UC regents may have less control over their policy – including their pay – if a proposed constitutional amendment passes giving managing control of the institution to state legislators.
Five legislators, including Senators Leland Yee and Roy Ashburn, held a press conference last Wednesday to announce their authorship of an amendment to the California constitution that would remove the regents‘ autonomy.
“I have tried to work with UC on matters like these and each time they oppose our bills and problems are never taken care of,” Yee said. “Enough is enough. We’re finally going to bring recognition to this issue.“
Currently, the UC system is one of the only state organizations that is not under the purview of the state legislature, and has autonomous governance by the regents. Should the legislature pass a bill, they may request that the university adopt it, but cannot mandate it.
“Over the years it’s become apparent that UC is a rogue department,” Yee said. “It operates outside the family of departments in California and they have their own rules about how to set salaries. We have the right to raise concern over this.“
In order for the amendment to go into effect, it must be passed by two-thirds of the legislature and approved by a majority of California voters.
The Office of the President has come out strongly against the proposed amendment, insisting that the regents have the most direct and fitting method of governance, and that its policy should not be managed by the state, which has been generally unsupportive of higher education.
“It is absurd that Senator Yee and his co-sponsors want to rewrite the California Constitution to strip the university of its historic autonomy and place it under direct control of the state legislature,” said a statement released by the Office of the President. “Let’s be clear: UC is working. At a time when it has become popular to mock California, the university survives as one of the state’s great success stories.“
At the press conference last week Yee, Ashburn, Assemblymember Anthony Portantino, Assemblymember Brian Nestande, ASUCD Lobby Corps Director Talia MacMath and others spoke in favor of the amendment.
“There will be a debate about [the amendment], and that’s what I’m most supportive of,” said MacMath, a senior political science major. “This is opening up a space for dialogue where there wasn’t one before.“
Lobby Corps is planning on introducing an ASUCD Senate resolution in support of the amendment, but the resolution has not been voted on yet and the senate has not adopted an official stance on the issue.
The Friday after the press conference announcing the amendment, President Mark Yudof sent a memo to UC executives announcing that the Office of the President will be moving forward with a 5 percent pay decrease for senior UC leaders.
Yudof explained in the memo that the additional state budget cuts and the failure of the recent supportive ballot measures require that the university consider further measures to accommodate such cuts.
“Admittedly, this action does not have a significant impact on our very serious budget deficit, given its magnitude and the fact that UC’s senior management group comprises only a very small fraction of University employees,” Yudof said in the memo. “Nonetheless, I believe a reduction in pay is only right, especially as we continue to consider possible furloughs and/or pay cuts for faculty and staff systemwide.“
Yee and MacMath believe that the pay decrease may have been in response to the proposed amendment. A university spokesperson stated that this was not the case.
Those in favor of the amendment have stated that the pay decrease is not sufficient compared to the recent 9.3 percent increase in student fees, as well as the oft criticized executive pay and bonuses.
“This is one step in recognizing their excessive pay, but it’s not enough,” MacMath said. “Our student fees have gone up significantly in the last several years. They need to recognize that during fiscal crises, they’re not above what’s happening to everyone else.“
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.