UC president appears to cave in fight with Gov. Brown

UC president appears to cave in fight with Gov. Brown

tuitionThree months ago, University of California President Janet Napolitano triggered a fight with Gov. Jerry Brown and leaders of the Legislature when she persuaded the UC regents to commit to a five-year plan in which tuition was raised by 5 percent every year — unless the state government provided more funding to UC. That amounted to on-the-record support from UC’s leaders for a 28 percent tuition hike, when the annual hikes were compounded.

The proposal was immediately criticized by Brown and key lawmakers. In his 2015-16 budget released earlier this month, the governor not only didn’t give UC the funding it wanted, he signaled a readiness to micromanage UC decision-making on admissions. I wrote about Brown’s hardball here.

Now Napolitano appears to be suing for peace by giving the governor a central and starring role in shaping UC’s finances. This press release was issued by her office Wednesday afternoon.

Thee Long-Range Planning Committee of the University of California Board of Regents today (Jan. 21) voted to recommend the formation of a select advisory committee that will examine the university’s cost structure and the role of a public research university. The full board will vote on the matter Thursday (Jan. 22).

As the sole committee members, UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown plan to exchange ideas that will be informed by reports and testimony from external and internal experts and stakeholders, including UC faculty and students.

The committee, which will be staffed by representatives from the governor’s office and UC’s Office of the President, aims to generate recommendations that will help determine appropriate state funding levels for UC in the short and long term. Its first meeting is scheduled for next week. An update from the committee is expected to be presented to the Board of Regents in March.

During the course of the committee’s tenure, both Napolitano and Brown will continue to engage with state legislators about funding for the university.

Bringing a sense of frugality to UC budget, operations

Janet_NapolitanoNapolitano may hope she can win concessions from the governor. What’s more likely, however, is Brown forcing her to bring a sense of frugality to a university system that’s likely to resist the effort. Here’s some of my past analysis for Cal Watchdog.

Brown and the Legislature want to get credit for tuition relief for the middle class. Napolitano wants to have a bigger budget but has yet to convince the public or the media that UC is in dire straits. … It’s difficult to see how Brown can lose this fight. The more interesting question is whether Brown will allow the UC president to save face by making some concessions.

[Los Angeles Times’ columnist George] Skelton thinks this may be the end game: “Brown wants to negotiate with Napolitano over university cost-cutting, which could include professors spending more time teaching and less researching.”

But that would only be a further humiliation for Napolitano, who has repeatedly declared her intention to keep the UC system as one of the world’s great centers of research.

If Napolitano went along, it would also likely trigger a sharp reaction from the UC Faculty Senate.

The former Arizona governor and federal homeland security czar appears to have badly misjudged California politics. The UC president may have sway over regents, but not over elected officials — lawmakers who see college affordability questions as key to winning the votes of middle- and lower-income residents.

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