As the UC Commission on the Future prepares its progress report for the regents meeting at UC San Diego today and tomorrow, students who participated in last November’s commission meeting reflect on their objectives.
A primary concern of those who attended and presented at the public forum is the message of advocacy. With Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget plans released earlier this month and the California Legislature convening in February, student voices have stressed that aggressive lobbying would be critical for obtaining more UC funding.
The governor has pledged $371 million in restored funding to the UC, but the number falls short of the $913 million UC President Mark Yudof has requested from the state.
“When you look at different project areas, the role of advocacy didn’t play a strong part,” said Victoria Hassid, a third year law student and a graduate of UC Santa Barbara. “There were a lot of open questions like ‘What kind of advocacy role should we take?’ and ‘Should we take an advocacy role?’ rather than seeing it as something we need desperately.”
Hassid shares the concerns of other student participants who increasingly want Sacramento to commit more dollars to higher public education. She believes advocacy is crucial in securing such funding and that there is an available pool of students, faculty, staff and alumni to assist in the lobbying effort.
“I don’t think the regents are blameless but I think the legislature should be held more accountable for making the cuts to education, cuts which have forced the regents to increasing tuition in such a drastic way. It doesn’t make sense for the state of California to watch the UC system flounder in the way it’s doing right now.”
Students have taken account of recent developments and are actively preparing lobbying strategies for the legislature’s February return. Some have embraced the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment, which would guarantee public universities at least 10 percent of the California budget while limiting prison spending to only 7 percent.
ASUCD Vice President Chris Dietrich also believes aggressive advocacy on the part of students, staff and faculty is key to securing more funding for the UCs and preserving school services.
“My main goal is setting up a cohesive advocacy structure that the UC system can share in and everyone can partner in,” said Dietrich, who helped prepare the report. “Right now it seems everyone is disconnected. I think we need to get on the same page because it’s easy for the Legislature to oppose us when we’re so divided and don’t have cohesive goals.”
Dietrich and ASUCD Controller Eli Yani are planning a lobbying effort combining a student, faculty and staff presence at the capitol. When the Legislature reconvenes in February, Yani wants to have advocacy groups in Sacramento for each day of the term.
At last November’s forum, Dietrich assisted in planning student presentations. Dietrich stressed the need for transparency in both the growth of administrative salaries and the workings of the regents – a concern shared by many of the student speakers.
Dietrich said there is a lack of accountability in numbers for staff and administrative pay. Transparency within these areas will bolster the UC system’s argument when it comes to appealing to Sacramento.
“We want to be completely accountable as a UC system so the legislature doesn’t have that to blame us for,” Dietrich said.
“There’s a lot of discussion about transparency,” said Daniel Simmons, professor of law and Academic Senate vice chair. “The real problem I think is not the absence of available information. I think that the issue is not so much transparency as it is complexity.”
Simmons, an ex-officio member of the commission, said UC’s budget is extremely complicated because of its size. Collecting and recording information is easy, Simmons said, but assessing that data is both difficult and expensive.
“Many ask for transparency and accountability from the university,” Simmons said at the commission’s third meeting at UC San Francisco. “Transparency and accountability requires people and systems to produce the information, which costs money.”
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.