Thursday, May 11, 2017
Getting ready for the Regents
My management style is straightforward: When problems surface, you fix them. When mistakes are made, you correct them. When things appear confusing, you clarify them. And you do it all in the light of day. I believe I need to say this, as clearly as possible, because of the controversy and mischaracterizations that have surrounded the state audit report on the accounting practices and expenditures of my office, the University of California’s Office of the President.
We accept, and already have begun implementing, all 33 recommendations that the auditor made to my office. The recommendations, largely about transparency and best practices, are constructive. They will be implemented thoroughly and on time, and we will report back at regular intervals to the Legislature and the UC Board of Regents. Our progress will be posted on a UC website dedicated to this purpose.
I have been privileged to lead the University of California system since September 2013. Among the first actions I took when I arrived was to undertake a review of how the office is run and whether or not policies needed to be changed. This is standard procedure for me. I’ve done the same in my past public roles, as U.S. attorney for Arizona, as governor of Arizona, and as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
I’ve made many changes at UC, all of them with the intention of making wise and efficient use of public and private funds, ensuring that programs are well run, and that our stakeholders — students, faculty, staff, the Board of Regents and the public at large — are well served. We’ve made a lot of progress, and we know we have a lot more to do. This aligns with my experience running large organizations. As UC president and chief advocate, my role is to ensure that our 10 campuses, five medical centers and three affiliated national laboratories continue to thrive and, indeed, that our results enhance UC’s excellent reputation.
The Office of the President oversees the UC system’s annual operating budget of $31.5 billion as well as an investment portfolio of $106 billion. The office’s total budget is $686 million, which is equally divided among two functions: systemwide academic and public service programs, and central and administrative services. Here is some of what the office does, the sheer scope of which makes apples-to-apples comparisons difficult to undertake:
We run our retirement program, which is separate from the state’s program. We issue bonds, separate from the state, to fund our own capital projects. We run the systemwide student-application system and administer financial aid. We oversee our hospitals and research enterprise. We provide legal and IT services to the system, and we manage the national labs.
Also at the Office of the President is the division of Agriculture and Natural Resources — which helps everyone from farmers to consumers to children raising pigs in our 4-H program — and the Education Abroad Program, which allows undergraduates to see and study the world.
I understand that all this might be lost in a blur of daily headlines. As too often happens, incomplete details obscure the facts. There is no secret pot of money that funds dubious priorities. The systemwide and presidential initiatives — such as those that benefit undocumented students, that help prevent sexual violence and sexual harassment, that further our and the state’s goals on climate change — have been widely publicized. The monies spent are budgeted and accounted for.
We can do better, and we will. The hallmark of institutional excellence is the eagerness, and resolve, to continually improve. That is what the University of California has been doing for nearly 150 years.
Janet Napolitano is president of the University of California.