Media Coverage 6/19/17

Last Tuesday Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders reached an agreement on a $125 billion budget deal that includes a provision they claim will strip UCOP of much of its financial independence. The move comes in response to the blistering audit of the office Janet Napolitano leads as UC’s president. According to the audit, UC had been concealing funds and carrying out misleading accounting techniques, though UCOP has refuted the audit’s characterization. Under previous funding schemes, UCOP was funded by assessing fees on the system’s campuses. Under the new deal, the state will reshuffle the money it typically gave to campuses in order to fund UCOP by handing the money directly to the office. In total, the state will give UCOP $296.4 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The office will also receive $52.4 million for UC Path, a troubled HR system. The state promises to withhold $50 million if UCOP doesn’t implement a number of changes. According to a summary document:

…to withhold $50 million General Fund from UC until UC provides evidence to the Department of Finance by May 1, 2018 that it has completed pilot programs of activity-based costing at the Riverside campus and at two other campuses in three departments each; taken actions to attempt to attain a ratio at each of its campuses, except for the Merced and San Francisco campuses, of at least one entering transfer student for every two entering freshman students beginning in the 2018-19 academic year; taken actions directed by the California State Auditor in its audit report “Report 2016-130,” dated April 25, 2017, regarding the University of California Office of the President, adopted a policy that prohibits supplemental retirement payments for new senior managers, and provided information on the Office of the President budget to the Legislature. 

In other news, media coverage highlighted the recent revelation that Gov. Brown appears to be skirting the law in his approach to nominating UC regents. In an editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle notes the state constitution says the governor “shall consult an advisory committee” when selecting regents, a practice Gov. Brown and other recent state leaders have failed to follow through on. The editorial argues:

This oversight failure has had a negative outcome on the regents board. The 18 appointed regents fit a specific profile: wealthy executives, financiers or attorneys. Considering this narrow milieu, some of their recent tone-deaf decisions, like charging the university thousands of dollars for pricey parties and dinners, make more sense. But it’s inappropriate behavior in a state with high poverty rates and a struggling middle class. These are precisely the kinds of reasons why voters want more public accountability — as they decided in 1974.

Budget

6/13 – New state budget deal punishes UC President’s Office (SFGate): The article also notes that the deal preserves the Middle Class Scholarship program, which Gov. Brown had suggested be scrapped.

6/14 – State budget would put limits on University of California (AP): The article notes that UCOP opposes the change, saying any such move should come from the regents, which govern the system, and not the Legislature.

6/14 – Cal State University to guarantee qualified students a spot under California budget deal (OCRegister): The policy is similar to one in place at UC, where qualified students denied entry at one campus are given a spot at another campus. Currently, that other campus is UC Merced, the system’s newest and least-selective campus.

Regents

6/12 – Editorial: Follow the law, Gov. Brown (SFChronicle):

6/13 – Critics say UC board is latest proof that Gov. Brown ignores the Valley (ModBee): The article notes that no one from the state’s Central Valley is on the board of Regents, a situation that has drawn criticism from San Joaquin leaders:

“This is another example of the governor essentially dismissing Central California as a flyover area,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno. “It’s inexplicable to me to have the region utterly ignored like this, with an appointment of this magnitude. It raises all kinds of questions about whether this region is really getting its due.”

Media Coverage 6/5/17

Amidst criticism that the UC Regents failed to properly scrutinize the financial operations of UCOP and indulged in extravagant parties, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed four new Regents on Friday. If approved by the senate, the Regents will serve 12-year terms. The appointees are:

  • Peter Guber, 75, a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors and Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group. There is some disagreement online about whether Guber is a professor at UCLA, which a UCLA website notes. According to public salary information, he is a lecturer.
  • Ellen Tauscher, 65, a former Bay Area Democratic congresswoman and State Department undersecretary. Tauscher is now an advisor for a private law firm focused on health care.
  • Maria Anguino, 38, is a former vice chancellor at UC Riverside and UCOP employee. She is now CFO for the Minerva Project, an education and technology outfit associated with the Claremont Colleges consortium.
  • Lark Park, 47, is Gov. Brown’s senior advisor for policy.

In other news, Monica Lozano, chair of the Regents, emphasized in a letter to a newspaper the board’s commitment to implementing the changes proposed by the audit and investigating claims that UCOP tampered with surveys. After receiving criticism, the Regents will no longer bill a private UC fund for festivities. Meanwhile, a flurry of four lawsuits were filed against the Regents on Tuesday. Two concern students (one from Berkeley, the other, Irvine) who claim they were improperly punished following a Title IX investigation. Another lawsuit concerns a company who claims Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory misrepresented the scope of a demolition job. The final lawsuit was fired by UCSF IT workers whose positions were outsourced. The claimants argue they were discriminated against.

Another item that picked up some coverage this weeks concerns the investigation into out-going Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, which found he had improperly failed to pay the university $4,990. The week’s news focuses on the cost of the investigation, which stands at $57,671.

New Regents

6/2 – Warriors’ co-owner among new UC regents appointed by governor (SFChronicle): Coverage of the appointees has been thin so far, with this piece emphasizing Guber’s ties to the NBA championship-contending Warriors.

6/2 – Riverside finance expert Maria Anguiano named to UC Board of Regents (PressEnterprise): Anguiano is noted for being the daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college student.

6/2 – Brown Names Four New UC Regents (CapRadio): The brief article frames the appointments using the turmoil the recent UCOP audit sparked.

Read Gov. Brown’s press release here.

The Audit

5/31 – Letter: UC Board of Regents committed to increased transparency (SDUT): According to the letter:

I have repeatedly stated that as part of UC’s response to the state audit of the Office of the President (UCOP), the board must, and will, act above all else in the best interests of the institution.

5/29 – UC reverses policy, won’t pick up tab for regents’ parties (SFGate): The article notes the poor optics of the former policy:

Some of the banquets were poorly timed: The $270-a-head Jan. 25 banquet was held the night before the regents voted to raise student tuition. And the similarly priced May 17 party happened a few hours after student protesters shut down the regents’ meeting, objecting to both the tuition increase and a $175 million secret fund uncovered by a state audit this year.

Lawsuits

6/2 – 4 lawsuits, including 2 Title IX investigation petitions, filed against regents (DailyCal): The article gives an overview of the four lawsuits.

6/1 – Student alleges he was improperly disciplined in campus Title IX investigation (DailyCal): The in-depth article concerns the Berkeley Title IX lawsuit, wherein a male student contends he was improperly punished for violating the campus’s sexual violence and harassment policies.

5/30 – Outsourced UCSF workers sue state regents (SJMN): The layoffs at the center of the case drew widespread criticism, but UCSF says the outsourcing will save the university millions.

Dirks

5/30 – Investigation revealing Chancellor Dirks’ $4,990 misuse of public funds cost university $57,671 (DailyCal): The Daily Cal dug up the costs and revels in the irony of the expense.

 

Media Coverage 5/29/17

Assistant Professor of South and Southeast Asian Studies Blake Wentworth was fired nearly two years after an investigation substantiated claims of sexual harassment made by a graduate student. Wentworth, who had been placed on paid leave, has sued three of his accusers and the university. Even news of Wentworth’s firing, however, wasn’t free of the UCOP audit, as Wentworth’s attorneys claimed the timing of their client’s firing was intended to distract from the controversy. Over the week, newspapers continued to weigh in on the audit with opinion pieces. The San Diego Union-Tribune argued Gov. Brown should fill the four vacant Regent positions with individuals who will be more critical of the university system. In the Legislature, one lawmaker introduced a constitutional amendment that would limit UC’s autonomy, though the proposal is unlikely to clear the high bar for adoption. In a New York Times op-ed, the UC system was noted for its exemplary embrace of low-income students, though the piece notes declining state funding imperils the system’s commitment to inclusion.

Wentworth

5/24 – UC Berkeley professor fired nearly two years after sexual harassment claims substantiated (Guardian): The firing of Assistant Professor of South and Southeast Asian Studies Blake Wentworth comes two years after an investigation substantiated some of the claims against him. Wentworth has sued three accusers and the university. His attorneys claim the timing of the firing is intended to distract attention from the UCOP audit.

Also see Daily Cal

Audit and Finances

5/23 – State senator to introduce a constitutional amendment to limit UC’s 138-year-old autonomy (LATimes): State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa) has proposed a constitutional amendment to directly fund UCOP, a move intended to limit the autonomy of the UC system. Because the proposal is a constitutional amendment, not only would the Legislature need to approve the change, but voters would have to approve it as well.

See more SFGate

5/24 – Too many UC administrators make more than the governor (SFChronicle): State Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) argues that UC administrators are paid too much to justify raising tuition. Galgiani notes 712 administrators earn more than $190,103, the salary paid to the governor.

5/25 – Op-Ed: The Assault on Colleges — and the American Dream (NYT): A nice overview of how declining public funding for higher education has limited economic diversity on campuses. The UC system is highlighted as an exemplar of inclusion, though the author notes the future is precarious for the institution.

5/23 – Editorial: How Gov. Jerry Brown can force change fastest at UC (SDUT): The editorial calls for Gov. Brown to fill the four vacant UC Regent posts willing to take a more critical look at the system.

5/20 – Op-Ed: UC regents must take responsibility for independent audits of UC (SFChronicle): The City of Berkeley’s elected auditor argues the Regents need to insure UC’s own internal audit office is independent of and positioned to keep an eye on UCOP.

5/24 – Angst Over Middle-Class Aid (InsiderHigherEd): An overview of Gov. Brown’s push to eliminate the Middle Class Scholarship program, which benefits students whose families earn less than $156,000 but who do not qualify for aid targeted at low-income students.

Fruits & Genetics

5/24 – Sweet victory: UC Davis wins big-money strawberry fight (SacBee): A jury ruled that two retired UC Davis scientists stole the university’s intellectual property when they took a strawberry they developed while employed at Davis to a private company. The court still could decide UC must license the plants to the scientists.

Media Coverage 5/1

While the press cheered the nonviolent nature of Thursday’s protests, commentators characterized recent events as signaling the decline of free speech on campuses. Meanwhile, a scathing audit by the state on UCOP’s finances raised questions about whether recent tuition hikes were necessary. Calling to mind disagreements over an earlier state audit concerning non-resident enrollment, UCOP pushed back against the report’s findings, calling them misleading and over-the-top. Say what you will about university rankings, but for a bit of good news, Berkeley leads the nation for balancing excellence and affordability, according to a report by Forbes.

In her report, State Auditor Elaine Howle said UCOP has hidden $175 million in reserves while also lavishly compensating employees. She further says UCOP attempted to interfere in the audit by screening employee responses to questions. UC President Janet Napolitano countered with a lengthy rebuttal, noting that the reserve fund is not secret and that the majority of the figure Howle cites is already committed to campus and student services. Napolitano also said the screening of responses was intended to ensure accuracy.

Thursday’s protests, spurred by an on-again-off-again appearance by Ann Coulter (which, in the end, was off), were largely peaceful, though police did arrest students on campus. The tone of media coverage ranged from relief due to the absence of violence, to scorn at Berkeley for dishonoring its free speech legacy, to pity for a campus caught up in a debate that has little to do with the university.

UCOP Audit

4/25 – UC kept secret $175 million reserve as it raised tuition, state audit finds (SacBee): The Bee quotes lawmakers who are critical of UCOP:

Yet Assemblymen Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said all options are on the table. The lawmakers, who chair the Assembly Budget Committee and the panel’s education subcommittee, jointly requested the audit last August to determine if growth in staffing and spending at the Office of the President resulted in savings for campuses or duplicated work.

At a press conference, Ting and McCarty lambasted the office’s $175 million in reserves as exemplary of UC’s “mission creep” away from its primary focus on serving students. They said the money would be better redirected toward opening new enrollment slots, especially as the university returns to the Capitol each year seeking more funding.

4/25 – Press Release: UC responds to state audit report on University of California Office of the President (UCOP): The press release rebuts the audit and notes:

Just a week before the state audit report was released, three ratings agencies — Moody’s, Fitch and Standard and Poor’s — reaffirmed UC’s AA rating. Said S&P’s RatingsDirect report, “UC is sophisticated in many aspects of its financial operations, including debt and capital management, budgeting and forecasts, and centralizing expenses, which has helped maintain rating stability through the economic volatility of the past few years.”

4/5 – Letter: Napolitano’s response to a draft of Howle’s report (UCOP): Napolitano notes the $175 figure is exaggerated, and says the accurate size of the reserve fund is $38 million, which she calls a prudent size for the organization.

Also see a detailed point-by-point critique here.

4/5 – Letter: Regents’ response to a draft of Howle’s report (UCOP): The Regents take aim at a recommendation that the Legislature directly appropriate funds for UCOP, which, the governing board argues, would undermine UC’s independence.

4/27 – Big changes are needed at UC — starting with the Kool-Aid-drinking Board of Regents (LATimes): The Times has further criticism from lawmakers:

I hope the University of California is not tone deaf,” says Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, a moderate Republican from Contra Costa County. She’s vice chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “I’m deeply troubled by this very damning report. And I say that as an alumnus of the UC Berkeley law school. It’s very easy to pile on. We should give UC a chance to respond. And it better be good.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), who sits on the UC Board of Regents, says, “We need really, really honest and straightforward answers.”

“A lot of things bother me” about the report, Rendon says, especially “charges that the UC president’s staff was obstructing the audit. That shows a tremendous need for more legislative oversight.”

Berkeley Protests

4/30 – Left, right Berkeley protesters display civility along with signs (SFChronicle): The article argues that the two opposing protest camps share a lot in common.

4/29 – Column: Berkeley a punching bag for angry people of all ideologies (SFChronicle): The sardonic column notes that Berkeley has become a symbol for every side to scapegoat:

Recent headlines should remind us Californians of yet another way we are lucky. Our state has the world’s best scapegoat: you.

You — our most distinguished public university and all the people, institutions and neighborhoods surrounding it — serve as a punching bag for angry people of all manner of ideological preoccupations. The right and the center can pin all of California’s liberal sins, real and imagined, on you. The left sees a reactionary threat in everything, from police action on or near campus, to the presence of law Professor John Yoo, who justified torture under President George W. Bush.

Yes, California as a whole takes a lot of critical blows. But can you imagine how much more bloodied the rest of our state would be if we didn’t have you around to absorb so much abuse? In recent months, as a furious world chokes on its own populist vomit, it’s been deeply reassuring to see you play your familiar role as California’s sacrificial lamb.

4/29 – Column: Ann Coulter gives readers another reason to bash Berkeley (LATimes): The article cites a variety of opinions on the matter from readers.

4/29 – Column: Berkeley, free speech and college campuses. The one thing that will change the game (FoxNews): The conservative outlet frames the episode as an instance of “progressive intolerance,” while pinning he blame for potential violence on the left.

4/27 – Column: Berkeley Forgets Its Purpose (NationalReview): The column argues that Berkeley is more interested in serving its brand and creating the next cadre of liberal elites to value free speech or a true education.

But don’t forget…

4/30 – UC Berkeley Ranked As Best-Value College In Forbes Report (CBS): UCLA came in at #2.

 

8/12/16 Media Coverage

The big news this week, detailed in an earlier blog post, is the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi. Elsewhere, lawmakers in Sacramento approved an audit of UCOP. UC Davis is also in the news for delayed financial aid payments to students and a tricky legal maneuver involving its medical school and claims of sexual harassment.

UC News

8/11 – Lawmakers approve audits of UC spending (SFChron): Legislators approved an audit of UCOP. “We must be assured the maximum resources are directed to classrooms and student services,” wrote Assemblyman Phil Ting, who requested the study, in a statement. The Chronicle begins its article with a noteworthy lede:

Spending at the University of California’s Oakland headquarters has nearly doubled in recent years, and official staff counts vary by nearly 500 people, depending on who’s doing the counting. / So on Wednesday, state lawmakers authorized an audit of UC’s Office of the President to determine whether its $686 million annual budget — more than twice that of the Legislature — is money well spent.

The article notes the lede is a bit misleading, as only half of the UCOP budget is actually spent on UCOP operations. The rest funds student services, research, study abroad trips, etc. Also see: LATimes

8/6 – San Jose State’s Spartan Stadium now named after credit union (SJMN): Not UC, but of note: The school gets $8 million for the name change.

8/10 – Top 100 (Capitol Weekly): Capitol Weekly’s list of the top 100 political players in the state includes Janet Napolitano at #24, calling her a an “aggressive advocate” for the UC system. Ironically, #25 is Elaine Howle, the state auditor who produced a report deeply critical of UC this year. The list also includes Steve Juarez, UCOP’s Sacramento lobbyist, as #89. Here’s what it says about Juarez:

UC is a mighty institution that gets things done, and one of the reasons is Steve Juarez, who lobbies on behalf of UC’s Office of the President. People in both houses who know higher education lobbying – and some outsiders, too – say Juarez is one of the reasons. He’s smart, prompt and detail-savvy – characteristics that count for much in the Capitol. UC offers up relatively few bills each session, so Juarez’ load may not seem all that heavy. But he also serves as a communications channel between the Legislature and the university – a critical role, given the image problems that have confronted the school this year and last.

8/10 – UC Davis’ Katehi gets $424,360 ‘parachute’ common for university presidents (SacBee): Katehi will retain her president-level pay for one year as she transitions to a full-time faculty member. The article notes:

The practice of paying a college president an additional year after leaving office is common across the country, said James Finkelstein, a George Mason University professor and expert on university executives. “What she is getting is very typical of the type of parachutes that other presidents have had,” he said.

Finkelstein said the policies began after lawyers started representing university presidents in contract negotiations. “It has begun to slip over from the private sector into the university sector – what I call the CEO-ization of the university presidency,” he said.

8/6 – Court spurns UC Davis harassment suit defense that cites First Amendment rights (SacBee): UC Davis is attempting to kill a lawsuit by a medical resident who says she was sexually harassed and unfairly criticized. The legal move raises questions about how easy it is to sue a large organization in California.

8/7 – UC Davis may issue emergency loans due to financial aid backlog (SacBee): UC Davis is behind by two months on giving out loans and financial aid. Students may need to take out short-term loans to get by.

Elsewhere

8/12 – Messy Breakups Make More Noise (IHE): Katehi isn’t the only campus leader to step down amid controversy. Some think this could signal a new trend in the relationship between campus executives and boards, who can hire and fire campus leaders. Others see a shift in the expectations places on campus presidents.

8/11 – Employees Sue Four More Universities Over Retirement Plan Fees (NYT):  A number of elite private schools have been sued for failing to secure better terms on retirement plan fees.

8/9 – AAU Memo to Clinton & Trump (AAU): The nation’s top research universities have asked the major party presidential nominees to back “policies that foster innovation, enhance college affordability, attract and retain top international talent, and make the federal investments in research and higher education more efficient.”

8/5 – How Much Does Living Off-Campus Cost? Who Knows? (NYT): A study by the Wisconsin HOPE lab, which was founded by sociologist Sara Goldrick-Rab and works to make colleges more affordable, found that schools frequently over- or underestimate the cost of living off campus. This matters, not only for a student determining where to enroll, but for how federal loan limits are calculated.

8/4 – The Mess at Oberlin (Academe): Steve Lubet, a professor of law at Northwestern, argues for keeping separate one’s academic career (and any discipline one may invite) and personal statements in light of a controversy surrounding an Oberlin professor’s conspiratorial social media posts maligning Jews and Israel.

8/11 – The Quality Crisis at 4-year Public Colleges (ThirdWay): A report on higher education in California finds much to criticize — including low graduation rates — but much to praise at various UC campuses, too, including above-average enrollment of Pell students paired with above-average graduation rates.