Share the UC Wealth

After multiple rounds of brutal budget cuts and skyrocketing fee hikes, many in the UC Irvine community supported Governor Brown’s campaign in the hope that he might put an end to this nightmare. Since announcing his $500 million cut to the UC – nearly 20 percent Ń it seems that this nightmare may just be beginning. At least, that’s the way the UC administration is portraying it.

The real crisis the UC has faced is not merely with the budget but with the allocation of cuts.

In order to understand the cuts, we have to consider that the UC and UCI administrations are becoming bloated even as meat is being scraped off the bones of instruction. Since 2004, for example, management has grown faster than non-management employees; we are reaching the point where there are more administrators than faculty.  In part, this is due to the UC’s ever-expanding mission – more and more attention is being focused on research and profitable endeavors while withdrawing support for actual instruction.

So, how could we afford a $500 million cut without further hurting instruction? Campus unions and the UC’s own chief financial officer agree that the UC could save that much just by scaling back administration at all levels, especially at the senior management level. This would include some of the 36 who recently sued the UC for even greater pensions, just as hourly employees were seeing their pensions cut. Such cuts wouldn’t even remove all the fat from the administration; it would only represent a 20 percent cut.

Brown, to his credit, has suggested in his budget proposal cuts that we need to “minimize fee and enrollment impacts on students by targeting actions that lower the costs of instruction and administration,” and he intends to work with UC officials “as well as [representatives of students and employees] to determine the specific mix of measures that can best accomplish these objectives.”

An audit of the UC by the legislature, due later this spring, should further reveal what areas can be cut without further hurting students and workers.

Rather than embrace these necessary reductions, President Yudof and Chancellor Drake already appear to be targeting student services.  Last week’s New University suggested that the UCI administration has already reneged on its promise to fund a Student Outreach and Academic Retention Center.  Given the closure of SAAS a year and a half ago, should we really be surprised?

Student services have seemingly always been the first thing to be cut by the UC and UCI, along with instruction and employee compensation. But we cannot continue to cut more, without irreparably damaging the UC and public education in the state of California. Nor does it make sense when management continues to grow.

President Yudof and the Regents need to understand, once and for all, that it simply is not sustainable – not to mention immoral Ń to tell workers they must sacrifice their livelihoods in order to save the university, and then give out millions in performance-related bonuses to already over-paid executives. If they are given extra money for doing their jobs, why aren’t groundskeepers, lecturers, librarians and faculty?

The excuse is that they have to be paid competitively with private industry, or else the UC will lose quality leadership. This prompts a question that needs to be asked: Are they worth the money?

President Yudof, for example, makes well over $600,000 a year cutting instruction and causing all of the UC schools to drop in both academic and affordability rankings. But more indicative of the problem is that he had his pay doubled between 2008, when he came to the UC as president, and 2009. In essence, he was rewarded for plunging the UC into crisis. Of course, he did the same thing as president of the University of Texas and the University of Minnesota.

Similarly, Chancellor Drake makes $400,000 a year.  During his tenure, he has refused to meet with student leaders to meaningfully discuss the effects of the budget cuts or talk about other important student issues, like workers’ rights or the Israel-Palestine conflict. Meanwhile, he has supervised the largest crackdown on free speech in campus history, with 29 protesters arrested on campus, 19 currently facing criminal charges and 26 students facing student conduct sanctions for protesting, nine students detained for chalking on campus, evidence of police tearing down posters for rallies and the suspension of the Muslim Student Union.

Many more administrators you’ve never even heard of or seen make salaries in the Yudof and Drake range, yet their importance to the UC is less clear. The UC administration would argue that cutting their wages and benefits would cause these indispensable leaders to leave the UC and find jobs in the private sector.

If the grass is really greener on the other side, let them leave. It would be the first thing they’ve done to save public education.

John Bruning is a UCI alumnus. He can be reached at jbruning@uci.edu.