Cuts. Everywhere you look in our University of California system, programs, staff and services are being cut. Our schools are being forced to increase class sizes, reduce student enrollment, raise tuition and eliminate programs and financial aid. The UC system is recognized as providing the highest quality of education to thousands of California students every year, but as these drastic cuts continue, it threatens to harm the integrity of our beloved schools.
Our local campus, UC Davis, has been no exception. Programs have been cut, employees have been furloughed and professors have been recruited and lured away, whether by larger salaries or more funding for their research. Last year, the university was forced to cut primary sports programs in order to save about $5 million across five years. Sports teams, and especially winning sports teams, encourage the alumni community to come together and donate back to their university. Small wonder that “sports for the alumni” was listed by former University President Clark Kerr as one of a university’s three major administrative issues.
It is unfortunate, but currently the only two areas that have seen growth at UC Davis are tuition bills and the number of non-Californian students that our schools are admitting, because out-of-state students pay higher tuition. UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi has pledged to add approximately 5,000 new students to the Davis campus, most of whom will be students from outside California. The addition of 5,000 undergraduates to Davis’ student body requires the construction of new student housing and other infrastructure projects. These additions are taking place in response to shrinking budgets and should be done as cost-effectively as possible. The students paying higher tuition and California’s tax payers deserve no less.
In light of all this, I was surprised to learn that top officials at UC Davis recently made a puzzling decision about the next phase of development for on-campus student housing. UC Davis officials chose a general contractor headquartered in Arizona for the third phase of the Tercero student housing development, even though the contractor’s price was $5 million dollars higher than a bid made by a Yolo County contractor who successfully built Phase II of this project on time and on budget.
Additionally, this same local contractor is already performing the site preparation for Phase III. This company not only bid $5 million less, they proposed to use the same California-based design and management team that won UC Davis and the company a prestigious award for their work on Phase II of the Tercero dorms.
The decision to spend $5 million dollars unnecessarily, and to take much of the project work to an Arizona-based contractor, speaks volumes to the community, alumni, faculty and especially to students about why they are paying the price of steep tuition increases. Just think; if UC Davis had accepted the fully-qualified lower bid and saved $5 million dollars, the university could have invested that money back into programs, resources and financial aid that students so desperately need and deserve.
Davis resident and UC Davis alumna