Discussing Issues With President Yudof

Campus newspapers discussed recent issues facing the UC system in a conference call with UC President Yudof.

The upcoming election, the university budget and various campus climate concerns were among the main topics of interest during a recent teleconference interview between UC President Mark Yudof and student newspaper editors from nine of the UC campuses on Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Ever since the UC Board of Regents officially voted to endorse Proposition 30 during their July 2012 meeting, there have been several talks regarding the effect of this measure. President Yudof expanded on this discussion in response to a question from a UC Riverside newspaper editor regarding support of Prop. 30 and what he would say to students about the significance of the 2012 election.

“I would say to the student that this is critical,” Yudof said. “This has more of a direct relationship to your pocketbook than virtually anything that I can imagine.”

Yudof also mentioned the impact that Speaker of the Assembly John A. Perez’s Middle Class Scholarship Act could have had on university funding, had it been approved.

“It may be that if the Speaker’s bill had passed and we had gotten more scholarship money, that would have been a big help,” he said. “But absent something like that, we need to have a steady stream of increasing appropriations. And we have worked out a plan – it’s not official, it’s not approved by everyone, but believe it or not, in about five years, we could be back at 2007-2008 levels of state appropriations. That would take a lot of pressure off of tuition.”

Additionally, Yudof was asked about the recent campus climate reports for Jewish and Muslim-Arab students and what people can expect after reading the different student recommendations.

However, before Yudof could elaborate on further actions that will be taken by the UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, he first clarified some misinterpretations that have stemmed from these reports.

“Well, first, there’s a lot of misinformation about [the reports],” Yudof said. “These sets of recommendations are not coming to a vote in the campus climate committee. I mean, these are reports that I commissioned to advise me, and my staff and I will be wading through them to see what makes sense.

“For example, the report on Muslim students had some recommendations about community places of prayer for Muslim students. I’ve already brought that to the attention of the chancellors, and we’re working to follow through. So we’re going to go through them, but there’s no up or down vote on it.”

In response to the Jewish student report recommendation to ban hate speech, Yudof brought up the point that this kind of implementation could limit freedom of speech.

“I think I and the chancellors are obligated to speak out, we have a moral obligation when people are anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or anti-gay or anti-African American or whatever, but we cannot and should not try to prevent speech,” he said.

“The cure for bad speech is good speech, and this climate on the campuses should be one of thriving diversity of opinion, and amidst all the flowers, there will be some weeds – but we can’t chop them without jeopardizing the entire enterprise.”

In order to address these issues happening on campuses, the UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate and different UC locations collaborated to create a system-wide survey on how students feel about campus climate.

This survey will be conducted on a location-by-location basis between October 2012 and February 2013. The survey administrators hope that the results, which will be released in spring 2013, will make UC campuses a more welcoming and inclusive environment.

Yudof also elaborated on what he hopes will result from the survey findings.

“I’m hoping [the findings] will lead to more intelligent policy,” he said.

“I get thousands of letters a month saying something about campus climate, but they’re all anecdotal, and it’s hard to know what students really think… if we’re ever going to make progress on the campus climate issues, we need to know what the problems are. The only way to know that is to ask people on the campuses, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Yudof also addressed the rebenching policy that will go into effect this year. This rebenching policy will implement a new stage of a budget reform plan initiated by the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to increase transparency for funds allocation and collection.

“UCOP Don’t Touch Me” was one of the campaigns discussed at the UC Students Association conference in August. In particular, students find issue with the new ability of the UCOP, through the rebenching policy, to tax student-initiated referenda, also known as “lock-in fees.”

President Yudof said the new rebenching policy has the same purpose as the old system, but it is definitely “a better system” that would pay for the Office of the President, but in a more transparent manner.

“We’ve never been free,” he said, referring to the UCOP. “Under the old system, which I didn’t like, there was no transparency.

“So the rebenching policy was designed to say, we’re going to do this on a uniform. Someone calls it a tax — that’s fine if you want to call it that, but it’s not new money, we’ve always have the money. The campuses [now] have the discretion to decide against what base to levy this tax.”

Yudof also fielded a question on different long-term proposals to increase revenues or cut costs across the UC system, inluding differential tuition across campuses and majors.

“I would say the differential tuition by campus or by discipline is probably near the very end of the list,” he said. “I don’t want to rule out anything forever, but I would say, if there were 20 proposals, that would be 20th on the list.”

On the top of the list, he said, would be restructuring the debt and making sure students vote for Prop 30. Even the latter, however, cannot be considered a fix-all for budget issues..

“We’re going to be working diligently,” he said, “because evern if Prop 30 passes, we we’re hundreds of millions of dollars short.”