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Sunday, October 17, 2021

UC Davis professor finds fault with regents’ handling of state funds

For students, staff and faculty facing fee increases and pay cuts in light of the UC-wide budget crisis, one local professor has placed the blame on the regents with evidence to back it up.

Dr. Jerold Theis, a professor in the department of medical microbiology and immunology at the UC Davis School of Medicine, bases this accusation on evidence he discovered while investigating the regents’ use of 19900 General Fund Support [cq], funds allotted by the state to help subsidize the functioning of the UC.

Using data compiled from various sources, including the California State Department of Finance, the UC Office of the President and the research of Bob Meister, professor of political and social thought at UC Santa Cruz and the president of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, Theis argues that the problem is not entirely due to a lack of state funding.

“The main issue that I see is the misdirection of funds away from education,” Theis said. “It’s simple logic that if the UC receives more state funding, then students fees should decrease. But that just isn’t the case.”

Instead, the Academic Senate on campus has found there to be more growth in the administrative ranks than in staff ranks. In addition, Theis notes the drastic increase in the compensation of the presidents of the UC.

Although 19900 General Fund Support has risen from $1 million to $2.5 million since 1980, student fees have risen by 20.2 times across the same time frame. Meanwhile, the salary for the position of president of the UC has grown from $90,000 to $889,200.

Theis explained these observations by the fact that the regents retain sole control over the use and distribution of state support funds, a prerogative protected under the California State Constitution, article IX section 9.

Nevertheless, some insist that there is a bigger picture.

Joshua Clover, associate professor of English at UC Davis, says that the regents’ mismanagement and gratuitous growth of the administrative ranks are just pieces that contribute to a puzzle of a faulted philosophy.

“The economic issues the university faces cannot be permanently resolved by redistributing salaries,” Clover said. “And while it seems clear the UC system has suffered extraordinary administrative bloat, I think it’s vital to recognize that this is a symptom, not a cause.”

Meister highlighted a correlation between a rise in tuition and the capital assets used to fund expansion projects. According to Meister, a rise in tuition led to a corresponding rise in student loans, which are then used as collateral for bonds that pay for the projects.

Yet Kelly Ratliff, associate vice chancellor in the department of administrative and resource management, differs in her opinion of the regents’ methods.

“I don’t find [the above allegation of regents’ motives] to be a fair statement,” Ratliff said. “The regents approve necessary student fee increase for the reasons they describe, not for expansion or administrative growth. [On the contrary], this campus has experienced much student-related growth, such as in research and outreach.”

In fact, of the budget reductions the campus has assigned over the next three years, administrative units face a 30.7 percent cut on average, whereas academic units face roughly a 15.6 percent cut, according to Ratliff.

When asked for a response to the rapid increase in compensation for the president of the UC and the alleged mismanagement by the regents, Ratliff said that she had no comment on the way the regents run the university other than a belief that they were “doing what they need to do.”

Regardless, Ratliff still encouraged students, staff and faculty alike to become familiar with the available information.

“It’s important for folks to have different views of the data,” she said. “Everyone should be informed, ask questions and develop opinions.”

Jeffrey Bergamini may be one of those with a strong opinion.

Bergamini, a UC Davis programmer staffed at the department of Hart Interdisciplinary Programs, has created a website at ucpay.globl.org which serves as platform for his analysis of what he calls “a crisis of priorities.”

“Sacramento is not the problem,” Bergamini said. “[The] UC has money, but its top-level decision makers choose not to use it for students and workers. It’s [this] corporate-style philosophy that seeks to destroy the very idea of public education.”

KYLE SPORLEDER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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