07 February 2011

UCB Dropping ballast

We have predicted since the very early days of this blog that the de-funding of UC by the state would bring to the surface tensions and potential conflicts among the ten campuses, potentially undermining the system as a whole. The two flagships, UCB and UCLA, and aspiring falgship UCSD would look to insulate themselves from the effects of the cuts by staking a claim to academic excellence in the system.

Sure enough, it looks like Berkeley is looking to drop ballast in the face of a proposed $80M budget cut. As reported by both the  California Watch  and the UCLA FA blog: in the words of UCB Provost Breslauer,
My greatest fear is that Berkeley will be driven into lesser and lesser stature and excellence to shore up the existence of other campuses [...] We are constantly fighting to make sure that redistribution (of funds generated by the campus) does not threaten our stature, the standard by which public higher education is judged in the world.
The $80M cut represents about 22.5% of UCB's $1.8 billion budget (UCB's share of state funds also declined from $500M in 2005 to a projected  $225M with the new cuts), and 16% of Jerry Brown's $500M cut to UC — but notice also that 16% of undergraduates in the system are at Berkeley (35,300 out of 218,000).

UCB's attitude is nothing new or unexpected. It is also nothing inherently reproachable: UCB has to do whatever they think it is necessary for self-preservation (and so do the other campuses). One just wishes they would go about it in a slightly more diplomatic manner, paying at least lip service to the idea of one university and the "power of ten" rhetoric. You know, just so that the other nine campuses do not feel like they are being dropped as so much ballast.

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