LOS ANGELES TIMES -- OP-ED  May 27, 2008

What should UC be?
Next month, Mark Yudof will take over as president of the massive university system.
Here's a preview of what's going into his suggestion box.

Tell Californians the truth
By Stanton Glantz

Mark Yudof should level with the people of California, so they understand that only public funding can restore the University of California's tradition of top quality and wide access.

In 2004, UC President Robert Dynes and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger abandoned the idea of a public university in favor of a privatized model. Dynes accepted a $1.5-billion permanent cut in the university's annual $5-billion core operating budget, and agreed to substantially increase tuition every year, in exchange for a promise (now broken) of modest increases in state money while UC sought private money "to support basic programs."

The fee increases don't come close to making up $1.5 billion a year. And although UC has inefficiencies, getting rid of them won't make up the deficit either. Neither will donations or corporate partnerships, which mostly are earmarked for projects, not core costs. (In fact, such "largesse" actually increases core costs.)

The only realistic way to replace public support with private money would be to double the already doubled fees, to $15,000 to $18,000. Alternatively, the university could abandon the equivalent of three campuses.

If the public really understood this situation, the political heat would force Schwarzenegger to restore California's promise of a high-quality, affordable university education.

The test for Yudof is whether he'll have the courage to recognize that California is at a crossroads, stop covering for the governor and tell the truth about privatization.

Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, chaired the UC Committee on Planning and Budget in 2005-06.

Stand up for undocumented students
By Matías Ramos

During the last four years, UC students have endured two rounds of budget crises, fee increases and a scandal over little-known, lucrative UC executive compensation deals.

But one issue that flies under the radar and affects the relationship between the university and our vast immigrant population is the ongoing controversy over equal access for undocumented immigrant students. Caught in the middle of a nationally polarized debate on immigration, a growing number of highly capable students are being left out of the UC's equation because of the inability of Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

President Yudof needs to take the lead in ensuring that thousands of undocumented students become eligible for financial aid funds to which their tuition fees already contribute. It is not an easy task, but it is one that would demonstrate his leadership and vision.

Matías Ramos, a political science student at UCLA, is a contributor to the book "Underground Undergrads: UCLA Undocumented Immigrant Students Speak Out."

Help the kids to know themselves
By Alexander W. Astin

Although we academics can be justifiably proud of our outward accomplishments in science, medicine, technology and commerce, more and more our universities neglect our students' inner development -- the sphere of values, beliefs and emotional maturity.

The traditions that constitute the core of a liberal education are grounded in the maxim "know thyself," but today self-understanding gets short shrift. Yet it is fundamental to our ability to understand one another, to be good citizens and to resolve society's most persistent problems: poverty, violence, crime and ethnic and religious hatred.

It is not as difficult or abstract as it sounds. Interdisciplinary courses, study abroad, reflective writing, foreign language study and classes that incorporate public service -- research shows that all of these help foster students' inner development. So does participation in what we in education research call "difficult dialogues" -- that is, focused discussions on race, nationality, politics and religion.

By encouraging campuses to embrace such practices, our new president can push the University of California to do more than educate students; it can create the leaders who will heal the divisions that plague our global society.

Alexander W. Astin is the founding director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.

Restore credibility
By Ward Connerly

The University of California is a beloved institution, and one that, throughout its history, has been known for its credibility.

In recent years, however, the presumption of credibility from which UC has benefited has begun to erode. One factor that has contributed to this is the perception that UC is seeking to thwart the will of the people, who approved Proposition 209 in 1996 to ban preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex and ethnicity. Instead, UC has tried to get around that law in its often awkward and dogged pursuit of "diversity."

UC also suffers from the perception that it provides bloated salaries to its administrators and is dishonest about public disclosure of its administrative salaries.

There is no greater challenge confronting the new president and the Board of Regents than the restoration of the institution's credibility. If this does not happen, then in the fullness of time, the University of California will become just another university instead of a revered institution to so many Americans.

Ward Connerly, a former UC regent, is chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute.

Let the leaders take the lead
By Judy Olian

In the 21st century, corporate headquarters are generally shadows of their former selves. Having shed most functions to their operating units, they manage risk by holding unit heads accountable against measurable results. Because the UC system is made up of outstanding but vastly different campuses and national labs, one size does not fit all. Each of these "operating units" has terrific leaders who understand their unique market conditions and competitive pressures inside and out, and each should be given maximum flexibility to excel.

So, what role should be played by headquarters -- the University of California system? Focus leadership on the functions that require a single voice or the power of the whole, such as interactions with the Legislature and the Board of Regents, omnibus union negotiations, broad policies related to pensions and healthcare, central budget decisions, global branding of the university and ambitious research initiatives that leverage the intellectual power of the entire system (e.g., stem cell or nanotechnology programs).

Establish tangible performance metrics for each of the unit leaders and hold them accountable for results. Then leave these leaders free to manage. Unleash them to achieve unmatched achievements for our university and for our citizens. And, when in doubt, delegate even further.

Judy Olian is the dean of UCLA's Anderson School of Management.

Tackle our real-world problems
By Robert K. Ross

Poverty. Public education. Healthcare. Gang violence. Affordable housing. Water supply and the environment. These are the key challenges that threaten to stifle our civic well-being in California, and I would like to see the new UC president unleash the university's enormous intellectual capital and resources to help our leaders address these difficult issues.

That means taking the leap from excellence in academia, data and research to excellence in practical application and problem-solving leadership. It means changing the performance paradigm for faculty from "publish or perish" to establishing meaningful community partnerships. It means that helping a community to close down a crack house or start a mental health clinic should be as celebrated as the latest robotic surgery development. It means addressing the moral voice of the university community to the widening opportunity gap in our state and our nation.

It means that advocacy for the poor and marginalized is as important as research about their needs. It means that the UC health system should begin to focus as much attention on South Los Angeles and southeast San Diego as it has on Westwood and La Jolla.

Where to begin? Assume leadership responsibility for the beleaguered Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Medical Center in South L.A.

Robert K. Ross, a doctor, is president and chief executive of the California Endowment, a private health foundation created in 1996 to expand access to affordable, high-quality healthcare.

Play fair with student fees
By Charles Schwartz

After decades of generous state support, UC is facing a huge budget crisis, and the only path the regents can see is to keep increasing student fees. A better approach would be to start laying out the facts about where UC spends the money it now takes in.

Here is one example: UC's official budget report says that the "average cost of education" is $17,390 per student per year; student fees cover only about 30% of that cost. That is very misleading. The $17,390 is calculated according to a long-standing habit of research universities to bundle all the costs of undergraduate education plus graduate education plus faculty research into something called the I&R (instruction and research) budget. My own study, based on official UC documents, leads me to conclude that UC now spends an annual average of $7,400 per student on undergraduate education, and undergraduate fees are set at 100% of that cost.

In other words, with the continual decline in state support and the continual rise in student fees, the state portion of payment for undergraduate education at UC has vanished entirely. Any further increase in student fees would mean that UC is using undergraduate fees to subsidize faculty research and related graduate programs. Those are valuable programs, but they belong in the domain of the "public good." It seems totally unjust to push that cost onto undergraduate students and their families.

Charles Schwartz is a physics professor at UC Berkeley.

Make the budget match the mission
By Richard Blum

Mark Yudof is a brilliant scholar and will be a visionary president. I believe he will make the university a leaner, more productive institution -- streamlining cumbersome operations and redirecting precious university funds toward our core academic mission.

In the years ahead, the university must become more strategic in undertaking integrated, multiyear academic and budget planning. Its administrative infrastructure must become more results oriented, more publicly accountable and better able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

This includes instituting better financial controls and a revamped capital-expenditure program, as well as making improvements in diversity, admissions and affordability. We must continue to identify sustainable cost savings, which can then be invested in fulfilling key educational priorities.

Now more than ever, we must also ensure that the public understands the value of UC's contributions to California and that investing in higher education is fundamental to the state's future.

Richard Blum is chairman of the UC Board of Regents.

Fix the admissions process
By Jeannie Oakes

The law establishing the University of California in 1868 required the regents to "according to population, to so apportion the representation of students, when necessary, that all portions of the state shall enjoy equal privileges therein." Last fall, the regents adopted a diversity statement echoing this commitment: "Because the core mission of the University of California is to serve the interests of the state of California, it must seek to achieve diversity among its student bodies and among its employees."

Despite 130 years of rhetoric, UC's student body does not represent "all portions of the state." It does not extend "equal privileges." It has not achieved diversity. In 2005, nearly half of UC's freshmen admissions offers went to students from only 198 of the state's 1,947 public high schools. No wonder Latino and African American high school graduates are underrepresented.

Mark Yudof can help make UC's rhetoric real by working on two fronts. First, support changes in UC's admissions process to encourage and reward the hard work and achievement of more top graduates from all of the state's 1,100 high schools -- currently only the top 4% of seniors who have met academic requirements are ensured of a slot in a UC school. Second, engage UC in vigorous efforts to help upgrade the quality of the state's diverse high schools, so the top graduates are not only admitted, they also succeed.

Jeannie Oakes is a professor of education at UCLA and director of the University of California's All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity.

Work with the community colleges
By Jack Scott

Over the next 15 years, the job market is expected to change dramatically. It's estimated that by 2020, 39% of the jobs in California will require a bachelor's degree. Unfortunately, only about a third of California's workforce will be so prepared.

President Yudof, there are many ways to address this problem. One significant way is to improve the transfer rate between community colleges and the University of California. I wrote legislation that led to a common curriculum at community colleges for most majors at California State University. This means that students enrolled in two-year colleges can complete specific courses and be guaranteed that these courses will transfer to any of the 23 campuses of California State University. You and I can work together to take a similar step at the University of California. This will save students time and money, and will enable the public institutions of California to educate more students for the same cost. Given your strong commitment to accountability, I am confident we can work together on this important issue.

State Sen. Jack Scott (D- Altadena) takes over as chancellor of the California community college system in January 2009.

Do more with less
By Richard Vedder

The greatest problem confronting Mark Yudof is the fact that the cost of running the University of California has been rising faster than taxpayers, students and others are willing to pay to finance it. The rise in costs reflects unique characteristics of universities: Third-party payments -- state funding -- make customers less sensitive to true costs; their nonprofit nature means there is no clear "bottom line" or incentives to be cost-conscious, etc.

Long-term appropriations from the state likely will grow little given other budgetary imperatives.

Where should Yudof start? Over-centralized management often leads to lack of innovation and resource misallocation. Make the campuses more independent; slash the nearly 2,000-employee central office bureaucracy. Reduce capital costs by using market incentives to more intensely utilize facilities on evenings and weekends, and especially in the summers. Contract out more operations to efficiency-minded private firms. Use technology to centralize expensive purchases, such as multiple copies of expensive, little-read academic journals. Make faculty who publish little teach more. Eliminate costly, low-demand graduate programs and/or raise their tuition costs.

Yudof must "do more with less."

Richard Vedder is director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Tap the alumni
By Alex Filippenko

Most citizens and alumni don't know this, but the state provides less than 30% of UC's already inadequate funding, and that number is shrinking. A substantial fraction of the shortfall must come from private donations, and although the UC is making progress in the area of fundraising, it is a long way from the success achieved by many top private institutions. Annually, about 40% to 60% of alumni at Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Duke and Princeton donate (sometimes very generously) to their alma maters, compared with about 13% for UC. The elite private institutions start cultivating the idea of future donations right when the new students arrive. They almost religiously keep track of their graduates and solicit contributions. If UC wants to participate in high-profile projects such as the proposed Thirty-Meter Telescope (which would be the world's largest optical telescope), retain the best faculty and staff, replace outdated buildings and equipment and keep student fees low, incoming President Yudof must step up UC's fundraising efforts, first and foremost by reaching its highly talented and successful alumni.

Alex Filippenko is a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley.

Be a friend to the environment and a partner to schools
By Ben Allen

The University of California has helped make the state a global leader in innovation, science, business and the arts. But there are two other areas in which the university can and must step up its efforts: environmental stewardship and educational leadership.

Pushed by students, UC has adopted an ambitious set of sustainability guidelines that have propelled the university to the forefront of environmental leadership. Earlier this year, Sierra magazine declared the UC system to be one of the nation's top 10 green universities. But UC can do more toward the development and use of alternative energy as well as dramatically reduce its own environmental footprint through greener buildings; increased energy, water and food-procurement efficiencies; and waste-reduction programs.

UC also stands uniquely poised to play a greater role in fostering stronger relations with the other great public educational sectors in California to build a brighter future for the state. For too long, UC has been seen as aloof and arrogant, studying the state's public education problems from on high. But we have the research capacity, the vested interest and the moral imperative to partner more fully with K-12 schools, the community colleges and the California State University system to reinvigorate the Master Plan and get back on track.

Ben Allen, a law student at Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley, is this year's UC student regent.

Share profits with workers
By Lakesha Harrison

The University of California is committed to "improving the quality of life every day for every Californian."

As a licensed vocational nurse, I believe my work and the work of 20,000 other patient-care and service workers at UC hospitals and campuses contribute to that mission. However, our ability to serve the public is at risk as hospitals are losing experienced medical staff, and many employees live in poverty because UC's wages have fallen dramatically behind. In fact, our peers at other hospitals and community colleges make an average of 25% more for the same work.

We are concerned this is causing serious retention problems, staffing shortages and an over-reliance on temporary workers. UC hospitals have become a revolving door of workers who need constant training, taking time away from patients. For service workers, salaries are as low as $10 an hour, forcing many to work two to three jobs or rely on public assistance just to meet their families' basic needs.

Only 8.6% of the funding for our workforce comes from the state. The majority comes from the hospitals, which posted profits of $371 million last year. By sharing those profits and providing equal pay for equal work, Mark Yudof can help protect California patients and families, restoring UC's commitment to the public.

Lakesha Harrison is president of AFSCME Local 3299.