UC Local Governance

In the last few months, a push for individual UC schools to have more autonomy has increased, with UCSF calling for more independence and the Center for Studies in Higher Education at Berkeley releasing a memo in favor of local governance. The idea that representatives from Berkeley are proposing would allow for every UC to have their own board with their own responsibilities and authority, while still maintaining a regents system. According to the memo, which is co-written by Cal’s Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and former UC provost, Judson King, stated: “We propose that the regents create and delegate appropriate responsibilities to campus-based governing boards to enable more effective campus oversight and management, while retaining their university-wide policy and fiduciary responsibilities.”

As expected, this issue was met with quite a bit of opposition, including UC President Mark Yudof, who said in a statement that he did not agree with the proposed idea “in its current state.” This notion of “local governance” has yet to be fully disputed; however, the implications of this plan remain complex and need to be taken into consideration. As with most issues involving higher education, this idea holds a number of beneficial aspects, as well as detrimental possibilities.

The pros: Under the proposition written by Birgeneau and friends, this system would promote more individuality and control over important administrative matters including tuition and funding.

With local governance, each campus would have the ability to decide fees — within certain boundaries — which would allow for more campus specific economic decision making. In addition to allowing for more fluidity with tuition, each campus would have the ability to enroll more out-of-state students.

Though these numbers are important when debating this topic, another thing to take into account is the opportunity for each campus to grow as individual entities. Releasing the 10 UCs from the full regents’ control would allow for more uniqueness. Instead of being just another UC, each campus within the system could develop their own personalities and image as a public university.

The cons: As usual, money is always an issue. Opponents of this proposed change claim that allowing for autonomy would open the chance of each campus fighting over funding. With the possibility of having the current system split, comes the possibility for separate appeals to the state for funds. Of course, giving campuses the power to control tuition also presents a problem. Some rivals of the proposed idea took to the notion that if each campus controlled the tuition, chances are that fees would rise, thus resulting in a skewed demographic of wealthy students who can afford tuition, and under privileged students with full rides on financial aid. Economic freedom could also prove to be trouble for smaller campuses. Since autonomy would make campuses relatively financially independent, each school would have to find more sources of funding including grants and private donations. In this case, bigger campuses such as Berkeley and UCLA would have the upper hand due to their national status and pull of private contributions.

Given these perspectives, the question still stands: do we or do we not split the UC system? Of course, the fiscal aspect of this issue presents a great deal of technicalities that need to be sorted out, however, in theory it really doesn’t seem so bad to me. The way that the current system is set up doesn’t do anything for our sense of individuality. It’s bad enough as it is that everyone seems to care about Cal and LA, while the other eight UCs get overshadowed in the national eye, why not give us the chance to call some shots and have the opportunity to create our own reputation.

Maybe we could have our own school colors, instead of the system-wide standard blue and gold.

Maybe we could redefine our image and school demographics if each school had more power over enrollment. These are thoughts will remain in the air until this plan is reviewed more carefully by the regents, however independence is important to keep in mind.

In the words of Birgeneau, “It’s like you have 10 children and each has different talents and challenges,” he said, “We need a system in which each of them receives the kind of attention they need.” I think it’s time to let those kids be themselves.

 

Sarah Menendez is a first-year political science and literary journalism double major. She can be reached at smenende@uci.edu.