Should the UC system lose its autonomy and be under legislative control?

Kristin Lam, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The SCA1 constitutional amendment should not be passed as it is not constructive to the central issue: funding the UC system’s high quality education budget.

UC’s Board of Regents has successfully and autonomously led the UC system to be among the best public universities in the world since its founding in 1868.  Although the Long Term Funding Plan proposal reports that the University of California today receives $460 million less in state funding than it did in 2007–2008, its financial aid program covers the costs of more than half of its undergraduate students.

Additionally, more residential students are enrolled than ever before, yet only 11 percent of UC’s total budget, about $3 billion a year, is state funded. The UC system has effectively managed its funds despite the state’s meager support, but the SCA1 amendment will wrest control from the competent board’s hands.

The SCA1 is essentially proposing a political takeover in backlash against the new long-term stability plan proposed in November.  Granting elected legislative officials the final say in UC will increase already existing transparency at the cost of removing experienced experts from the helm.  Excellent standards have been responsibly maintained at necessary costs; annual accountability reports clearly outline the UC’s strategic planning, budgeting and performance management.

“If it’s about accountability, the University of California already is accountable in multiple ways, including regular reports to the legislature and administration, the presentation and approval of a budget every year and an annual accountability report, all of which are publicly accessible,” UC spokesperson Steve Montiel said in a statement following the amendment’s proposal.

Options to fund the UC system’s budget are limited in the absence of adequate state support. As a result, tuition has been the UC system’s “largest single source of core operating funds” since 2012 according to “The Daily Californian,” and is projected to rise by 28 percent over the next five years to $15,564.  Rather than being a sign of the system’s corruption, however, this dilemma illustrates the dire need for increased state funding.

Compromise to break the deadlock on the state’s contribution to the UC budget is in order, not a hostile takeover by politicians who lack the expertise and experience in running a top-tier public university system.  After all, when was the last time the state of California proposed a balanced budget?  Its current deficit of approximately $227 billion according to the “Sacramento Business Journal” speaks for itself.

“It’s just the way the wind is blowing, and that’s not the way to run the university,” said Mary Gilly, chair of UC’s Academic Senate, in a “San Francisco Chronicle” article.  “… The regents are the appropriate body to be making independent decisions, free of political whims.