Coming to a meeting room near you: A candid explanation for the University of California financial crisis.
This scenario hasn’t happened yet, but maybe not far off at the rate Kelly Ratliff is going.
Ratliff, associate vice chancellor of Budget and Resource Management, and Jason Murphy, UC Davis director of state government relations, have been traversing the campus presenting an overview of the university’s budget and advocacy with the state.
The two have already met with leaders from the Graduate Student Association, Women’s Resources Center, LGBTRC, Cross-Cultural Center, the two student assistants to the chancellor and the Center for Leadership Learning – and may still schedule more.
“The basics I try to clear up are where the UC gets its money from, what it does with it and how it decides what to do with it,” Ratliff said.
The goal is to make sure that students have good information, Murphy said.
“It’s frankly not productive to have conversations about things that are not accurate – there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and we’re trying to clear up the issues,” he said.
Murphy said the idea to sit down with representatives from campus organizations was hatched after a forum in November about university fee increases and incidents at Mrak Hall.
“Kelly and I take a two-pronged approach: She has a presentation she’s refined that’s a primer on sources of university funds, and I talk about advocacy and statewide discussions that affect the UC,” Murphy said. “We’ve been working through student services to talk to groups they have in mind and people that they work with.”
One element of the personal presentations Ratliff and Murphy have been delivering to student leaders they say is tough to convey to large groups, because of their interactive nature. In this setting, they’re able to pause and answer questions at any time, and invite feedback from their audience.
“I spend all day, every day, working on this stuff and then I get invited [to speak to a large group], and people want me to explain everything in 15 minutes,” Ratliff said. “The feedback is invaluable; I added a whole slide after meeting with the student assistants to the chancellor that details key steps to the campus budget.”
Student Assistant to the Chancellor Allison Zike, a senior community and regional development major, said their recommendations aimed to translate budget terminology into something more student-friendly.
“A lot of it has to do with trying to understand where students are coming from, and finding the easier way for them to hear the message,” she said.
Zike became interested in sitting down with Ratliff after hearing her present at the fall dialogue with the chancellor.
“Part of our goal is to try to get students to understand things better, and we have this problem of what may be every-day budget talk to administrators is not that simple for students to understand because we just don’t know that vocabulary,” Zike said.
By making themselves available to leaders of student organizations who will then speak to members of their group, Murphy believes their presentation is facilitating the spread of relevant information
“It’s impossible for [Ratliff] or I to sit with hundreds of students, but it’s our hope that by speaking with these different groups we can help get the message out,” he said. “For those that want to hear more, we think it’s very effective.
Ratliff’s PowerPoint also includes a slide answering students’ frequently asked questions, like how the UC can continue to make new buildings while struggling financially. Available online is a document entitled “Student Fees Overview,” which contains a table listing and defining every fee, who decided it should be a fee, and what the money goes towards.
“People are always calling for transparency, but we make public a ton of information that’s on our website if people go looking for it,” Ratliff said. “If they can’t find it, that’s different from us hiding it.”
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.