Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Boulware at the Regents?

Lemuel Ricketts Boulware
Today is May Day - often viewed as a labor holiday.  That happenstance brings to mind the role the governor has been playing as an ex officio regent.

Governor Brown likes to show his scope of knowledge through quotations, Latin phrases, and historical references.  Earlier this year, when asked about his collective bargaining policy with state unions, he referred to "Boulwarism" as something that he wouldn't want to do.

So what is Boulwarism?  Lemuel Ricketts Boulware was General Electric's chief bargainer with its unions in the 1950s and early 1960s.  He developed a take-it-or-leave-it style of negotiating, basically putting forward the firm's position, indicating that the position was based on what the firm had determined was correct, and not moving.

Governor Brown has yet to eschew Boulwarism, however, when it comes to higher ed and more specifically the UC budget.  His January budget, for example, proposed $10 million earmarked for online education.  Although the May revise has yet to appear, the usual leaking process indicates that it will have various targets on which funds will be contingent.

The problem with this approach is that - even apart from the merits of the particular targets - it is piecemeal.  As we have pointed out frequently on this blog, in recent years, roughly one out of ten dollars in the UC budget comes from the state.  That tenth is more or less matched by tuition.  So eight of ten dollars represents activities other than core teaching and degree production. All of that "other" activity is left out of the equation even though it is linked in complicated ways to the core. 

As we have pointed out, the old Master Plan of 1960, ultimately proctored into law by the governor's dad, provides a better model for developing state higher ed policy and, more particularly, the fiscal relationship between the state and UC.  Both the governor and the legislature see only a small piece of the larger world of higher ed, especially at UC where so much activity is not state-funded.  A process such as that which produced the Master Plan is what is needed now.  If the governor follows his current practice, he is likely to attend the Regents meeting in mid-May.  Will any Regents point out the need for a larger and systematic review?  Or will we continue to focus on the fad of the moment at budget time?

Here is the governor on Boulwarism:

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