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Oh Say Can UC?
Investigating the UC bosses…

[by K. Lloyd Billingsley] 12/9/05

Last week, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez called for an investigation into practices in the University of California (UC) system. There is ample cause for concern on several fronts.

The 10-campus system claims to be chronically short of funds. It has therefore increased student fees 79 percent in recent years, including an eight-percent increase next year for undergraduates. But as a recent investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, during the last fiscal year UC bosses have doled out a full $871 million in bonuses and stipends to faculty and administrators -- more than enough, as the Chronicle noted, to cover the 79-percent increase in student fees.

Most of the compensation went to more than 8,500 employees who received $20,000 or more above their already high salaries. That figure excludes perks such as free housing and even concert tickets.

K. Lloyd Billingsley
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

K. Lloyd Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific Research Institute and has been widely published on topics including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform, and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]

UC bosses have not exactly been up-front about their lavish spending. A September consultants’ report, part of a proposal for yet more management raises, conveniently failed to mention it, and even UC regents remain in the dark. They approve salaries of more than $168,000, but UC bosses have leeway to spend on their own. As the Chronicle investigation points out, they do. They publicize the base salary of administrators and faculty, but not the perks and bonuses. According to UC regent John Moores, this should all be disclosed and the university should be "transparent."

The boilerplate response is that the big bucks are necessary to attract the top people, and that UC administrators are underpaid compared to other places. When the Assembly holds hearings next year, they should see how those claims stand up. While they are at it, they should also consider whether some layers of UC's administrative sediment could be removed. For example, there seems to be an abundance of redundant offices such as "assistant vice-chancellor."

Other concerns also merit investigation. Next year is the tenth anniversary of Proposition 209, the voter-approved initiative that eliminated racial preferences in state education, employment and contracting. The University of California system eliminated such preferences on its own, but in April, new UC-Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau claimed that "inclusion is greatly threatened," and that he felt a moral obligation to address it. Chancellor Birgeneau, a Canadian, is not likely referring to past UC policies that discriminated against high-scoring Asian students on the grounds that there were already too many of them at Berkeley. In the parlance of political correctness, inclusion and diversity are code terms for quotas and racial preferences.

Chancellor Birgeneau needs to understand that there is no majority in California, and that university admissions are bound to reflect personal differences, effort, and choice. Above all, he needs to understand that Proposition 209 is the law, and that racial preferences in admissions are illegal. Legislators need to make sure the UC system is complying with the law.

The purpose of the University of California is to provide a quality higher education for California's best students. It was not created as a racial spoils system, and it does not exist for the enrichment of administrators.

A footnote on the spending issue: Assembly Speaker Nunez, a UC regent, was one of the loudest voices in favor of a 12-percent hike in salary for legislators, which goes into effect this week and maintains California's number-one ranking in legislative pay. At least 17 out of 120 legislators declined the raise because of California's chronic budget deficits. CRO

copyright 2005 Pacific Research Institute




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