In my previous letter of April 2011, I discussed our concern at the expected $500 million cut in state funding and the disastrous consequences of such cuts on faculty, students and the status of the University of California vis-á-vis other state supported universities. Sad to say the cut now appears even larger, namely a $650 million reduction in state funding for this year alone. Further reductions may be expected next winter unless the state’s revenues improve – a dubious prospect.
The response of the Office of the President (UCOP) to this predicament is to lament that the “state is an unreliable partner” while raising student tuition and promoting out-of-state enrollment as an alternative mechanism for increasing income for the university. A proposal presented by UCOP to the Regents at their September meeting envisioned tuition increases between 8 to 16% annually from 2011-12 to 2015-16, at which time undergraduate tuition would reach $22.1 thousand per year, not including other mandatory fees, books, room, and board. Even the Regents balked at such a steep increase. Meanwhile the systemwide Academic Senate appears to have gone along with such increases, arguing that UC fees are still a bargain compared to the $30 to $60 thousand annual tuition at private universities. This situation is a far cry from how faculty and students stood united in the 1960’s against political intrusion by the state. Remember though, members of the Academic Senate have a conflict of interest, as their own salaries depend on such increases.
For the first time in its history, UC now gets more money from student tuition than from the state—$2.8 billion versus $2.4 billion. This raises the question of when do we cease being a public university and become a private one with some state support? At a recent rally on the UC Berkeley campus, Professor Richard Walker, Vice Chairman of the Berkeley Faculty Association, told students: “This great university may no longer be public and may no longer be great.” Unfortunately his words echo a prediction that I made in the last Newsletter, that we may no longer be the “best” public university and may have lost our premier reputation.
Those of you who attended our April joint CUCEA/CUCRA meeting at UCLA heard from Eddie Murphy, Director of the UCLA retirement center, and Cheryl Lloyd, Director, Liability & Property Programs Department of Risk Services at UCOP. They informed us that most of our emeriti and retiree associations lack liability insurance and, in fact, are not legally entitled to use the UC designation in the organizations’ names. This came as a great surprise to me and I am sure to most of you as well. This whole issue of liability was precipitated in 2007 by the death in a car accident of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, David Halberstam, following a talk he gave to the UC Berkeley School of Journalism Alumni Association. After this tragic accident, it became clear to some at UCOP, that many groups (i.e., alumni associations and support groups) assumed that they had insurance coverage through the University’s insurance programs. That assumption was incorrect. UC alumni associations now have such coverage under Regents Policy 5203. To extend similar liability coverage to UC retiree and emeriti groups systemwide, a new Regents policy is required. Accordingly, Lee Duffus, Vice Chair of CUCRA, in collaboration with Geoff O’Neill, Assistant Vice President UC, and John Sandbrook, UC Office of the President, drafted Regents Policy 5204. A version was agreed upon and submitted to President Yudof with a request that he present it to the Regents for their approval. Meanwhile, the wording of an earlier draft drew objections from the chair of UCFW and the chair of the Academic Council, Dan Simmons, who wrote:
“Mostly I am concerned with the language requiring representation on Senate committees addressing benefits and related issues. I think that committee constitution is, under existing standing orders, a matter for Senate determination and should not be directed by Regental policy. I would be happy to advocate Senate support for the policy if that whole paragraph could be removed.”
Charles Hess and I, representing CUCEA, conferred with the chairs of UCFW and
the Academic Council, and modified the wording of the proposal to satisfy their objections. However, the Academic Senate
has insisted on consulting further with their campus committees, which has unnecessarily
delayed the issue from going to the Regents' September meeting. It has now been
scheduled, as best I can determine, for the November meeting. Until such time
as the policy is approved, neither the UC emeriti nor retiree organizations are
covered by UC liability insurance, nor are we officially part of the UC system
although de facto we have been for