Is Yudof Really To Blame?

Mark Yudof has been called one of the Top Ten Best College Presidents of All Time by Time magazine. When he became president of the UC System in 2008, he stepped into a financial bear trap: Arnold had just cut the UC budget by 20 percent when the UC was already facing a billion-dollar deficit. Not to mention the fact that there wasn’t going to be much help from the rest of the state itself as California was feeling the brunt of the recession.

You could say that he had some big shoes to fill: big, uncomfortable shoes that threatened to eat him alive.

Because of the situation, Yudof has made some choices that well, hell, I’ll say it: he’s made some choices that just suck, at least from a student’s perspective. If you’re reading this, you remember the most pressing one, from just last year, the ever infamous fee-increase, the 32 percent raise in tuition. The student response was initially insane and violent. But after calming down, we re-examined our situation and came out with that infamously cursed phrase which precluded our doom and damnation: “At least things can’t get any worse.” Oh, how wrong we were.

Because, hallelujah, ladies and gentlemen! Hallelujah! Jerry Brown is governor, and he isn’t wasting any time in getting down to business “saving” California. Unfortunately, the UC system isn’t too high on his list: we only get back 58 percent of what we lost last year. Which means out of the $21 billion that the UC system spends every year, the state is going to shell out $2 billion. And all that extra cash needs to come from somewhere, folks, and that somewhere sure isn’t the North Pole. It’s your wallet.

Because Yudof’s got a pretty hefty budget plan, which includes tucking $500 million for super secret UC savings plans, not to mention increasing the number of senior officials (guys who make over $200,000 per year) by 6 percent. And to pay for these ambitious schemes, Yudof has proposed another fee increase Ń 8 percent, to be precise. And maybe that sounds paltry compared to last year’s, but remember that that 32 percent increase didn’t disappear. At this point, tuition has nearly doubled in less than 15 years. With this 8 percent increase, Joe the Anteater is looking at an annual fee of $11,124, with grad students coasting along at a not-so-cool $12,150.

Sound fun? Don’t hold your breath, because it gets better. The plan to save the UC system is a two-fold one, and part two is just as disappointing as part one. Because not only are Yudof and the Regents increasing our tuition fees, they’re also rejecting up to 30,000 students over the next decade, 30,000 perfectly qualified applicants who, ordinarily, would have been accepted. And because less students are going to be enrolled, the UC system is going to be offering fewer and fewer classes as time goes by, This means it’s time to take off the kid gloves, because competition for those highly desirable classes like Humanities Core or Bio 93 is going to be tighter and more intense than ever before.

But hang on, sports fans, it doesn’t have to be a heavyweight fight yet. I like to be fair and balanced in my judgments, and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t try to see things from Yudof’s perspective. First of all, the man stepped into what is one of the greatest economic and financial catastrophes that American education has ever seen. That can’t be an easy mess to clean up, and from where Yudof is standing, this must seem like the only viable option. And, he has tried other ways of scrounging up the money. Yudof’s advocacy movements for funding from private donors and alumi is one of the most comprehensive in history Ń and it is working Ń even if not as well as one would hope. And over the next decade, Yudof is going to further extend financial aid and Cal Grants to the middle class, with maximum incomes from the current $70,000 to an increased $80,000, which will assist thousands of other needy Anteaters, Bruins, Banana Slugs É you get the picture.

So, sure, Yudof is doing the best he can in a bad situation. Maybe the rap he’s getting is pretty unfair, and the UC student association should give him a break. I don’t know the guy personally, and I’m trying to understand things from his perspective. Then again, despite his opposition to increasing the pay of the other regents, Yudof is looking forward to the highest pension in UC history, $350,000 per year.  That, dear readers, doesn’t ring too kosher.

Ryan Cady is a first-year undeclared major. He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.