zionism. UC regents are expected to vote on the language at their meeting next Wednesday in San Francisco.

But that vote will only come after they hear sharp protests from students and faculty who see this policy as damaging their speech rights and exonerating Israeli for its treatment of Palestinians.

Professor: Criticizing Israel not equal to bigotry

UC Berkeley literature professor Judith Butler told the Los Angeles Times that the language of the policy allowed for arbitrary definitions of what is unacceptable speech:

[She] questioned who would define that term or decide what crossed the line into discriminatory speech.

And although the statement provides no sanctions, calling on university leaders to “challenge” bias, Butler wondered whether those singled out as criticizing Zionism would be denied faculty research funds, promotions or other benefits.

“To include anti-Zionism as an instance of intolerance and bigotry is actually to suppress a set of political beliefs that we actually need to hear,” she said. “It saddens me and strikes at the heart of the task of the university.”

UCLA student Eitan Peled, a member of the liberal Jewish Voice for Peace group, blasted the proposal in an interview with the Associated Press. “As a student who considers my work advocating for Palestinian human rights as an expression of my Jewish values, I am surprised to see that criticism of a modern nation-state that regularly violates international law is so centered in a report against intolerance,” he told AP. “Debate over Zionism and the abusive policies of the state of Israel absolutely should be debated vigorously, not silenced by accusations of discrimination.”

Ex-UC president: ‘Microaggression’ against Jews common

Meanwhile, former University of California President Mark Yudof is also speaking out about the BDS movement and the treatment of Jewish students at some universities. He’s joined the advisory board of the Academic Engagement Network, which seeks to “bring together faculty members and administrators to address issues related to Israel.” Its members include Lawrence Summers, the former treasury secretary and Harvard president.

In a December essay published by Inside Higher Education, Yudof depicted the BDS movement as trying to shut down discussion of issues involving Israel while linking Zionism to other issues, including police violence toward African Americans. “In age of exquisite sensitivity on some campuses to microaggression, or language that subtly offends underrepresented groups, the ironic toleration of microaggression against Jews often goes unnoted,” he wrote.

It was while Yudof was UC president that the UC system suffered perhaps its most notorious display of anti-Israeli sentiment. Eleven UC Irvine and UC Riverside students were arrested in February 2010 after they interrupted a speech at UC Irvine by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and refused to let him complete his remarks. The incident triggered vast reaction.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA churches and schools protect illegal immigrants from deportation

from the L.A. Times

Amid a fresh wave of immigration enforcement crackdowns, several powerful organizations in California have flexed their muscle to protect or benefit those present in the state illegally.

The city of Los Angeles has become a focal point for several different efforts, triggered by raids last month that “swept up more than 100 people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who entered the country and stayed illegally,” as the Los Angeles times noted.

“The seizures motivated church leaders nationwide who say they feel compelled to offer physical protection on their premises even if it violates federal law,” as the paper added, with at least three L.A.-area churches “vowing in recent weeks to offer refuge to Central Americans with deportation orders[.]” It is the Obama administration that has taken heat for the roundups:

“Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics and other Christian leaders across the country say they are outraged with the Obama administration’s actions, said Noel Andersen, a grass-roots coordinator with the Church World Service group for refugees. The group has built a network of sanctuaries for Central Americans targeted by ICE.”

Sanctuary schools

At the same time that California churches have shifted toward the approach that defined the state’s so-called “sanctuary cities,” schools and universities have also advanced complementary new policies. Los Angeles Unified Schools, for instance, have declared themselves to be ICE-free zones. “The school board has banned Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from setting foot on any campus without the district’s permission,” according to Fox 11 Los Angeles. Not only must the Superintendent of Schools approve any ICE presence, by the terms of the new vote, but LAUSD lawyers must as well:

“ICE claims that they do not come to schools looking for students, but parents fear sending their kids to school after information they received of ICE agents conducting a series of raids across the U.S. in January targeting Central American immigrants.”

Simultaneously, administrators in the UC system have forged ahead with plans to extend so-called DREAM loans to students who could potentially be deported. “Officials at California’s four-year public universities are reaching out to an estimated 10,000 undergraduate students who might qualify for a special loan aimed at reducing their tuition,” as U-T San Diego reported, “a program that further distinguishes the state as a national trendsetter in providing services to unauthorized immigrants.”

“The California DREAM loan program’s initial $7 million allotment — $5 million for the UC and $2 million for CSU — will be distributed to eligible applicants in the following weeks,” the paper noted. “The state provided half of the sum and the two university systems covered the other half. The loans are for the 2015-16 academic year, and they’re retroactive to last fall.”

Driving policy

As the public education establishment has come to the aid of would-be deportees, the state of California itself has continued to reward those who go public in some fashion with their legal status. California’s program to extend slightly modified drivers license privileges to otherwise undocumented immigrants far outpaced predicted demand. “Under the new law, 605,000 undocumented residents received licenses, accounting for 40 percent of all of the licenses issued last year,” the International Business Times reported. “Exceeding expectations, even more attempted to obtain a license: Around 830,000 undocumented immigrants have applied for a license since Jan. 2, 2015, the first day of the new policy at the Department of Motor Vehicles.”

The state’s aggressive action on normalizing residents who immigrated unlawfully has been rooted in two realities — first, the relatively vast and stable population of long-time residents crossing over from Mexico and Central America, and, second, the prevailing political agenda of Democrats wielding near one-party control over state policy for years on end. “California is among 12 states that now allow immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver’s licenses, areas covering an estimated 37 percent of that population,” the Times observed, citing a recent Pew report. But California has also surpassed all other states in its percentage of unlawful residents eligible for a license, according to the report.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA Student Debt “Crisis” Attracting Varying Attention

graduation college debtWhile California students mustered to lead a nationwide movement for college debt relief, policymakers and innovators grappled with the issue in ways of their own.

Students in the UC system — particularly the Berkeley campus — have taken a central role in pushing the co-called Million Student March. Protest organizers have announced a sweeping agenda including “a $15 minimum wage for student employees on college campuses, free tuition at public universities, and the abolition of student debt,” according to Time. “The Million Student March was an idea that started with a remark made by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, stating elected officials wouldn’t care about supporting higher education until a million students were out marching,” as UCSA President Kevin Sabo told the Daily Californian.

An uncertain path

The latest elements of student debt policy emanating from Washington have been a mixed bag. The new revisions to the federal Pay As You Earn program “will let all borrowers with federal direct student loans who are not in default cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, no matter when they borrowed or their debt-to-income ratio,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, a twist in federal robocall law has raised the specter of heightened fraud risks for targeted students. “Under the new provision, robocalls could only be directed at people with student loans backed by the federal government,” noted KOMO Channel 4 News. “For many, that’s just one more opportunity for scammers and deceptive marketers to expand their operations. State and federal regulators already have their hands full with illegal companies that make unsolicited calls claiming they can help consumers consolidate student loan debt or get loan modifications  for a large and illegal up-front free.”

Tuition politics

Californians have actually fared better than others as the debt crisis continues its upward spiral. “Students graduating from California colleges had just $21,382 in loans, fourth-lowest among the states,” the Institute for College Access and Success noted in its tenth annual report on student debt, according to the Chronicle.

“The state’s Cal Grant program pays up to the full cost of systemwide tuition and fees at University of California and California State University campuses, and up to a certain dollar amount ($9,084 in 2014-15) at qualifying private colleges. These grants, available to California residents from low- and moderate-income families, have helped defray soaring tuition.”

ICAS research director Debbie Cochrane told the Chronicle that “tuition at UC and CSU campuses rose 128 percent, but the average debt for public-college graduates rose only 43 percent” over the past 10 years.

But some Golden State politicos have sought to frame state education as a crisis in need of broad new government support. Along with UC Regent Eloy Ortiz, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his support for an initiative called California College Promise, “a bold effort to offer two tuition-free years of community college for responsible students,” as they argued in the San Jose Mercury News. “This promise is true to California’s tradition of advancing our educational system at critical junctures to present future generations with better opportunities to succeed,” they wrote.

Disrupting debt

At the same time, student debt has attracted the attention of California’s startup scene. One new highly selective startup school, Make School, offers a two-year curriculum in tech — “billed as ‘debt-free education,’” as the Mercury News reported. “Ashu Desai, the 23-year-old cofounder of Make School, said widespread concerns about student debt and abuses in the for-profit college sector influenced his decision not to charge tuition up front. Instead, the school charges a percentage of graduates’ wages — or, alternatively, an investment in their startup — instead of a flat fee.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

UC system minimum wage increases to $13 per hour

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

The University of California’s plan to raise the minimum wage for all workers systemwide took effect Thursday, the first of three incremental raises expected to bring wages to at least $15 an hour by 2017.

The minimum wage rose to $13 an hour for all university employees hired to work 20 hours or more a week. It will be increased to $14 an hour on Oct. 1, 2016, and to $15 an hour on the same day in 2017.

UC president Janet Napolitano announced the voluntary minimum wage increase in July, the first of its kind to be established by a public university.

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UC regents chair defends proposed principles against intolerance

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

On the eve of what is expected to be a contentious debate over a proposed new UC policy statement on bias and free speech, the head of the UC regents board defended what are called “principles against intolerance” on Wednesday.

Regents chairwoman Monica Lozano said the proposed principles, which condemn ethnic, religious and gender bias, “reflect the university’s core values of respect, inclusion, academic freedom and a free and open exchange of ideas.”

The statement’s purpose, she said, “is to provide a framework for prompt and effective response to reports of intolerant behavior and for reinforcement of the university’s bedrock values.”

Lozano spoke at the regents meeting, which is being held …

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California Trains Professors To Avoid ‘Microaggressions’

University of CaliforniaUniversity of California president Janet Napolitano’s office has been training faculty members at the University of California to avoid describing America as a “land of opportunity,” along with other phrases the school claims are offensive “microaggressions.”

According to activists, “microaggressions” are subtle actions, usually unintentional, that perpetuate discrimination against disadvantaged groups even in environments where overt discrimination has been abolished. Now, the UC system has fully committed itself to formally training faculty to avoid and root out these perceived microaggressions for the good of all.

The attack on microaggressions is the centerpiece of a series of faculty leadership seminars carried out by Napolitano’s office at several campuses across the UC system. One document used in the seminars is titled Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send, and lists dozens of menacing microaggressions for faculty to avoid.

One of the largest categories of microaggressions are those that that promote the “myth of meritocracy.” According to the document, this “myth” is spread by statements such as “America is the land of opportunity,” “I believe the most qualified person should get the job,” and “Affirmative action is racist.”

Other examples of sinister microaggressions, according to the guide, include:

  • Describing America as a “melting pot” (it orders people to assimilate)
  • Stating that “there is only one race, the human race” (denying the significance of a person’s ethnic or racial history)
  • Asking Asians, Hispanics, or Native Americans to speak up more (“pathologizing” foreign norms and treating white norms as “normal”)
  • Using “he” as a generic pronoun for all people (it makes the male experience universal and the female experience “invisible”)
  • Using forms where individuals must identify as male or female (it excludes the full LGBT experience)

The guide was used in faculty training sessions for UC faculty members throughout the 2014-15 school year, but its contents only recently drew more widespread attention when one professor notified The College Fix about the materials.

A PowerPoint used for seminar in April shows the dramatic tollvUC believes even a single microaggression take on students. Even a simple compliment, such as calling a student “articulate,” can set off a cascade of self-doubt and anxiety for the recipient

A second document instructs faculty on the proper ways to intervene against microaggressions. For example, if a person commits the offense of starting a sentence with “You people”, a suggested reaction is to say “I was so upset by that remark that I shut down and couldn’t hear anything else.”

Microaggressions aren’t the only threat faculty have been taught to mind. Another document, the Tool for Identifying Implicit Bias, instructs faculty how to avoid being biased in evaluations or hiring decisions. The document singles out phrases such as “hard worker” as being “euphemisms” for bias that must be rooted out.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Gov. Brown Walks the Budget Tightrope

jerry-brownGov. Jerry Brown has unveiled the highly-anticipated revision to his annual state budget, teeing up final spending negotiations in Sacramento — largely with his fellow Democrats.

Despite a resurgence in California’s fiscal fortunes, including tax receipts some $2 billion in excess of estimates, “analysts are warning that California could be headed for more fiscal headaches as soon as next year,” the Wall Street Journal observed. “The state is constitutionally required to spend more on public education as revenue increases. This year’s revenue will establish a spending base for next year, meaning it could be harder for the state to balance its budget if the state’s income declines.”

Brown has made his reputation as governor holding the line on spending against steady pressure from his left. But Brown’s own favorite projects, including California’s high-speed rail plan, received his unwavering support, even drawing money away from expenditures favored by activists.

A selective windfall

Now, Brown has chosen to walk the budget tightrope in a way that will encourage his more profligate allies. Beneficiaries of Brown’s revised budget were set to include poorer Californians, unlawful immigrants and college students, as the San Jose Mercury News reported:

“With billions in better-than-expected revenue, Brown unveiled a $115.3 billion general fund spending plan that creates the state’s first-ever ‘earned income tax credit’ and would pay for Medi-Cal for some immigrants living in the state illegally.”

Brown’s revision also slipped in the results of a long-belabored deal with UC President Janet Napolitano, “who had demanded tens of millions of dollars more for her system to stave off 5 percent tuition hikes in each of the next five years,” as the Mercury News recalled.

But the revised budget plan went well beyond those measures, touching policy areas that have bedeviled Brown throughout much of his time in office.

Prison reform

Brown, for instance, used the revision to forge ahead with reforms to California’s prison system, which has been a virtual albatross around his neck since the Supreme Court ordered the state to reduce its crowded incarcerated population.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the new budget revision “calls for shrinking the number of inmates housed outside California in the next year by 4,000 — reducing related state spending by $73 million. As of this week, the state had a little more than 8,000 inmates in private prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma, and another 6,250 prisoners in contracted lockups within the state.”

According to the Times, the cuts became possible because of the impact of Proposition 47, which thinned prisons’ ranks largely by slashing penalties and jail time for drug-related offenses. As CalWatchdog previously reported, although relatively few donors fueled the measure, Prop. 47 won the support of a substantial majority of voters in November.

Mixed reactions

In what has become a hallmark of his tenure in office, reactions to Brown’s adjusted numbers mixed praise with criticism. “We applaud the governor for putting money back into the pockets of those who work hard every day and pay their taxes – it’s the right move,” remarked Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, according to the Sacramento Bee. But, she added, Brown’s tax credit “will not end widespread poverty. That’s why Assembly Republicans have offered straightforward solutions to reform education and support the modern economy so every Californian can boost their earnings and quality of life.”

From the other side of the aisle, some Democrats registered disappointment with the limitations of Brown’s agreement on school funding. “We are pleased UC students and their families will avoid paying higher tuition next year,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. “But CSU, the workhorse of our higher education system, has been shortchanged. We have to support both of our public institutions of higher learning to make sure college is accessible to as many Californians as possible.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com