February 18, 2015
Senators Ricardo Lara and Anthony Cannella
Sacramento, CA 95814-4900
Re: SCA 1
Dear Senators Lara and Cannella,
The Council of UC Faculty Associations (CUCFA) opposes SCA 1. While some actions of the Regents and the UC administration generate criticism with which we concur, we do not believe that the UC governance structure itself is fundamentally flawed. The University’s long term goals of access, affordability, and excellence are well served by an independent, diverse Board of Regents that can represent the perspectives of the citizens of California, promote the beneficial, enduring values of the creation and dissemination of knowledge, and moderate the interaction of a public university with the political process.
Through the current processes for the appointment of Regents and state appropriations, the Legislature and the Governor have more than sufficient tools to repair the present problems. Considerable improvement would likely follow from a more heterogeneous Board of Regents selected by a more open process. Indeed the Constitution of the State of California mandates such a process. It is designed to assure that the “Regents shall be able persons broadly reflective of the economic, cultural, and social diversity of the State, including ethnic minorities and women.” Both the Governor and the Senate have fallen short of their responsibilities to see that this procedure is followed.
Although the University budget is complex and decentralized, more could be done to make it accessible to those outside of the budget bureaucracies of the campuses and the Office of the President. The primary problem is not an insufficient supply of raw data. The available data are already overwhelming. The need is for a reorganization of that data into categories comprehensible to those outside of the inner workings of university budget offices. We believe that the Legislature and the Governor already have sufficient influence with the University to improve that situation through a cooperative dialog. At the same time, it must be accepted that the many endeavors of the University are overlapping and that some categories cannot be sharply divided. Education, research, and public service advance hand-in-hand each constantly assisting the others.
In our view, a University “subject to legislative control” would be insufficiently protected from short term fluctuations in the political winds and find its enduring imperative to create new knowledge for the benefit of California and the world, i.e. to engage in research and graduate education, often threatened by short term perspectives.
The present wording of SCA 1 guts important safeguards in current law. If passed, nothing would be said about how the Regents will be selected. There would be nothing to protect the research mission of the University. While SCA 1 includes an admirable statement of academic freedom, one must wonder what practical value it would have if the University cannot maintain control of the merit and promotion process and the management of faculty time.
Thus rather than advancing SCA 1, we strongly encourage the Legislature to assure that the Regent selection process is properly followed and to work with the University to develop a clear and comprehensible presentation of the University budget that can be a basis for understanding current spending and future needs.
Vice President for External Relations, Council of UC Faculty Associations and
Professor of Physics Emeritus, UC Davis