With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposal unveiled on Jan. 8, UC Davis has begun crafting advocacy plans in response to the governor’s promises for higher education.
The message will focus on the $371 million the governor has promised the UC, and his call for a constitutional amendment that would allocate 10 percent of the California budget to its public universities and reduce prison spending.
UCD’s primary objective is to inform the California Legislature about the UC budget, and to promote increasing funding beyond what Gov. Schwarzenegger has set aside.
“We’re now in the process of trying to pull together an advocacy plan around both those pieces,” said Jason Murphy, UCD director of state government relations and advocacy, “It’s a little bit too soon to say how we’ll proceed with regards to the constitutional amendment. However we’ve already seen a statement out from President Yudof about how we’re pleased the governor identified higher education as a priority and provided $371 million for our budget deficit. But there is more to go.”
UCD is in the process of creating advocacy teams comprised of students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and possibly senior university administrators, Murphy said. These lobbying groups will meet with UCD’s local legislative delegation and will try to influence legislators in Sacramento towards steering additional funds to the university throughout the spring and summer.
Murphy expects the teams to use examples of how the UC budget deficit is affecting students and parents at Davis and argue for the system as a whole.
“Our advocacy teams don’t necessarily speak specifically to the UC Davis context,” Murphy said, “We’ll certainly be using examples about how the UC budget is affecting UC Davis. But in terms of the conversation going on in Sacramento, it’s a conversation about the UC budget overall, so when that boat is lifted, it lifts our boat as well since we get a percentage of the overall budget.”
In terms of student involvement in the effort, Murphy mentioned two rallies set to occur in the beginning of March, with one sponsored by the UC Student Association tentatively scheduled for Mar. 1. He is looking into whether UCD can shuttle buses to the events and will encourage students to participate once more details are revealed.
Some close to UC budget matters support the notion of actively campaigning for the restoration of system funds.
“Having all of this advocacy activity is extraordinarily important,” said Daniel Simmons, UCD professor of law and UC Academic Senate vice-chair. “And it’s important to try to carry the same message which at this stage is to at least maintain what the governor has provided for us in his budget.”
Simmons said state funding is directly linked to student fee increases. As the state’s contribution to UC revenues – about 20 percent – declines, student fees will rise to recoup the shortfall.
“The shortfall in state’s contribution year in and year out will be made up with increases in student fees,” Simmons said, “It’s the thing we’d like to avoid and so advocacy in the legislature on that issue is extraordinarily important.”
However, some argue that a long-term change of how California finances higher education is critical to solving the university’s fiscal headaches.
“I think the pressure should be on the legislature and on the governor to address the large problem, the long-term issue,” said Tom Timar, professor of education and expert on education finance.
Timar suggested that the focus of student and university activities should be directed at issues of funding the university in the long term and of securing a predictable and stable source of revenue.
“It’s not just getting through the budget next year or two years from now. It’s looking ahead to the next five, 10 and 15 years and how we can meet the challenges.”
Murphy agreed that advancing the university’s interests with an eye toward the future was important to its success.
“I imagine that will be weaved in some way,” Murphy said, “that in the long run the university needs this base funding to remain a high-quality institution, accessible to a broad array of students.”
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.