24 December 2011

Social Security Deduction

It would seem that the University was not prepared for the extension of the Social Security tax cut just approved by Congress. As a result, January paychecks will reflect the old, higher payroll tax rate of 6.2% instead of the 4.2% that's been in place throughout 2011. The extra amount withheld will appear instead on the next paycheck, on Feb 1 for most employees.

So our Jan 1 paychecks will be 2% lower than our Dec 1 paychecks. Happy 2012 to all!

01 December 2011

Backroom Deals

This past Monday, after hearing the plight of students for never-ending tuition hikes and their outrage at the trampling of their constitutional rights at Berkeley, Davis and elsewhere, the Regents of the University of California promptly reconvened to a separate, smaller room for the non-public portion of their meeting, where they provided yet another resplendent  example of their vision, leadership, and courage in steering the UC ship in these stormy waters.

Once outside of public scrutiny, the Regents promptly proceeded to approve 9.9% pay raises for three vice-chancellors (UCLA, UCI, UCSF) as well as for a number of university lawyers. But the lottery winner was indisputably UC Davis general counsel Steven Drown who got a whopping 21.9% salary raise (only UCDMC chief operating officer got a bigger raise, but medical center employees' salaries benefit from the revenue the bring to the University). Mr Drown was noted during the recent "events" at UC Davis for his very visible absence while the students' first amendment rights were being covered in orange pepper spray.

In the meantime, it looks like a section of UC Davis faculty, mostly from the sciences and engineering, have launched Operation SCA ("Save the Chancellor's Ass"). One is reminded of not too distant proceedings at Irvine, when Chancellor Drake hired, fired, and re-hired Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinski, all in the same week. UCI science and medical faculty also rose en masse to save Drake's ass, quite possibly in return for Drake's saving their asses when the Medical School was selling body parts and fertilized human eggs on the black market.

22 November 2011

Yudof steps in

From the SF Chronicle:
On Tuesday, Yudof asked the acting police chief to get criminal charges dismissed against 10 protesters involved in Friday's demonstration and said the school would pay the demonstrators' medical bills. He also named William Bratton, a former Los Angeles police chief, to direct a review of the pepper-spray incident.
One has to say, that if those are the qualifications for leading the review of the pepper spraying "incident," a much better option was available just a few miles up the road from the President's office.

21 November 2011

What Katehi didn't say

As we know the Davis Chancellor addressed the 5,000 participants at the rally held today on the UCD quad: the full 2:44 minutes of her emotional speech can be viewed here. She apologized for Friday's "events" and vowed to work to re-gain the students' trust. That cannot have been easy, and it certainly took courage. But equally important is what she did not say. For instance, here is something many were expecting to hear:
The Chancellor will ask the Yolo County DA to drop all charges agianst the arrested students.
This is so obvious it is a no brainer, and yet nothing was said in this respect. Here is another one:
The Chancellor will make sure that all riot control equipment on campus is removed from possession of UC PD.
Again, nothing in this direction. Or one more:
The Chancellor will make an explicit commitment to safeguard free speech and other constitutional rights on campus.
The list could go on, including working with the students to reverse tuition increases, working with faculty to restore shared governance, respect the right of workers and staff to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. But none of that was forthcoming today. Perhaps tomorrow?

20 November 2011

The Chancellor's Conundrum

Faced with intense pressure and stinging criticism following the pepper-spraying of non-violent protesters on her campus, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi should do what responsible administrators always do under the circumstances: find a scapegoat.

In these difficult times, the Chancellor's mind must certainly be considering the central question: who? who should I fire to save my own job?

One obvious candidate is UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza, whose transparent deception in relating Friday's events makes her a clear choice.  She declared that her officers were surrounded by a crowd and had to resort to pepper-spraying to make their way out of the difficult situation. But she should have been aware of a saying, in the language of her forebears: le bugie hanno le gambe corte — lies have short legs — and lies certainly don't go very far these days when everybody carries a high-resolution video camera in their pockets.

But scapegoating is an ancient and delicate art, whose fundamental principle is that you should go as far down the command ladder as you can get away with.

In this respect, we would like to suggest that UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike, who is the primary pepper-sprayer of the whole episode, would make a much more suitable target. The look of a VoPo in a Darth Vader costume, the nonchalant attitude with which he sprays children (children!) sitting on the ground, his leisurely stroll as he inflicts chemical burns on non-violent students, not to mention his girth (well-fed by those very students' tuition money): he's the ultimate incarnation of the banality of evil. He's absolutely perfect, the perfect fall guy. Your own job is safe, Chancellor Katehi.

19 November 2011

UC Davis' "vision of excellence"

It seems like UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi finally succeeded in her stated goal to obtain much deserved national recognition for her campus.

17 November 2011

The dirty secret behind UC privatization

There is much to think about in Nathan Brown's remarks, delivered at the Tuesday day of protest, even if one does not agree with everything he says. In particular, his claim that in many ways UC likes to replace state funds with student tuition, seems right on the mark. State funds are restricted, and they can mostly be used for instructional purposes. Student tuition is unrestricted, and it can be used, for instance, as collateral for bonds intended to finance capital projects (a point Bob Meister has been making for quite some time).

15 November 2011

Regents' retreat

Only for the fourth time in history, the UC Board of Regents has cancelled a meeting, apparently out of concern that protests planned concomitantly with the meeting might turn violent. Oh, c'mon, really? I am sure a few baton pokes from UC PD officers would have sufficed in keeping the distance between the ragged and smelly students and the highest officers of the University.

03 November 2011

New Budget Model

UC Davis has released a white paper outlining a proposal for a "new budget model" (we had discussed something similar back in February). The proposal is in line with, but independent of, the "Funding Streams" model being implemented by UCOP, and similar to the corresponding allocation schemes at Michigan or Minnesota. The leading idea of Funding Streams is that revenue is to remain with the campuses that generate it (hence, for instance, Berkeley's push to enroll more out of state and international students). The Davis proposal brings this idea down to the different units on campus ( a "unit" is defined, for the purposes of the white paper, as anything headed by a Dean, or the equivalent of such). Revenue generated at UC Davis — i.e., student tuition and indirect cost recovery from grants —would be allocated to the units proportionally to the amount of student tuition and grant dollars generated. The central campus would then assess a "tax" on such revenue (including return to aid) supposedly in proportion to resources each unit is using.

This is the main idea. The details are worth a look, too. First of all, "student tuition" means blended tuition, i.e., a campus-wide average of in-state and out-of-state tuition. This way, although the campus has a strong incentive to recruit out-of-state students, no single unit does. Second, part of the moneys recovered through the assessment would go (besides support for shared resources, such as the central library etc.) to fund a "Provost Supplement" allocated centrally to the units in order to further the campus' strategic goals. Finally, it's noteworthy that there is no presupposition that the Deans will, in turn, allocate resources within their own units according to anything resembling the same principle. So although cross-unit subsidies would (presumably) be curtailed, departments within each unit would still be jockeying for increased resources. The proposal also addresses the issue of how a student's tuition is to be shared between the unit teaching the class and the unit hosting the student's major (answer: 65% to 35%).

The proposal is to be praised to the extent that it brings a measure of transparency to an otherwise totally mysterious process. It is also, to an extent, a transfer of power from central administration to the Deans, for better of for worse. But it does nothing, by itself, to address budgetary shortfalls: while units in the sciences are motivated to increase the number and size of their grants (although grants are, as finally acknowledged, a net loss to the university), the number of student credit hours is more or less fixed, certainly in the short term. So the units, especially the ones that rely on teaching vast numbers of undergraduates, would essentially be engaging in a zero-sum game.

It remains to be seen whether the proposal, strongly advocated by Chancellor Katehi, will be favorably received at UCOP (probably yes) and on the other campuses across the system.

25 October 2011

Student Regents

Looks like the student regents have it exactly right: it's depressing.

13 October 2011


The Council of UC Faculty Associations endorses Occupy Wall Street, and asks people to sign a support petition:
The social movement known as Occupy <>Wall Street (OWS) is growing and raising issues of direct relevance to the faculty, students and staff of the University of California including contracting opportunities and increasing debt loads for our students created by a system of privatized education and a refusal to provide high quality affordable public higher education. TheCouncil of UC Faculty Associations, on behalf of all UC faculty, is making a petition supporting OWS available for UC faculty to sign.
 The petition is available here.

OWS has been variously criticized for their lack of clear objectives, but in fact it seems to me the opposite is true. Two young participants being interviewed the other day, from different parts of the country, when asked what is that they wanted, were adamantly clear: they wanted to find a job, buy a house, start a family, and pay down their student loans. 

These are middle class dreams, and it's remarkable that this aspect of the social compact that has been in place for a long time, has finally unraveled, with the financial crisis putting the final nail in the coffin. Maybe this time around the revolution is a dinner party.

The mention of student loans is also remarkable, and one of the most jarring consequences of the crisis. High levels of student debt might have been acceptable during the good times, when the prospects of finding a good job after college were reasonable (even this is debatable, as it presupposes that higher education is only a private good). But it is a real racket now, with lenders and universities (public, private and for-profit) equally addicted to the student-loan money, while the Feds are just watching and untold numbers of students are getting screwed. (Student loans cannot be dismissed, not even by a bankruptcy court; this is supposed to make lenders more willing to lend, and make more kids go to college, but the absence of such protection does not seem to make mortgages or car loans any more difficult. Go figure.)

Finally, one of the more colorful slogans from OWS: "I'll believe corporations are people when the State of Texas executes one of them."

23 September 2011

Where's MY senior manager?

Back in 2009 Richard Evans pointed out that "soon every faculty member will have a personal senior manager," as the number of senior management FTE was fast approaching that of ladder rank faculty. Fast forward two years and, well, it happened: there are now 8,822 senior management FTE's at UC compared to 8,669 ladder-rank faculty FTE's. As Keep California's Promise puts it, "UC's administrators crossed the line:"

That's because thanks to budget cuts and hiring freezes, and according to UCOP's own data,  the faculty decreased by 2.3% since 2009, but the number of senior management FTE's increased by 4.2% in the same period (student enrollment also increased by 3.6% in the same period, and while the increased student-faculty ratio is problematic, the fact that more students are attending UC is, in itself, is a good thing).

21 September 2011

Negotiated Salary

For a long time, faculty in the Health Sciences have been receiving salary according to the aptly named  "Health Sciences Compensation Plan" (HSCP). HS faculty generate a sizable chunk of revenue for the University, and HSCP makes sure that they get some of it back in what the University calls a salary "augmentation." ("Augmentation" reminds one of a particular surgical procedure especially popular at, or around,  UCLA Medical Center. Go figure.)

There is nothing wrong with this, it is accepted and fair practice. HS faculty are collectively regarded as revenue generators and so they are all eligible for salary augmentation through HSPC. The University is now thinking of extending the concept to general campus faculty through a Negotiated Salary Program. In a memo detailing the proposal (link courtesy of UCLA Faculty Association), system-wide Vice Provost for Academic Personnel Susan Carlson outlines the motivation and some of the details of NSP.

NSP is intented to work pretty much like HSCP: faculty that generate external revenue would be able to negotiate some of that revenue back into a salary augmentation (typically paid, it would seem, as summer salary). Only funds that are not "state-appropriated" can be used for this purpose: "gifts and endowments, professional fees and fees in self-supporting programs, and [revenue from] contracts and grants" (the latter might run afoul of federal grant guidelines – we'll see).

Ostensibly the motivation for this is to address the notorious salary lag for CU faculty without resorting to "ad hoc state-funded off-scale salary increases in response to external offers" (fully two-thirds of all faculty now receive off-step salary) or to across-the-board increases in the salary scales. (The NSP program is not meant to supersede the University's recent commitment to a 3% salary increase or the 1.78% of payroll reserved for merits.) One aspect where NSP would differ from HSCP is that in the latter, as mentioned, all faculty are eligible, whereas in the former only small groups within a department, or perhaps only some departments within a school might be eligible, depending on the creation of "non-state-appropriated" revenue. As Carlson's memo points out,
A key factor driving the creation of the NSP is that on several UC campuses with Health Sciences schools, general campus faculty are considering appointments in the health sciences, often due to the flexibility of the salary benefits.
People can make up their own minds about UCOP's proposal. But one thing to keep in mind, though, is that there is an argument for carrying this to its logical conclusions: revenue is revenue, and funds that are state appropriated contribute equally to the functioning of the University. Among such funds, of course, is student tuition, which the University is bent on increasing in leaps and bounds. These are "private" funds – just ask the students out of whose pockets the money is extracted. One would then logically conclude that faculty that generate the most enrollment would also be allowed to retain some of the funds thus generated and pay themselves summer salary according to NSP guidelines. Money is money. Pecunia non olet. The English department faculty teaching writing to four hundred freshmen, doesn't she deserve her summer salary, too?

20 September 2011

No clue

It looks like nobody really has any clue as to how to go about addressing the University's financial problems. As widely reported, UCOP came up with a scheme whereby tuition would rise by 16% a year for the next four years (which compounds to 81%) unless the State steps in with yearly funding increases of 8% for the next four years. As anybody can imagine, this is not likely to engender warm and fuzzy feelings towards UC in those that are left as UC's only constituency and potential supporters, viz. the students and their families. Supposedly preoccupied by the fall-out, the Regents have swiftly acted with typical Regental drive and determination – and formed a commission with the task of exploring private donations as a source of external funding. The idea behind such a bold undertaking is that UC has traditionally contributed to the economic successes of California by supplying a steady stream of skilled and educated labor. California business ought to be willing to contribute to the University's bottom line in order to secure such a competitive advantage in the future as well. What this line of thought seems to have missed, though, is that there does not appear to be any reason why big business would be willing to pay in California for resources it can get for free in Mumbai – testifying yet again to the wisdom of Clark Kerr's vision characterizing a public supported education as "bait to be dangled in front of industry, with drawing power greater than low taxes or cheap labor." Perhaps even more disheartening is the fact that in all this the faculty and their official representation, the Senate, is mostly notable for their silence.  

14 September 2011

UC Disorientation Guide

Reclaim UC  carries a "disorientation Guide" for students entering UC this fall:

As you go from class to overcrowded class this fall, you’ll want to forget that tuition last year was around $1,800 less than you’re paying now. Continuing a 30-year trend, the UC Board of Regents gathered in cigar and gin-soaked boardrooms over the summer to raise our tuition by 17.6% and lay down plans for further increases in January, or maybe just raise tuition 81% over the next 4 years.


The UC Office of the President (UCOP) never tires of reminding us that tuition increases are the recession’s fault or scolding us that Californians are just unwilling to spend on education in hard times; this is a strange excuse though, since state funding has been decreasing while tuition has been skyrocketing since the early 1990s. [...] As it happens, in 9 of the past 10 years tuition was raised – well before the 2008 recession began; UCOP’s insistence on the necessity of this recent series of tuition increases has so many logical fallacies that if it were an assignment, it’d get an F (assuming, of course, that the overburdened TA grading it even had time to pay attention to it). Tuition hikes and budget cuts – at all levels of California higher education – are part of the decades-long process whereby the richest assholes in California (and the greater US) intend to make private what few institutions remain in public hands.

Even if you slept through math in high school, UC tuition increases aren’t difficult to calculate – just add a few zeros every few decades: since 1975 tuition has gone up 1,923% or, if you’d prefer to adjust for inflation, 392% (from $700 to over $12,000 per year)! Minimum wage in California, by contrast, when adjusted for inflation, has stayed roughly the same for the last 40 years, while the median family income has continued to fall since 1973. Most people in California make less money today, yet pay much more for education: for families struggling to pay rent, mortgages, car payments, etc., education becomes a luxury good. To make matters worse, financial aid packages meant to help low to middle income students attend the UC, heavily depend on students working part-time in an economy with a staggeringly high unemployment rate and very low entry- level wages; furthermore, it relies on students taking out thousands in loans that, most economic experts agree, will lock us into debt for the rest of our lives. Indeed, many economists believe that student loans will be the next credit bubble to burst, perhaps wreaking more destruction than the recession of 2008. Because there aren’t enough jobs for everyone who graduates, student loan default rates are nearing 10% – but, unlike other loans there’s no way out for student borrowers. Sallie Mae and Bank of America can take your paychecks and your children’s paychecks until they get back all their Benjamins, and then some.
Read the rest of it, here.

08 September 2011

Brown Kerr

That's Pat Brown and Clark Kerr, the architects of California's Master Plan now in tatters. The Economist has a piece on the "quasi-privatization" of California's public universities, quoting Kerr's point that universities are "bait to be dangled in front of industry, with drawing power greater than low taxes or cheap labour." According to The Economist, this privatization strategy (higher tuition and more out-of-state students)
retains pockets of excellence. But it also runs counter to the philosophy of the master plan, by pricing ever more Californian families out of a place. The state now ranks 41st in the number of college degrees awarded for every 100 of its high school graduates.
 Jerry's undoing Pat's work. Isn't there a Greek tragedy about that, or something?

03 September 2011

For the record

I am not that California Professor.

01 September 2011

Meanwhile, in South Dakota ...

Well, it looks like South Dakota's Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard might have a bit of a problem on his hands when it comes to faculty salaries at the state's four universities, which have been frozen for the past three years:
Higher education officials tired of watching talented faculty jump to private industry and out-of-state universities for better pay want Gov. Dennis Daugaard to end South Dakota's salary drought. After three years of frozen wages, the Board of Regents says its priority in Daugaard's next budget is at least a 4 percent salary bump for all state workers. [...] State officials and Board of Regents members say they understand the toll that the wage freeze is exacting and intend to address it as best they can in the next legislative session. Daugaard's spokesman, Tony Venhuizen, said the governor is just beginning to formulate next year's budget, "and deciding on a salary policy number is an important part of that process."
  Perhaps there is a lesson here for the great state of California, too?

26 August 2011

The power of ten

Ever since the beginning of this blog, we predicted that the steady de-funding of UC by  the State, accelerated by the financial crisis, would have resulted in a serious strain on the system as a whole, and provided an incentive to follow the Michigan/Virginia model for those campuses that can (UCB and UCLA, essentially), while the remaining campuses would be left to fend for themselves.

Well, Cal has just announced that in spite of the most recent cuts, they are doing quite well, thank you, mostly because of the influx of out-of-state students (about one in three freshmen) and other "efficiencies" realized by following the prescriptions of the Bain report (the laying off of about 150 staff at Cal — it's easy to realize "efficiencies" this way, it's a lot harder to save money by allowing people to work to their fullest potential). 

In the meantime, UCOP has announced a program that would provide $140M to give non-represented staff and faculty a 3% pay raise. While the raise will be applied across the board, the the faculty component would only be available to faculty earning less than $200,000 a year (the vast majority of non-medical faculty) and it would be left to Chancellors to determine how best to apportion it for the purposes of "recruitment and retention." (The newly released report on 2010 compensation confirms that UC faculty salaries lag 12.8% behind those at comparable institutions.)

The proposal has generated a fair amount of criticism among the general public (Bruce Maiman is an example). Such criticism might be justified if UC still were the kind of public institution of higher learning that the State envisaged (and paid for) in the Master Plan. But in fact California has long ago decided that they are no longer willing to support an affordable, high-quality teaching and research institution open to all qualified Californians. The percentage of the UC budget paid for by the State has been shrinking for decades, and we are the point where only a fraction is taxpayers' money. A similar announcement by Stanford would not even make the news  — it's not public money. And, for better or for worse, this move by UCOP is also in large part financed through tuition money, just like it would be at a private institution.

Of course, the morality of raising tuition on the students to pay for faculty pay raises is questionable (retention of quality faculty at UC is in some sense a "public good" in that it benefits California in numerous ways). But California can't have it both ways: accept (or promote) de-funding the university while at the same time complaining about the way UC makes use of the money.

02 July 2011

Contingent faculty

As reported in the SF Chronicle, the Academic Council recommended last week that the University expand the use of contingent faculty "where appropriate" across the system, in the words of system-wide senate chair Dan Simmons. We have not seen any official announcement, or document such as meeting minutes to confirm this. But this would appear a major shift in the official position of the faculty: since when does the Senate recommend the expansion of non-senate faculty? It's enough that the administration has become addicted to the use of exploited, under-paid, and over-worked lecturers. It's a completely different position for the system-wide senate to come to the same conclusion. The senate should be in the business of expanding (at least some of) the benefits of the tenure system to contingent faculty – not sell our collective soul to satisfy the administration's appetite for a flexible workforce.

28 June 2011

Six hundred and fifty

That's the size of the cut (in millions) that UC is being required to take with the Governor's new budget, with possibly another $100 million if the optimistic revenue projections built into the budget do not materialize. (CSU and CCs will also get similar reductions – the Governor's budget includes almost 12 billions in cuts to services.)

Having averted the worst-case scenario (a total reduction of $1 billion to UC), there is a temptation to sit back and enjoy the summer. But in fact (unless I am mistaken, I didn't check) $650 million is the largest cut the University has been required to take in a long time. Did Arnold ever do anything remotely approaching this?

Of course the Regents have announced that any reductions above the $500 million in the January budget will come from tuition increases. So the UC faculty can sit back, take it in stride, tell each other there is nothing they can do, and that this, too, will pass.

28 May 2011

Small consolation

It's small consolation nowadays, as we learn of his lovechild with the housekeeper, to realize that we are not the only ones he screwed.

16 May 2011

The May revise

The Governor released the revised budget. A very cursory look reveals that no further cuts are proposed for UC, CSU and CC, beyond the $1.4B already cut from higher ed in the January budget. However, the whole budget is predicated on revenue solutions that need voter approval — so we'll see.

10 May 2011

The ides of May

Governor Brown will release his revised budget on Monday the 16th, just after the Ides of May (May is one of those months — including March — when the Ides fall on the 15th as opposed to the 13th). That is when we'll know if the University will bear the full brunt of the "all-cuts" budget, i.e., $1 billion, or whether it will be cut "only" $500 million.  It's a sad testimony to the state of UC that we are all sitting here hoping for a $500 million cut.

Some have surmised that the Governor is pursuing a "reverse Norquist." The Norquist doctrine contemplates implementing popular tax cuts in order to shrink the government, to the point where you can "drown it in the bathtub." A reverse Norquist, supposedly, pursues ruthless cuts to build up support for necessary tax collection. Both doctrines are, of course, flawed. The Norquist doctrine ignores that big corporations and the financial oligarchy have way too much to gain from their control of our supposedly democratic government to actually want to drown in the bathtub. It will never happen. Government might well get meaner towards the poor and the middle class, but it's way too useful to the oligarchy to disappear. And Brown's supposed reverse Norquist presupposes that people still value the services they are receiving — including the affordable quality education traditionally provided at UC. But California is no longer willing to pay for it. UC is not necessary for the upbringing of our very own jeunesse dorée (never was), and it no longer affords the middle class the means for upwards mobility, simply because social mobility increasingly works only one way in this country, i.e., down. So there you have it.

29 March 2011

California Budget Shenanigans

Budget negotiations broke down between Gov. Brown and the Republican minority in the Legislature. So there won't be any tax extensions on the June ballot, which means we should brace for further cuts. If you thought $500M was devastating for the university, this is probably the nail in the coffin of higher education in California.

22 March 2011

Last one out.

If you are not following the discussion over at Remaking the University on the presentation by Patrick Lenz and Nathan Bostrom to the Regents, well — you should. It seems that for once the Regents got the unvarnished truth about the financial state of the University (although see Bob Samuels' letter to the Regents for a different take).

Here is the bottom line: assuming only 1% year-over-year revenue increases from enrollment growth, 2015-16 revenue for UC will be around $5 billion, but costs will be around $7.5 billion in 2015-16, giving a gap of $2.5 billion (and that's optimistic: assumes tax extensions will be on the ballot and approved by the voters, limited increases in utility costs, etc). A number of measures can be implemented to reduce the deficit: the mythical $500 million in administrative efficiencies, better indirect cost recovery from funding agencies, tuition increases at the professional schools, more out-of-state students. Such savings and revenue increases are projected to add to about $1 billion.

So, how does the University go about closing the remaining $1.5 billion gap projected for 2015-16? There are only two sources of revenue left: state funding and student tuition. State funding would have to increase by 12.4% a year over the next four to five years to close the gap, or tuition would have to rise 18.3% each of those years. Or you could mix-and-match, with, say, 5% increases in state funding and 12.6% tuition increases. 18.3% tuition increases over 4 years, as pointed out by Bostrom in response to a question form a student Regent, compound to 95.85% — double the current levels.

It's clear that the University is out of options. Even the most draconian measures would only go a small part of the way towards filling the $1.5 billion gap:

  • Increasing the student-faculty ration from 21.1 to 1 to 22.9 to 1 (a 9.1% increase) would save about $100 million. Do it 15 times, and you've closed the gap.
  • Replacing 1,100 tenure-track faculty position by non-tenure track faculty, would also save about $100 million in salary and benefits. Therefore, replacing 16,500 TT faculty by lecturers would close the gap. 
  • Eliminating 1,280 staff positions would also save $100 million. You get the picture.

Lenz and Bostrom pointed out that cuts are being "disproportionately" taken at the administrative level on the campuses. That might well be true. But looks like we are well past the point were significant economies can be achieved this way (much less the mythical $500 million). As much as we would like to see extravagant administrative salaries cut to size, the truth is that there is not much money there altogether. And in fact the cuts are pouring all over the place: more than 4,400 people have already been laid off (with more coming) and 3,700 vacant positions have gone unfilled. And my own department's instructional budget, used to support the graduate students with teaching assistantships and readerships, was just cut 25%. We are at the point were the mission of the University is being seriously jeopardized.  And did I mention that the budget of Corrections & Rehabilitation is not being cut, and that the oil severance tax has disappeared from the horizon?

So things are definitely not well at UC. The last one out, please turn the lights off.

05 March 2011

Dump Crane

The Council of UC Faculty Associations is asking UC employees to sign a petition asking Governor Brown not to appoint David Crane to the UC Board of  Regents, in support of Senator Leland Yee's opposition to Crane's confirmation as Regent. Appointments to the Board of Regents are for 12 years, and Davis Crane would thus serve until the end of 2022. CUCFA argues that David Crane is not the right person for this job. If you hold a similar opinion, this link will allow you to join with the opposition by electronically signing a petition to be sent to Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Yee.

20 February 2011

The New Budgeting Model

A specter is haunting UC campuses – the specter of a New Budgeting Model. References to this new budgeting model, aka the "Funding Streams" proposal are being repeatedly heard in administrative office. The new budgeting model is inspired by the single principle:
Revenue stays with the units that generate it.
This applies primarily at the campus level. The idea is that campus are going to retain the revenue they generate, and UCOP is going to assess a "tax" using the same rate across the board, to pay for centralized operations as well as for programs such as EAP, UCDC, etc. There would be only few exception to this rule – the most notable of which is financial aid. The campuses would be directed to allocate a certain amount of tuition to students' financial aid. Now, for historical reasons, some campuses get more than their fair share of this money (especially tuition), and other less. When these inequalities are addressed, there will be some winners and some losers. It will be interesting to see who is who.

Is the principle to be implemented "all the way down"? What if the internal allocation of resources on each campus were also based on a "pay-as-you-go" principle?

Revenue includes student tuition. This means that the high-enrollment classes taught by humanities and social sciences department would finally be recognized as a source of revenue, and those departments would get their fair share (and the accompanying recognition). It's been variously argued that high-enrollment classes subsidize other parts of the university offsetting losses incurred elsewhere – through the ridiculously low indirect cost rates, for instance. This kind of cross-subsidy would now come to an end, or at least come to be closely monitored.

Revenue includes profits from the medical enterprises. Nothing new here. The MCs have long held on to the million in profits they generate. While everybody recognizes that the MCs provide a crucial service to the people of California, it's not clear what the University as a whole gets from them. Berkeley seems to be doing just fine without one. The MCs are quick to call on the central campuses, e.g.,  to help them build a new hospital (UCIMC comes to mind), but not as quick in sharing resources in time of need. The new budgeting model would just formalize the status quo ante.

Revenue includes contracts and grants. This is a crucial aspect of the proposed model. It seems the University has finally come to recognize that it actually loses money on most grants, as the negotiated IC rates fail to cover the cost of administering those grants (President Yudof's recent statement to the Legislature said as much). This is has of course long been a bone of contention. PIs resent these indirect costs tout-court, in that they detract from the funds they have available for their research. At the same time, indirect costs cover such things as administration, building use, maintenance, etc. This at least in theory, for a in shell game a big chunk of these costs are skimmed off by UCOP and central campus administration (to be used God knows how), in return for general infrastructural support for sponsored research. The new budgeting model would seem to short-circuit the shell game. The units that generate revenue from sponsored research would  keep the overhead and use it to cover indirect costs. Supposedly this would include paying "rent" to the central campus for building use etc.  The big question is whether they would come up short.  I don't think anybody knows. Grants lose money for the university right now. But it is possible that if all infrastructural support is done "in house" these costs might be lower. (Of course, the University also needs to negotiate higher rates with the funding agencies – but that is a long story.) In any case, it would seem that the potential losers, if there are any, in the new budgeting model might be the hard sciences, who live on high-overhead grants.

It is of course painfully clear that an implicit premise of the model is that the University needs to improve its accounting to the point where internal cash flows become apparent and can be adequately tracked. This kind of transparency is long overdue, and occasionally resisted higher up the administrative ladder (I am sure UCOP likes to have enough play money from indirect cost recovery to pay those stellar administrative salaries). This is a tall order, and the University has not been traditionally good at it. So we'll see.

Another foreseeable consequence of the model is that departments in the humanities and the social sciences will go after higher enrollments, and possibly higher enrollments of out-of-state students (with what success, it remains to be seen). New programs will be proposed, in response to real or perceived demand – new majors, minors, concentrations, MA programs (whether "fully employed" or otherwise). It's going to be a race, let's just hope it's not going to be a race to the bottom.

Finally, there is some question as to how fine-grained the individuation of "units" is going to be. This is going to be crucial, of course, if the "units" are those that keep the money. Is the allocation going to be at the level of divisions, schools, departments, research groups – or perhaps individual faculty members?

If anything like this comes to pass, it will change the way the University works. Whether in a good or a bad way, it remains to be seen.

10 February 2011

Charlie Schwartz and the Mystery of the Disappearing Billions

Prof. Charlie Schwartz, who should receive a medal for his tireless digging into UC's financial statements, has uncovered a discrepancy between the Regents' Budget (which includes general fund moneys etc.) and UC's actual expenditures. The discrepancies amount to several hundred million dollars a year, or 4-to-5 billions over the last decade.

Schwartz's repeated inquiries at UCOP (sent to Patrick Lenz, UC’s Vice President for Budget,  Peter Taylor, Executive Vice President for Finance ,as well as President Yudof) have so far gone unanswered.

While the discrepancy might well, in the end, be the result of mismatched accounting definitions, it's remarkable that UC finanaces are so byzantine that not even UCOP's top brass can make sense of them.

Unless, of course, something untoward is going on. Having been raised Catholic, the California Professor knows that to think ill of someone is a sin, but more likely than not to be right on the mark.

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.

20 January 2011

The Regents and the future of UC

The Regents are meeting today in San Diego, to hear a gloomy report from UCOP concerning the budget. People are talking about massive layoffs and a "shrinking university". Let's hope that they set out to do this in some remotely intelligent way: cutting across the board, as we have already said, is the absolutely stupid way to cut.

I am also amazed that people are taking these cuts in stride, including people who howled at Schwarzenegger's budgets. This is far worse than anything Arnold ever tried. And just because he's a Democrat and dated Linda Ronstadt does not mean Jerry Brown gets a pass.

17 January 2011

UC faculty

At their January 19 meeting, the Regents will receive (and hopefully discuss) the biennial Report on Faculty Competitiveness.  It makes for very interesting reading, at a time when the University faces perhaps the most daunting challenges in its history, with the new Democratic Governor bent on disestablishing UC as a State-supported educational institution.

It's clear that the University stands or falls with the quality of its faculty. It's the faculty that teach the classes, carry out research, obtain the grants, perform public service, push innovation, etc. The document to be presented to the Regents has some telling data about UC faculty. Here are honors and awards earned by UC faculty
  • 56 Nobel Prizes
  • 7 Fields Medal (Mathematics) 
  • 60 National Medal of Science 16 
  • Pulitzer Prize 
  • 71 MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”)
 Even looking only at current faculty the record is equally impressive:
  • 377 members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • 650 members of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science 
  • 125 members of the Institute of Medicine 
  • 117 members of the  National Academy of Engineering 
  • 245 members of the National Academy of Sciences 
  • 56 faculty members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
Here is a breakdown of the composition of the UC faculty:
UC faculty have been getting older, reflecting the end of mandatory retirement in the 1990's, as well as continuing difficulties in recruitment:

At the same time, the increasingly old faculty are teaching more students, with less resources:

It is then not surprising that UC is feeling the heat of competition from the privates, who uniformly look to raid UC's most  prominent faculty. As the report puts it,
These fairly static demographics provide the context for present challenges in the recruitment and retention of UC faculty.  [...] At a time of reduced State support, growing enrollments, and a steady stream of faculty separating from the university, however, campuses are increasingly concerned about maintaining faculty quality.
And of course, faculty salaries continue to lag far behind (about 11.2%) those at peer institutions:

The report comments that "current lags are very likely higher because some of the comparators have continued annual pay increases. In addition, beginning April 2011, UC employees will have a portion of their salary redirected into the UC Retirement Program," yielding projected "lags  of six percent for Full Professors, nine percent for Associate Professors, and seven percent for Assistant Professors" (with 5% UCRP contrbutions).

UC has long prided itself for the faculty salary scales, which are supposed to encourage productivity; the scale are now meaningless as a full 65% of general campus faculty are now off-scale. The data on the salary lag above reflect actual salary; the official scales lag even further behind the comparison group (interesting tidbit for those of us receiving on-scale salary and suffering the effects of the "loyalty penalty").

It's no surprise that tenured faculty tend to leave UC, even if salary and benefits are structured to disincentivize such moves. And faculty move pretty much to the same set of high-quality institutions where they initially hired from: Stanford, NYU, USC, Columbia, Michigan etc. (see the document for a list, 640 in the last 10 years).

The report concludes that
To remain leaders in faculty recruitment and retention, UC will need to enhance salary and continue innovative approaches to designing faculty careers for the future.  There are clear warning signs that the University must be nimble in this work. [...] The University should plan to address both the needs of its long-serving, productive faculty and the expectations of its future faculty.  There are budgetary implications for improving faculty salaries and benefits, and for hiring new faculty at a rate that keeps pace with past and future enrollment growth and increasing faculty retirements, but these must be weighed against the costs of losing current faculty and of not being competitive for top recruits.

14 January 2011

1.4 billion

That's the total amount that the Governor's proposed budget cuts from higher education in California: $500M each from UC and CSU, and $400M from the community colleges.

That is also the amount of restored funding for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, a fact that reveals much about the Governor's priorities.

The State of California might not be able afford to take care of these kids by providing affordable, quality education at a public university;  but it sure can afford to take care of them later, as they enter the Corrections system.

12 January 2011

Over a barrel

That's the University's position vis-à-vis the Governor: Brown is proposing a $500M cut in UC's budget (and another half a billion in CSU's budget), subject to voter's approval of the extension of a number of regressive taxes. Should the voters fail to approve the extensions, just like they did when the same provisions were put on the ballot by Schwarzenegger, even deeper cuts would be forthcoming.

The Governor has indicated that UC cuts are not to be made up by tuition increases (a good thing), and that the
The Administration will work with the Office of the President and the Regents, as well as stakeholders (including representatives of students and employees), to determine the specific mix of measures that can best accomplish these objectives.
I'll believe this when I see it, this just seems like a shot across the bow to let the University know that  they are being watched, and that the University's budgetary and administrative autonomy is coming to an end.

But more in general it is appalling to me that the Governor's budget includes a $1.4 billion restoration to Corrections and Rehabilitation, at the same time as it savagely cuts welfare and higher ed. Cutting across the board is the stupid way to cut. And where is the oil severance tax? That would have been a no-brainer, more likely to win voter approval than increases in sales and income taxes.  Doesn't anybody on the Governor's staff have half a brain? You are supposed to cut cost centers that have seen large increases, not the ones that have been decreasing (in the case of UC, for decades). Even Meg Whitman knew that.

This budget is no better, in fact in some way worse, than anything that Schwarzenegger tried to push through.

10 January 2011

Brown's budget proposal

The governor's proposal is out, and it call for billions in welfare cuts, hundreds of millions in take-home pay cuts for unrepresented state workers, as well as  half a billion dollars in cuts for UC and CSU — each. As one correspondent put it:
20% cut — that's the end of UC.
Also, UCOP just released Yudof's open letter on the proposed budget cuts; with these proposed cuts, for the first time students would pay more in fees than the state contributes to the university. In response Yudof expresses a preference
to not seek an additional fee increase; that said, I cannot fully commit to this course until the board and I have assessed the impact of permanent reductions on campuses. I also will attempt to maintain, if feasible, the programs of financial aid that are so crucial to our public mission of serving all qualified California students, regardless of family income level.
There is, according to the letter, but one course of action to absorbs cuts of this magnitude:
The physics of the situation cannot be denied — as the core budget shrinks, so must the university.

The January Budget

Jerry Brown's first January budget is due out today – most likely with deep cuts to education and welfare, and some tax hikes and tax extensions. It won't be pretty, and UC and CSU are likely to take another hit.
Stay tuned.

07 January 2011

The Gilded 36

I have been asked why I have not commented on the preposterous threats and demands of the "Gilded 36" (as I suppose they will go down in history), and in fact I realize that the California Professor has been on hiatus for a month (well, I have been busy, and then of course started teaching this week).

The facts are known: in a public letter to President Yudof, thirty-six highly paid UC executives, mostly from the Medical Centers (but not only), demanded that the University lift the $245,000 cap on compensation that goes into calculating UCRP benefits, citing a 1999 decision by the Regents that was only contingent upon the IRS's waiver of such cap for UC (which was granted in 2007). Should the University fail to abide by the Regents' 1999 decision, the gang of 36 complained of the "demoralizing" effect of such failure, and should the University further fail to be swayed by compassion for the 36 executives,  legal action was threatened.

The preposterous and tone-deaf demands did not go unnoticed. See for instance the excellent discussion by  Chris Newfield and Michael Meranze, as well Bob Samuels' post. It is just amazing  that at a time when instructional budgets are cut, student fees raised, employees fired or furloughed, retirement benefits reduced and contributions increased, these people come through with such requests.

It is also important to notice that the 36 signatories of the letter are not by any means the only ones who stand to benefit from a raised cap. There are many more, perhaps hundreds, of employees across the system with covered compensation above $245,000. But interestingly enough, very few of them actually ever see a student. (The increased retirement benefits were defended by Boalt Hall Dean Chris Edley and UCLA Economics Chair Roger Farmer.)

President Yudof and Regent’s Chair Gould have now replied that the 1999 decision by the Regents to pursue a waiver of the cap from the IRS did not further "obligate the University in any way to proceed with its proposal." Accordingly, they claim,
the action taken by the Board 10 years ago was not self-executing and that the pension proposal was never implemented. Months ago, the Board retained counsel to assist the University in the event this position should need to be defended in the courts. While those who signed the letter are without question highly valued employees, we must disagree with them on this particular issue.
It's interesting to note that the Regents knew "months ago" that this was coming, to the point of retaining counsel:  the Gilded 36 must have been making noises for quite a while.

Now, some think that it was all orchestrated: the gang of 36 come out with preposterous demands, the Regents and the President respond in kind, and finally a "compromise" is reached, perhaps in the form of a raised cap of some sorts. The Regents and the President save face and the highly paid executives get their benefits increased. It is certainly odd that such an effort is being spear-headed by Edley, who has so far consistently come down on Yudof's side of every issue. Of course we don't know if the orchestration actually took place, and we don't know what Yudof was told by legal counsel (but we would really like to know).  Given the outrage that the letter  produced (to the point of getting the Legislature involved), either the Gilded 36 know that they have an air-tight legal case or they spectacularly miscalculated.