Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Conflicts and Sorrow

Conflict on display
At yesterday’s legislative hearing on the audit of UC (really of UCOP), it seemed that the state auditor put a panoply of conflicts on display – but, as I will indicate below – one conflict was missing. When the state auditor testified, a significant thrust of her testimony was that the Office of the UC prez had interfered with the audit by in a sense intercepting audit surveys at the campus level and altering or influencing results. Was she really shocked and appalled by what occurred? Not sure. She backed away when legislators asked if UCOP’s conduct was criminal. But conflict #1 was, of course, the auditor vs. UCOP.

Obviously, campuses and chancellors generally like more autonomy (and don’t like paying a de facto tax to support UCOP). How did the auditor find out about the interference? Undoubtedly, someone at the campus level made sure she did. So conflict #2 was UCOP vs. the campuses.

Conflict #3 was legislative authority vs. UC constitutional autonomy. Legislators find themselves in a different position regarding UC than with other state entities. Other things equal, they want more control and resent the fact that the Regents seem to supplant them. So any hint of wrongdoing by the autonomous UC reinforce the idea that the legislature should have more control. The place where the legislature does have control is the budget. So the auditor suggested that maybe the legislature should separately allocate money to UCOP as opposed to the rest of UC (essentially the campuses).

Conflict #4 was UCOP vs. the Regents. The auditor indicated that since the Regents are supposed to be the ultimate governors of UC, they shouldn’t allow UCOP to hide funds from them. They should be more actively engaged in managing UC. (And if they don’t/can’t, the auditor hinted, as per conflict #3, maybe the legislature needs to step in.)

Conflict #5 is internal to the legislature’s political make-up: supermajority Democrats vs. minority Republicans. The latter look for something – anything! – that will get them some attention. So they are the ones who want criminal investigations, etc. In the polarized legislature, what Republicans see as an opportunity causes Democrats to shrink back. Old timers will remember the (good old?) days when Republicans, such as Gov. George Deukmejian, liked UC which they saw as promoting economic development. But we’re not in Deukmejian-land anymore, Toto.

There is a sixth conflict that wasn’t much developed (although a couple of legislators hinted that they understood it) and it is a conflict internal to each legislator. Legislators want their constituents’ kids to be able to get into UC and to do so cheaply (low tuition) at the undergraduate level. But if you look at UC mainly as an undergraduate mill turning out BAs, it is clearly more expensive per student than CSU. What was not explored was WHY constituents want their kids to get into UC – as opposed to CSU. The paradox is that what gives UC prestige as a place for undergraduates to go is all the activity that goes on – research, graduate level and professional programs – that are tangential to the undergraduate program. For all its faults, and there are many, the UC setup (constitutional autonomy, Regents, emphasis on things that are not undergraduate education) is what makes legislators’ constituents want to get their kids into UC.

You can read about what happened at the hearing from various news sources. Bottom line: UC prez Napolitano said she was sorry for the interference (inadvertent, of course). UC Regents chair Lozano said the Regents would investigate what happened:
Sorry about that
Video of the entire four and a half hour hearing is at:

Bottom line: UC prez Napolitano apologized for the interference (inadvertent, of course). UC Regents chair Lozano said the Regents would investigate what happened. Both are sorry:

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