Chancellor George Blumenthal offers some insight on campus cuts and the future of the University of California. City on a Hill Press and KZSC sat down with the chancellor on May 4 to feel out the future of our campus. We asked questions about the budget, faculty terminations, political standing and privatization.
City on a Hill Press: Is there some action that the administration or student body can take to actively cut off the budget cuts before they get down to us?
George Blumenthal: It’s really important that legislators and parents and everyone understand how important higher education is to the state of California. It’s really important that legislatures continue to hear from the students. Students have lots of vote — votes count. We’re trying to raise money in other ways. Private money is key to the future of our campus. But that’s more a long-term goal. We’re in a financial crisis. I’m worried about the long-term trends. During 1990, the UC budget was 7 percent of the state budget, now it’s 3.5 percent. Private fundraising is up by 46 percent — we have a good start but we have a lot further to go.
CHP: How do you plan to go about privatization without compromising the integrity of the public university?
GB: There’s privatization and there’s privatization. Even at UC, despite all of the fee increases … what students pay in the ed[ucational] fee is still less than what they pay in room and board. Private fundraising opens the possibility, for example, of raising money for students for scholarships and financial aid for students, so that’s a different kind of privatization than the privatization where you have an expectation [that] fees are going to be very high for everybody. If we raise private money and we have only so many people, it’s possible that some of them will give money for one purpose when my priority or your priority may be something else. On the other hand, it’s been my experience that people give money for what they’re passionate about.
KZSC: Who are some of the top private donors?
GB: I’m reluctant to give you a long list because some of them like to remain more anonymous. I’m not sure that we proactively publish those lists for obvious reasons because “University Down the Road” [could] look at our lists.
CHP: UCSC has developed some new programs over the last couple years and we are continuing to build new programs, like the game design program through the engineering department. If some divisions have enough surplus to create new programs, why isn’t that money instead given to divisions with deficit to prevent cutting like the community studies program?
GB: Each academic division has to make its own priorities within the division. The engineering school has a lot of things that they’re not doing as a result of these programs. [Other divisions] are also not doing things they might otherwise do. No department has complained to me yet that they have too many resources.
CHP: What is your position on the ballot measures for the special election?
GB: The regents have taken a position in support of 1A. Those propositions are important for the funding of the university in the near term and were they not to pass we’d be facing much more severe consequences. On the other hand, Prop. 1A has some future spending caps which could adversely affect the university in the long run, but right now most of us are more concerned about next year or the year after than we are about the long run. At best, those measures are a Band-aid for the state financial situation. But from the university’s perspective, next year’s budget is going to be strongly dependent on their passing. Also, it is really troubling that the budget for the UC and the CSU and K-12 seems to be held up every year and we keep getting cut. Going from year to year not knowing what our budget is, facing very deep cuts. Even if [the budget for] next year or the year after goes up to make up for all these cuts, going down and up, down and up is not a good way to run any education system.
KZSC: Why are Drs. Jonas and Delgado being terminated?
GB: I can’t comment about individuals. I would draw a distinction between someone who’s a ladder-ranked professor and otherwise.
KZSC: How much does student voice weigh in on your decisions?
GB: We certainly hear it. This is your university just like anybody else’s. I can’t guarantee that the student voice will also be heeded. Hearing it is one thing. It’d be very helpful if they could identify realistically other things that could be used instead as cuts.
KZSC: Where does money from increased fees go?
GB: Some campuses are winners and some campuses are losers. The two big winner campuses are San Francisco and Los Angeles. New money is frequently given out in proportion to the existing budget. On the other hand, students in the UC system are not distributed in the same way that the budget is. I hate to see fee increases but if they don’t pass those fee increases for next year, as bad as it is, it’s going to be far worse.
CHP: There’s been a lack of transparency in the process of the budget cuts. Is the system of communication between students and the administration and faculty working?
GB: The issue of transparency on budget is an important one. Throughout this process we’ve tried to put out campus messages to let people know where we are in the budget process. In terms of things like talking to Dean [of Social Sciences Sheldon] Kaminieki or getting answers to all the questions that Jim [Burns] might get asked, there’s an additional difficulty there and that is not always the decision’s final. I’m not suggesting to you that the process is as transparent as it could possibly be.