Wednesday, November 26, 2014

UCOP's Webpage Needs to Tell It Like It Is (and cut the PR)

Suppose you want to find this year's budget for UC.  (This year is 2014-15.)  You might think you can go on or and quickly find it.  You might think there would be a link marked "budget" right on the front page.  You might think that if you typed in "budget" in the search engine provided, you would find it.  You would be wrong.

Above is the operating budget page.  If you actually click on "2014-15 Budget," you get a budget proposal made in 2013, not the final budget.*  And, in fact, much of what you get are budget proposals made to the state which - since they refer only to the "core" educational budget - amount to only a fraction of the total budget.  Indeed, much of what you will find are PR-oriented presentations designed to convey some message UC wants you to take away.

In crude terms, the core budget received from the state in recent years has been about one tenth of the total UC budget.  That is an important fact.  The one tenth is roughly matched by student tuition.  The rest of the UC budget is largely supported by research grants, hospital revenues, fees for operating the energy labs, and miscellaneous other sources.

Now before someone at UCOP writes to tell me that if I click on this, then click on that, and then stand on my head and whistle Dixie, I could get to the actual 2014-15 budget (if that is even true), he or she might instead ask why THE budget and not some PR page isn't right there upfront and simple to access.  If you think it doesn't matter, consider this quote from a Sacramento Bee opinion piece dated Nov. 25 dealing with the current tuition/funding budget controversy:

...The money just symbolizes, however, a larger conflict that’s simmered, and occasionally boiled over, for decades. It’s the control of a world-class university system that’s constitutionally independent, but largely dependent on money from the state budget and whose governing board is composed of politicians, including the governor, and political appointees...

Full column at 

Clearly, "largely dependent" and "one tenth" are not the same thing.  By seeking to control the message for PR purposes, UC loses the PR battle.


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