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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sacramento Bee Editorial: Strong-Armed

Eight audits in four years?
UC is getting strong-armed

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD, Sacramento Bee, 4-25-2017

One reason the University of California has kept its stature is its political autonomy.

The Legislature doesn’t control the UC, the better to shield academia from political pressure. But state lawmakers do have leverage: About $3.5 billion of the UC’s $32.5 billion operation comes from state appropriations.

State money makes up a bit less than half of the university’s core educational budget. So while the Legislature can constitutionally exert only so much muscle, that doesn’t mean it won’t try.

It’s against this backdrop that we should view Tuesday’s audit of the UC President’s Office, called for last year by Assemblymen Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.

The two, who lead the subcommittee and committee overseeing the UC budget, want to get more California students into the UC system. At the same time, state lawmakers have been pressured by UC President Janet Napolitano, who in 2014 threatened to raise tuition if the state didn’t give UC more funding.

The UC got its bump, and tuition remained flat until this year, when the Board of Regents approved a modest increase. But relations remain rocky. This week’s UC audit was the eighth in four years.

That’s a lot. And like last year’s audit – which dubiously claimed that in-state students were being crowded out of UC by the out-of-staters who actually help subsidize California enrollment – this week’s is as political as it is scathing.

The gist seems to be that Napolitano has paid UC employees more than other state workers; channeled extra funds into systemwide initiatives such as carbon neutrality and support services for undocumented students; and has squirreled away reserves in the university budget that, depending on the accounting method, amount to a shocking $175 million or a reasonable and prudent $38 million.

For these and other sins, State Auditor Elaine Howle recommends that Napolitano be forced to hand off UC operations to a third party, and to give the Legislature direct oversight of the president’s budget. In other words, more control for lawmakers, less for UC.

In fairness to McCarty and Ting, it’s no fun taking the flak when constituents complain that UC tuition is too high, or that UC Berkeley rejects their brilliant children. And they’re not the only lawmakers who have grappled with UC.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has tried to term-limit the regents. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for new strategic directions. Gov. Jerry Brown famously clashed with Napolitano.

And pressure does work. Napolitano has made room for thousands more in-state students, and proposed a cap on nonresident enrollment.

But why drop references to “cover-ups” and “slush funds,” as the two lawmakers did Tuesday? Napolitano has been a solid leader. The university’s AA bond rating was just reaffirmed by Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s. She’s a former U.S. secretary of homeland security and Arizona governor, not some rookie.

Taxpayers deserve their money’s worth, and lawmakers should ask tough questions. But they shouldn’t be micromanaging and casting personal aspersions without proof. Nor should they undermine the UC’s independence, unless there has been malfeasance.

“Significant reforms are necessary to strengthen the public’s trust in the Office of the President,” concludes the audit. Sorry, but no, they are not.

Source: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/editorials/article146766264.html

Hannah Carter Japanese Garden - The Continuing Saga

We have received an email indicating that Hannah Carter Japanese Garden that UCLA sold with considerable controversy has been designated as an historical cultural monument by the LA City Council. That status gives it added protection. 

Looks like Berkeley dodged a bullet on the Coulter talk

From Sacramento Bee: Ann Coulter said Wednesday that she is canceling her planned speech at the University of California, Berkeley, because she had lost the backing of conservative groups that had initially sponsored her appearance.
Coulter, in a message to The New York Times, said, “It’s a sad day for free speech.”
Despite insisting that she would go to Berkeley regardless – even after the university said it could not accommodate her on the date and time it had initially scheduled her because of threats of violence – Coulter said she did not see how she could go forward. The school said she could speak only at a later date and an earlier time of day, when there were likely to be fewer students on campus and less of a likelihood for violent outbreaks.
Late Tuesday, the conservative group that was helping Coulter in her legal efforts to force Berkeley to host her, Young America’s Foundation, said it could no longer participate.
“Young America’s Foundation will not jeopardize the safety of its staff or students,” the group said.
Without any support, Coulter said, she was left with little choice.
“Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away,” she said.
Coulter was confronted with the dangerous prospect of setting foot unguarded on a campus that erupted in violence in February after another conservative speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, planned to appear. The school canceled his event.
Observation: Probably, the best possible outcome, given the circumstances. It's unclear whether she will come at the later date that was on offer.

Time to call the governor?

Obviously, we are not headed for a good place, as the powers-that-be at Berkeley and UCOP themselves say. Isn't it time to call the governor (who likes to point to his official role as head of the Regents), for assistance in providing security if UC and local authorities can't do it? It's too late to debate who said what to whom or constitutional legalities.

Source of article and image above: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/UC-Berkeley-students-plan-demonstration-for-Ann-11098456.php

Gubernatorial Candidate Newsom Responds to Auditor Report on UC

Lt. Gov. Newsom responds to UC audit (whether you like him or not):

LT. GOVERNOR NEWSOM CALLS FOR REVERSAL OF TUITION HIKES IN LIGHT OF HIDDEN UC FUNDS

4-25-17

'Audit must be embraced as an agent for change'

SACRAMENTO - California Lieutenant Governor and U.C. Regent Gavin Newsom issues the following statement on the State Auditor's report on administrative expenditures within the University of California's Office of the President:
"For decades, the University of California's central bureaucracy has been institutionally evasive at the expense of U.C. students, faculty, donors, and public transparency. This overdue moment must be embraced as an agent for change rather than denial, and the state's legislature is to be recognized for initiating the review.
"The audit must serve as a wake-up call for the Board of Regents, as a catalyst for serious soul-searching within the U.C.'s administration, and demands a reboot of the relationship between the system and its governing body. While respecting the constitutional autonomy of the University of California, I support the spirit and intent of the State Auditor's prescriptive solutions and in particular, the recommendation for a third-party corrective action plan.
"Finally, it is outrageous and unjust to force tuition hikes on students while the U.C. hides secret funds, and I call for the tuition decision to come back before the Board of Regents for reconsideration and reversal."

UC Responds to State Auditor

We posted yesterday about the report on UCOP by the California State Auditor. Below is the official response:
UC’s Office of the President and its governing Board of Regents today (April 25) addressed issues and recommendations contained in the state audit report about the budget practices and administrative expenditures of the Office of the President, welcoming most as constructive while raising significant concerns about others.
In a six-page letter to California State Auditor Elaine Howle, President Janet Napolitano responded to recommendations in the report that dealt specifically with UCOP, agreeing with the vast majority of them. Much of what the audit report recommended was already underway at UCOP or is on track to be implemented soon.
The audit report made other recommendations directly to the UC Board of Regents and the state legislature. In a separate letter to the auditor, Board of Regents Chair Monica Lozano and Regent Charlene Zettel, chair of the Compliance and Audit Committee, formally requested the removal of audit recommendations that encroach on the constitutional autonomy of the university and are inconsistent with the constructive recommendations about improving processes, accountability and transparency...
Full news release with links to letters from UC prez and the Regents at:
Summary:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Another Critical Report by the State Auditor

The California State Auditor has released another critical report of UC, actually UCOP specifically. The headline element in the report is a $175 million reserve:

HIGHLIGHTS: Our audit of the University of California Office of the President’s budget and staffing processes revealed the following:
  • The Office of the President did not disclose to the University of California Board of Regents, the Legislature, and the public $175 million in budget reserve funds.
    • It spent significantly less than it budgeted for and asked for increases based on its previous years’ over‑estimated budgets rather than its actual expenditures.
    • It created an undisclosed budget to spend the reserve funds; the budget ranged from $77 million to $114 million during a four-year period.
    • The reserve included $32 million in unspent funds it received from an annual charge levied on the campuses—funds that campuses could have spent on students.
  • The Office of the President’s executive and administrative salaries are significantly higher than comparable state employee salaries.
  • During a five-year period, the Office of the President spent at least $21.6 million on employee benefits some of which are atypical to the public sector, such as supplemental retirement contributions.
  • The Office of the President has failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on systemwide initiatives, and it does not evaluate these programs’ continued priority or cost.
  • Both Office of the President and campus administrative spending increased and annual budget and staffing levels for the Office of the President are higher than administrations at other comparable public universities.
  • Auditing standards prohibited us from drawing conclusions from some of our work because the Office of the President intentionally interfered with our audit process.
    • It inappropriately screened the campuses’ survey responses before campuses submitted the surveys to us.
    • Campus statements that were initially critical of the Office of the President had been revised and quality ratings shifted to be more positive.
  • Significant reforms are necessary to strengthen the public’s trust in the Office of the President.

Full report - including UC's response - is at:

The reserve appears to result from campus assessments that go to UCOP and various programs that in a given year spent less than allocated. Some of the reserves are earmarked for use by such programs, i.e., they are carryover funds.

There is also a response to the UC response in the report. At least some of the responses on both sides remind one of Monty Python:


Here is a news report:

The University of California’s headquarters hid $175 million from the public and lawmakers in a secret reserve fund while the Office of the President was asking the state for more money, according to a report released Tuesday by state Auditor Elaine Howell...

Full story at http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Auditor-rips-UC-for-keeping-millions-in-secret-11097470.php