Saturday, December 6, 2014

Inconsistent: Who and What Does She Like and Dislike?

An earlier post noted thde paradox that when it comes to UC and its tuition/funding conflict with the governor, conservatives seem to take positions inconsistent with their usual values.  We noted a column by Debra Saunders, the token conservative columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle.*  Normally, conservatives like "privatization," a condition which effectively UC moves towards when it becomes more dependent on tuition and less dependent on the state.  But in this particular case, they don't like it.  Normally, they tend to favor user fees over general taxes to support services on the grounds that people should pay for what they use, but not in the case of UC tuition which is a user fee.  Normally, they favor market prices but when it comes to UC faculty, they like Gov. Brown's position that faculty should consider their jobs a "calling" and work below market.  Things have changed since the days of Republican Gov. George Deukmejian who came into office after Jerry Brown's first gubernatorial iteration and made a point of pushing up faculty to pay to market levels.

Saunders started out with a column ("Hey Hey Ho Ho Student Protests Got to Go") opposing the student demonstrators who protested tuition increases at the November Regents meetings - apparently because she was personally inconvenienced getting into those meetings.**  But now she seems to want what they want: a tuition freeze.***  Her latest political favorites are also odd for a conservative: Democrats Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and former governor Gray Davis because they oppose the tuition increase.  She picks up the line that there was a deal between UC and the governor for a multi-year freeze of tuition.  Has she gone back and listened to the various Regents meetings (which this blog preserves)?  If she does, she will find that the Regents simply went along on a year-by-year basis, the annual budget cycle.  There was no multi-year deal.  Really, there wasn't!  And, indeed, part of what is being sought now by UC is a real long-term deal.

It's hard to get away from a sense that Saunders, when you get down to it, doesn't like UC as an elitist institution.  She makes nothing of CSU's tactic of threatening to reduce enrollment if it doesn't get more funding.  If what she wants is to transform UC into Cal State-Berkeley, Cal State-Westwood, etc., she should just say so.  Sure, you can criticize various aspects of UC, as this blog routinely does.  In the end, it is a human institution, not one run by saints and not one incapable of making mistakes and operating at less than maximum efficiency.  In that regard, it is similar to other human institutions, maybe even the San Francisco Chronicle.

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