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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Column: Knowing your enemy

Students following the UC budget battles would do well to remember Sun Tzu’s well-worn maxim: “All war is deception.”

With the latest round of budget cuts prompting the usual protestations from UC administrators, one might be excused for believing that the UC system has been, in the words of budget VP Patrick Lenz, “cut to the bone.” But the reality is that administrators’ version of fat-trimming is predictably self-interested.

The problem is a typical one. Like most bureaucrats, administrators tend to prioritize political correctness over academics. As a result, students find themselves facing the twin menaces of a cash-hungry army of paper pushers, and a slew of redundant and expensive “diversity” programs.

Since 2006, full-time administrators have outnumbered faculty nationally. While students face tuition hikes and professors see class sizes expand, administrators preside over an almost sacrosanct collection of programs that are best described as wasteful irrelevancies. The traditional model of faculty-run universities has gradually given way to a vast apparatus of lawyers, administrators and generic bureaucrats who have expanded overhead functions while prolifically fabricating new roles for themselves.

Faddish “diversity” institutions are often the administrators’ weapons of choice, benefiting from the reluctance of critics to risk accusations of bigotry by questioning their importance or functionality. Not surprisingly, diversity administrators ride the coattails of a generationally tolerant student body, while doing little to reach the vast majority of students.

Here at UC Davis, a vast network of such institutions exist. They are headlined by the Office of Campus Community Relations (OCCR), which oversees a dizzying array of programs that funnel precious tuition dollars into the pockets of needy administrators.

OCCR itself, headed by Vice Dean Rahim Reed (annual compensation $156,000), oversees a morass of often redundant entities such as the Staff Affirmative Action & Diversity Office, The Center for Human Services – Civil Rights and Diversity, The Multicultural Immersion Center, The Diversity Education Program, The Cross-Cultural Center, The Consortium for Women and Research, The Women’s Resources and Research Center, The Sexual Harassment Education Program and Campus Council on Community and Diversity, to name a few.

And each center or consortium comes with its eager contingent of program directors, staffers, coordinators and education administrators, all striving for their slice of the budget pie.

Of course, UC administrators at the top see the impenetrable thicket of extracurricular programs as essential. Speaking of the budget crisis last year, UC President Mark Yudof protested: “We cannot save or streamline our way around a problem of this magnitude.”

Meanwhile, administrators at Berkeley pressed forward with the Initiative for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, a costly program that funded five newly endowed chairs in “diversity-related research.” And while UC San Diego was eliminating degrees in electrical and computer engineering, it was simultaneously creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion,” who supplemented the apparently inadequate Chancellor’s Diversity Office, which already had an associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, and an assistant vice chancellor for diversity. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, no one wants to live on a campus marred by hatefulness, discrimination or bigotry. But the intellectual ferment of the classroom and the rich social experience of the student body are the true guarantees of a tolerant and diverse university. The fiction that eliminating condescendingly named enclaves of political correctness would lead to a hate-consumed campus is demeaning to students and teachers alike. In short, I trust my fellow community members to remain open-minded without the assistance of campus-funded enforcers.

Finally, the idea that grandiosely named programs somehow prevent the rare acts of universally condemned on-campus hate crimes is a ludicrously thin disguise for the real purpose of academic bureaucracy; to create a bigger trough for self-interested administrators to feed from.

Which brings us back to Sun Tzu. The great strategist was right when he posited deception as the moving principle in all wars. In the current UC budget battles, well-paid bureaucrats are pulling the wool over students’ eyes by claiming solidarity while simultaneously robbing us blind. For what it’s worth, Sun Tzu also famously said: “Know your enemy.” Perhaps it’s time for students to get to know the administration.

SAM HOEL is a law student at UC Davis School of Law and can be reached at swhoel@ucdavis.edu.

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