12:00am

Thu August 22, 2013
Education

Today on Your Call: What does new leadership in the UC system mean for the future of its schools?

On today's Your Call, we’ll talk about the future of the University of California.  Janet Napolitano is now president of the UC system and UC Berkeley has a new chancellor as well.  Many of the schools are still facing massive budget cuts.  So what do you hope from this new leadership?  What message do you want to send them about priorities for the UC?   Join the conversation on the next Your Call, with Rose Aguilar and you.

Guests:

 

 

Colleen Lye, member of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association

Brian Riley, PhD student and activist at UC Davis

Peter Schrag, reporter with the Sacramento Bee

Web Resources:

DailyCalifornian: Around 40 protest changes to workers’ contracts outside chancellor’s home

Slate: That’s Rich -- The chancellor of UC-Davis is a bona fide 1-percenter. When did executive pay at public universities get so high?

Al Jazeera: Clear and present dangers of Janet Napolitano's appointment as UC President

ABC News: Undocumented Students Describe Fears of Napolitano as New U.C. President

Daily Bruin: Napolitano appointment does not bode well for UC

Spot.us: The Investors’ Club: How the University of California Regents Spin Public Money into Private Profit

East Bay Express: Public Research for Private Gain 

LA Times: Is UC regent's vision for higher education clouded by his investments?

 FULL TRANSCRIPT:

ROSE AGUILAR (host): Welcome. I’m Rose Aguilar and this is Your Call.

AGUILAR (cont.): Over the past few decades, the University of California system has gone through some major changes. Since 1992, tuition has tripled and from 2011 to 2012, California cut $750 million from the UC budget. And then there are changes in leadership. On July 18th, UC Regents confirmed US Secretary of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano, as the next president of the 10-campus system, which educates over 238,000 graduate and undergraduate students. Napolitano will be the first female president in the UC’s 145-year history, but her appointment has received criticism, because she was hired by the UC Board of Regents behind closed doors. Protesters disrupted her confirmation, because Homeland Security, under her watch, deported almost 410,000 individuals from the US in 2012 alone. The LA Times reports that six of the 25 or so protesters were arrested and later released in the incident, which stopped the proceedings at UC San Francisco for about 15 minutes. The Regents’ student representative, Cinthia Flores, cast the only vote against Napolitano, saying that too many people live in daily fear of deportation, because of federal policies.

AGUILAR (cont.): So on today’s Your Call, we are talking about the changes that we’re seeing at the UC system. What’s in store for its future? What does the leadership say about the future of the ten schools? What concerns you about the UC system and what changes would you like to see? Joining us today is Colleen Lye. She’s co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, which has been active in the campaign to re-fund public higher education since 2008. Colleen is an associate professor of English and a scholar of California studies. Hi Colleen, welcome to the show.

COLLEEN LYE: Hi.

AGUILAR: Nice to have you.

LYE: I’m here. Glad to be here.

AGUILAR: Great to have you. And we’re joined by Brian Riley, a PhD student at UC Davis majoring in higher education policy. He’s a past columnist and science writer for the UC Davis student paper, the California Aggie, and is currently on the editorial board of the Davis Vanguard. He was president of the graduate student body government at UC Davis during the 2011 academic year and has been involved as an activist in the UC protest movement since the summer of 2009. Hi Brian, welcome to the show.

BRIAN RILEY: Happy to be here.

AGUILAR: Great to have you.

RILEY: Thanks.

AGUILAR: And Peter Schrag served for 19 years as editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee. He writes occasional pieces for the Bee and other publications and, since ’98, he’s been a visiting scholar at Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. Hi Peter, welcome back to the show.

PETER SCHRAG: Good morning. Thank you.

AGUILAR: Good morning. Nice to have you. So why don’t we start off by talking about the confirmation of US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as the next president of the 10-campus system. Peter, how surprising was this announcement?

SCHRAG: I’m not sure it was terribly surprising. I’m not sure–I don’t know what anybody expected. The Regents have–UC has a tough job in getting people even willing to serve in the job, because it’s a very tough, complicated job. The pay compared to other executives at major universities is not high. So it’s not clear that they–I know that they had trouble getting some candidates that they would have liked to have had throw their hats in the ring and did not. So, it’s a complicated process and as you said at the opening of the show, Janet Napolitano obviously had some cans tied to her tail, because of her record as Secretary of Homeland Security, particularly with regard to deportation. So it was not an easy–it was not an easy choice.

AGUILAR: According to the LA Times, her base salary is $570,000 a year, which at her request is $21,000 less than the pay for the current president, Mark Yudof. Colleen, what are your thoughts on Janet Napolitano’s appointment and were you surprised at all?

COLLEEN LYE: I guess in some ways I would echo Peter’s response, which is that it is difficult to recruit to lead the University of California right now, because of the perception of the many challenges facing public education in California. On the other hand, I think I have a slightly different perspective, which is that the faculty response, I would say was mixed. We were both surprised and not surprised. We were not surprised in the sense that we were aware that 

the Regents would be looking for somebody with a lot of clout who would have the celebrity to lead the University of California, but I think at the same time a lot of faculty were hoping for somebody who would come from either California–would have a natural constituency, or kind of historical connection to the state, and on the other hand perhaps have a kind of academic background that would enable her to understand the public research mission of the University. So in that sense, you know, the response was mixed, and I have more to say on that.

AGUILAR: Right, yeah, and we’ll definitely talk more about that and especially the challenges that she’ll be facing. She said, “Perhaps the most important things I will bring with me to California are my ears. I have much to learn about the University of California and I plan to listen.” She also said that Mark Yudof led UC through some, quote, “incredibly difficult times” and the recession now stabilized, she said, it’s time to push forward: “We must push ourselves and our institution to think even more broadly, to do more, to challenge ourselves at every turn.” Brian, what was the response of students? What are you hearing from students about Janet Napolitano?

BRIAN RILEY: Well, I would say mostly negative, although there is a large sector of kind of apathetic students, which unfortunately might even be the majority, and also another kind of, I don’t know, entrepreneurial-type sector of students, science oriented, who might have favored it, but I was really disappointed that it was done behind closed doors, and I’m guessing that Willie Brown might have talked personally with Jerry Brown. He was interviewed on television, and I think it might have been a deliberate leak that it was Governor Brown’s personal choice, is 

what Willie Brown was saying on TV.

AGUILAR: Peter, do you have any knowledge of that?

SCHRAG: No, but I’m not surprised that Willie Brown would take credit for whatever is done. Obviously–and Napolitano is well connected in the Democratic Party, and therefore–and Jerry Brown clearly has been positive about her choice, but, you know, I mean, as they say, I think Willie Brown will claim credit for anything that’s credible, so I don’t know what the background was, but I do think that this is an era in which university–public university presidents are more recognized and are more maybe valued for their political skills–their ability to raise money, their ability to lobby–than they are as educators and academics, which is what they once were, two generations ago. So, I’m not surprised that it was a politician, somebody with a pretty good record, a Democrat, and none of that, I think, is surprising.

AGUILAR: And why is that the case, Peter. Why is that? Why have we seen such a major shift in that direction?

SCHRAG: Well, as has been said already, obviously funding is a serious problem, for lots of reasons that we don’t need to go into, and funding is a serious problem for most public universities, and for private universities, too, but the institutions that, let’s say that, UC competes with, and certainly that Berkeley and UCLA compete with, are institutions that are well funded, well endowed, and so it becomes a harder and harder competitive position, so that again means that the regents will be looking for somebody who has connections in Sacramento, who has connections in Washington, who will be welcome in foundations, and I think that was something that was very valuable to them.

AGUILAR: We’ll talk a little bit about how much power Janet Napolitano will have and what role does the president actually play here, but first off, let’s kind of look at the bigger picture. What challenges is the UC system facing right now? And since 1992 tuition has tripled, and so many students are facing massive debt. Brian, I know you are. From 2011 to 2012 California cut $750 million from the UC budget. There’s just so much talk about how the UC system is becoming increasingly privatized and corporatized at the expense of students, faculty and staff. So why don’t we talk a little bit about this. What are some of the major changes–what are some of the challenges, I should say, facing the UC right now, Colleen?

LYE: Yeah, that’s–I’m glad you raised that question, because I was just thinking as Peter was talking how much I agree with the trend, you know, the changes regarding what is expected from university leadership over the last ten, twenty years, ten years especially, when the universities are becoming seen more and more like other institutions, like corporations, whereby there’s a kind of sense of a fungible set of skills that, whether you’re the leader of a bank or the leader of a university or the leader of a private company, might be expected to have. On the one hand that’s a reality, on the other hand that’s a reality that’s also producing contradictions for public universities, both in terms of the alienation that faculty feel from a kind of corporate-managerial culture that is now ruling them from above and structuring their conditions of work that seems very different to the kind of values that attract academics to university culture in the first place. And on the other hand, to the public, who are worried about bloated administration or overpaid administrators, and so faculty also feel a slight, you know, cringing embarrassment at the way in which administrative salaries at the very top are so much more than that made by full professors or even Nobel Prize winners within the university, not out of personal greed, because most people don’t go into academia for financial compensation, but because they’re aware that the public isn’t supportive of that, and so that speaks to the difficulty of trying to maintain the heritage of and legacy of the University of California, which was at one point the representative of a new model of education, which is mass quality education, that you can have the best education possible and at a very affordable price, if not for free at one point.

AGUILAR: And where are those changes coming from exactly? I mean, when you talk about a major shift from academia to running the UC system like a business, where does that come from?

LYE: You’re asking me, or?

AGUILAR: Yes.

LYE: Well, I think there are many social and ecomonic forces. I mean, partly it’s about the restructuring of higher education in general. Keeping up with private peers is, as Peter mentioned, an economic race that’s very difficult. I mean, a lot of private universities have endowments that, you know, they’ve raised money from way back that allows them to do things that, you know, we have to catch up to. It has to do with–insofar as we have long been dependent on state sources, and basically it has to do with the state cutting back and disinvesting in higher education over the last 30 years, and an increasing sort of anti-tax mentality, post-Prop 13 in the late ’70s that has to do with the general disinvestment in the public sector that makes it very difficult to maintain quality as a public good that, you know, everyone can benefit from.

AGUILAR: And that is Colleen Lye. She’s co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association–UC Berkeley Faculty Association, which has been active in the campaign to re-fund public higher education since 2008. Peter Schrag, you served for 19 years as editorial page editor of the SacBee. You’ve seen a lot of changes. What challenges would you like to highlight? What is the UC system facing right now?

SCHRAG: Well, I think many have been mentioned, including by you, obviously there’s a reduction in public investment in higher education, under the stresses of our current economy. California is spending much more of its public dollars on corrections–prisons, health care, a whole lot of things that in the heyday of, let’s say the heyday of Clark Kerr in the ’60s, would have gone proportionately to higher education, when we’re celebrating, we passed the Master Plan, which, as Colleen said, essentially promised quality higher education, or quality education, to anyone who could benefit from it at a very low cost. Those days are gone, and they’re gone for lots of reasons, having to do with the economy, having to do with public attitudes, much more of a sense now, and I think it’s true, since the day of Prop 13 in 1978, that more and more we regard higher education as a private good rather than as a public good, which is very regrettable, and in a sense–in addition, more broadly, a kind of replacement for what used to be a kind of communitarian set of values to an individualistic set of values, and that’s true through our whole culture. So there’re lots of things that are going on, and universities obviously have to respond to it, and we’ve had a series of crises over the last generation–actually more than the last generation–at UC as well as elsewhere, having to do with those major tightening of the belt of changes in priorities, more privatization–as somebody said, of the whole system–not acknowledged, but certainly going on, a shift toward–We’re admitting more out-of-state students who at UC–out-of-state/out-of-the-country students who pay much higher tuition, and those are all things that are part of the privatization.

AGUILAR: And Brian, what effect is this all having on students? You have said that you probably would not have enrolled at UC Davis if you had known how much student debt you’d end up with.

RILEY: Right, yeah. I mentioned that to your producer yesterday. I’m positive that I would not have enrolled, because, you know, there’s a lot of uncertainties going in anyway, but knowing that I would come out, you know, tens of thousands of dollars in debt, I would weigh that and think: Well, what am I getting into this for? What’s the, you know, it would have been a bad move on my part. But anyway, it turns out I’m glad I did anyway. But as for the shift towards kind of like the business model of higher education, I think a lot of that comes from Ronald Reagan, actually, who used a distortion of what the Free Speech Movement was all about–

He distorted what it was about to use that as a launching pad into the governorship and the presidency, and the nation swung to the right, you know, based on his short-sighted pragmatism. I think that’s where it came from.

AGUILAR: And that is Brian Riley. He’s a PhD student at UC Davis, majoring in higher education policy. Colleen Lye is co-chair of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association. Peter Schrag served for 19 years as editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, and on today’s Your Call we are talking about the future of the UC system, as it’s going through major changes and new leadership. On July 18th, UC Regents confirmed US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as the next president of the ten-campus system, which educates over 238,000 undergrad and graduate students. And we’d love to hear from you–Oh, I also want to mention that we did reach out to Nick Dirks, chancellor of UC Berkeley. He said he had meetings. We reached out to the Media Relations Office for the UC Office of the President, Steve Montiel. He said it was too premature to talk about the future leadership. UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal was too busy to join us, and we never got a response from [the] UC Santa Cruz provost/vice chancellor. So we wanted to have an official person on from UC, but we weren’t able to get anyone, but we would love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on the changes that we’re seeing at the UC system? If you went to school there, what was your experience like? What do you think about the budget cuts, the tuition hikes? What concerns you the most? What should the priorities be moving forward? The toll-free number is 866-798-8255, 866-798-8255. You can also e-mail: feedback@yourcallradio.org, or leave a comment on our website: yourcallradio.org.

AGUILAR (cont.): So you all brought up so many issues that we’d really like to really dive into, but first off, Colleen, as the leadership is changing, what is the process for faculty. I mean, do you feel like your voices are heard? Do you have regular meetings? Were you able to express your concerns? What is that like?

LYE: Are you asking the question about the presidency level, or the chancellor level, because they’re slightly different.

AGUILAR: Well, just–OK, talk about the differences.

LYE: At the level of the UCOP/president, there’s very limited consultation. The official process is one in which the Board of Regents sets up a subcommittee of the Regents who then leads the search, and advisory to them are certain selected individuals who form a faculty advisory committee, a staff advisory committee, and they have advisory but not binding input on the regential selection process. It’s a process that is very secretive. Faculty–no one knew of the appointment until it was announced. At the level of searching for chancellor, there’s more input–much more input from faculty and students and staff.

AGUILAR: Why is the process for finding a new president so secretive?

LYE: Well, the official line seems to be that no qualified individuals would apply if it were an open process, because they wouldn’t want to let their current employer know they were looking for another job, which, you know, if it’s President Obama, that’s, I guess, understandable [laughing]. However, we’re not entirely convinced that’s a necessity, since other universities are actually moving into a more transparent direction where it’s possible to bring finalists back to campus and for the university constituencies at all different levels to have some input and, you know, say in the process. So, I would support that.

AGUILAR: OK, and so you feel like you don’t really have a voice when it comes to the president, but you do when it comes to the chancellors.

LYE: More so. It’s still, you know, it’s still a pretty confidential process, as all high-level personnel processes tend to be–

AGUILAR: Right.

LYE: –but there’s more in-built structure for faculty, staff and student consultation.

AGUILAR: OK, we’ve got a number of callers on the line, so let’s take a few before we go to break. Let’s hear from Greg in Palo Alto. Hi, Greg. Welcome to the show.

GREG (Palo Alto): Hello. I have a couple questions. One is, I’m wondering if your guests could address the issue of compensation, if you will, or appointments at other state university systems, or even private colleges, and I live in Palo Alto. Stanford’s right across the street. I’m not sure who’s the current president, maybe Hennessy, I’m not sure, maybe someone else, but I’m not sure that they’ve got somebody who’s got the notoriety, if you will, of Napolitano. So I’m just curious about, say, the University of Washington, or some of the other state systems that are fairly good–New York’s–Who’s the head? What’s their compensation package? And then–or packages–and then even if you get into the mid-range and smaller colleges, I realize it’s a completely different system, but I’d be curious about that, so I’m not sure why it’s necessary to hire somebody with that kind of name recognition. I guess the last question I have is, or concern, I guess, is that we’ve reached sort of the dream state here with the Democrats. They now 

control both houses in California and they’ve got the governorship, and yet they’re unable to do things that the Democrats wanted to do in the past and got vetoed by Republican governors, so I’m not sure why it’s impossible for there to be sort of a re-orientation, if you will, by the state political process, given the fact that the entire process is governed by Democrats.

AGUILAR: And just quickly–We have about 20 seconds before break–What changes would you like to see, Greg?

GREG (Palo Alto): Well, I mean, obviously we’re putting money into programs and projects that, as far as I’m concerned, are questionable. You’ve already raised one. The prison system just drains money out of any system, or any budget–

AGUILAR: Right, so like major, obviously major shift in policy. OK, so we’re going to talk about that. I actually just found a study by the Chronicle of Higher Education looking at executive compensation at 500 private colleges, so we’ll talk about that right after the break, and we’ll also talk about the top-paid UC employees. We’re talking about the future of the UC system. We’ll be back after this.

[Break]

AGUILAR: This is Your Call. I’m Rose Aguilar. Coming up tomorrow it’s our media roundtable. We’ll discuss coverage of Bradley Manning’s 35-year sentence, and new revelations about the NSA illegally collecting thousands of e-mails. We will also talk about the Guardian–Glenn Greenwald. His partner was detained for nine hours in London. We’ll talk about media coverage of that and what that means for journalism, and we’ll discuss coverage of the horrific events in Syria, where over a thousand people have reportedly been killed by a chemical weapons attack. So a lot to talk about tomorrow. If you see any good stories on these issues, please send them over to us: feedback@yourcallradio.org. On Monday, we’re talking about web-based crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter–how that’s changing the fundraising landscape at a time when now more money is being doled out by these web-based platforms than the National Endowment for the Arts. And if you have a show idea or a guest idea, you can drop us a line: feedback@yourcallradio.org.

AGUILAR (cont.): Today we are talking about the changes that we’re seeing in the UC system and the future of leadership. Over the past few decades we saw so many changes. Tuition has tripled since 1992. Last year, California cut $750 million from the UC budget, and now the ten-campus system will have a new president. US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was confirmed on July 18th. So we’d love to hear from you. We actually have full lines. We’ll have one open in a couple of minutes. What changes have you seen? What concerns you the most and what should the priorities be moving forward? 866-798-8255. You can also e-mail: feedback@yourcallradio.org. If you go to, or you’ve gone to UC, if you work there, we’d love to hear from you. We did try to reach out to Nick Dirks, chancellor of UC Berkeley, the Media Relations for the UC Office of the President, UC Santa Cruz’s chancellor, and UC Santa Cruz provost, but they all couldn’t make it on today’s show. We are joined by Colleen Lye, co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, associate professor of English and a scholar of California studies. Brian Riley is a PhD student at UC Davis, majoring in higher education. Peter Schrag served for 19 years as editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee.

AGUILAR (cont.): So why don’t we talk about Greg’s question in terms of compensation and salaries of presidents of the UC [and] public universities rose about 5 percent in the last fiscal year, according to a new report, topping $400,000. When you’re talking about private schools, [for the top tier] it’s about a million dollars. Peter, what are your thoughts on pay? What stands out for you?

SCHRAG: As UC people will be quick to remind you, the UC president’s salary is not very high compared to other, similar institutions, and some are way, way higher. So it’s fairly modest. You also have to consider that there are people at UC who are making more money–a lot more money than the president is, including athletic coaches, medical school professors, probably some medical school deans, though I’m not sure about that, so the whole compensation–and of course, UC is now, as other universities are, too, when they’re hiring administrators, they’re also to some extent competing with and modeling themselves on the corporate world, where, if you’re hiring a treasurer for a university, or financial officer, or some other corporate job, you may not be competing as much with other universities, as you are with private corporations. So it gets to be a much more complicated, mixed picture than it would have been 50 years ago.

AGUILAR: Yeah, and the University actually just released its yearly salary list, and we’ll put a link on our website right after the show. UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland was number one. He is receiving $2.23 million in gross pay. UC Berkeley’s Jeff Tedford, $2.14 million before being fired in December after a 3 win, 9 loss season, and then UCLA’s liver transplant surgeon, Ronald Busuttil, $2.23 million in gross pay. Janet Napolitano is actually number 180 on the list, so there’s a lot more people ahead of her. Before we move on, Colleen, do you want to mention or say anything about salaries?

LYE: Yeah, pragmatically, I agree with, you know, Peter’s description of the situation. I think where I’d probably differ is to say that, philosophically, I think it’s a sort of a race to the bot–the “race to the top” is going to be a race to the bottom, as it were, for public universities, in trying to compete on a market basis, and so even at a pragmatic level, I’m not sure that we can buy into the idea that ability correlates with compensation. In fact, we know that ability doesn’t correlate with compensation, necessarily, even in the private sector. You could have [not] very good CEOs who are overpaid who are not particularly good at their jobs. I think the real problem, in general, is the overcompensation of managers, you know, and executives, compared to employees that we’re seeing, as a result of kind of financialized logic taking over the measurement of institutions in general, and we see that on Wall Street, we see that in the private sector, and that’s all really about saying that an institution’s value depends on how much you’re paying the executive, not really how much value or profit even that that company’s actually making.

AGUILAR: And have faculty taken pay cuts over the years? I mean, what’s your situation like?

LYE: In the wake of the 2008 recession, we had a furlough that all employees, including faculty, were subject to for one year, and subsequently to that our salaries have not kept up with the rate of inflation. There’s also a ramp-up in retirement contributions. That means that the take-home pay effectively has gone down, so there’ve been huge staff layoffs, I mean the staff and the students have taken a much bigger hit than the faculty have, as a result of the one-third budget cut since 2008 that the 5% increase promised for this year, you know, hardly makes a dent at. But, yeah, so we shouldn’t complain, compared to the staff or the students. We’re very concerned about the skyrocketing tuition.

AGUILAR: How has this affected morale?

LYE: Among faculty?

AGUILAR: Yes, and just what you’re seeing in your everyday life at UC Berkeley?

LYE: Ah, that’s a long, philosophical question and you can imagine, there’s a lot of, you know, “cooler chat” about that, if we actually had coolers in department offices. You know, I think that a lot of people here–Let’s just put it this way. I think that a lot of people here who care about California and who choose to work in the public sector [are here] because they believe in access and they believe in serving a very diverse student population. Berkeley, for example, has more Pell Grant recipients than all the Ivy Leagues combined.

AGUILAR: Wow.

LYE: We have large numbers of first-time, you know, college-attending students–students who come from backgrounds that are immigrant backgrounds or second-language backgrounds, so there’s a large aspect to working here that makes it different from teaching at an elite institution, and there was a point at which many faculty felt that they were making that choice because you could have it both ways. You could be in a really competitive environment in which you could do top-quality research, world-class research, and also serve a very diverse population, and that’s–that’s, I think, what holds a lot of people here still who could actually take higher salaries at, you know, private schools.

AGUILAR: That’s Colleen Lye. She’s co-chair of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association, which has been active in the campaign to re-fund public higher education. She’s associate professor of English and a scholar of California studies. Peter Schrag served for 19 years as editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, and before we get to more calls, Peter, do you want to address Greg’s question about where are the Democrats on these issues? I mean, who’s really talking about these issues in Sacramento?

SCHRAG: Well, I think that in the last year or two there’s been a fair amount achieved in Sacramento, and not great, but certainly a fair amount. The state’s fiscal situation has improved remarkably. We’ve raised taxes. We passed a ballot initiative. The Fiscal Legislative Analyst is predicting that instead of deficits in the years down the road, we may actually see surpluses. So things are getting better. They’re not great by any means, and as Colleen has pointed out, students are graduating with too much debt, but I would also say, and this is not a criticism of the UC faculty or the Berkeley faculty, among whom I have a number of friends, but people are still standing probably ten deep in line, hoping to get a job at Berkeley or UCLA. So I don’t think it’s–it’s as if, yes, some people leave, because other institutions offer better deals, but by and large people, whether it’s–These are very desirable jobs.

AGUILAR: Alright, well thanks again for the question. Let’s go next to Kathryn in Oakland. Hi Kathryn, welcome to the show

KATHRYN (Oakland, CA): Hi, good morning.

AGUILAR: Hi, good morning. 

KATHRYN (Oakland, CA): So for full disclosure, I’m also the president of the union that represents service workers and patient care workers at the University, and, you know, I wanted to pick up on something that Colleen said. She talked about over-compensation of managers compared to front-line workers. I think that the way we talk about that–another way to talk about that is “the growing income inequality gap,” right? And that’s one thing that, you know, we talk about more broadly in the private sector. It’s not something that should be in the discussion for public sector, and we should, I think, squarely locate UC within the public sector. University of California gets $2.7 billion in direct support from California taxpayers, and so, you know, as your guests have pointed out, I think really well, that, you know, the administrators, everybody who works at the University are public servants, and you know there are incentives for working at the University of California, at a public institution. It’s different from working for private, and so, you know, even the administrators need to understand that they are public servants, the same way that the governor is. Currently, there’s seventy-six hundred employees at the University who make more than the Governor. There’s 700 who make more than the President of the United States, and, you know, I think that when we’re looking for solutions for the future of the University, and we do need to talk about it that way. I think that incoming President Napolitano is inheriting a train wreck, but, you know, it’s possible, I believe, to turn the ship around. When we talk about solutions, I think it’s got to be driven from the top, and, honestly, in ways that that turn around that trend, that, you know, Colleen and the other guests have been talking about.

AGUILAR: So Kathryn, I’m so glad you brought up solutions. I mean, what would you say to Janet Napolitano? What direction do you want her to take?

KATHRYN (Oakland, CA): Well, you know, honestly there’s some concrete things, and I think picking up from some of those solutions we’re already starting to see. So, for example, Governor Brown helped drive the push to pass Prop 30. You know, students, faculty, certainly, and workers at UC were instrumental in helping to get that passed, as well. We worked hard to get that passed. It’s a solution and it’s a very positive turn to see Californians voting in favor of higher taxes to support public higher education, and so that meant that that was $125 million that wasn’t cut from the University. That should hold administrators to a higher standard, to not hire, for example, at $260,000 per year communications vice chancellor at UC Davis to handle problems like the $50,000 fine that Davis medical center just got for serious lapse in patient care. I think that solutions are, number one, look at where you’re getting things. Look at the problems you’re trying to cover up and actually just address the problems. So, you know, hire more staff to handle the patient safety issue, right? Another solution, though, is hold UC to the standards of other state workers, you know, UC–another benefit that UC gets because it’s a state institution is that it doesn’t pay state property taxes, so, you know, the medical centers, for example, are extremely profitable, but they don’t pay taxes on that. What you could do, then, is actually, for example, and I, you know, I’ll front-load this. As a worker I’m not as extremely excited about the general discussion on pension reform. I wasn’t excited about pension reform at the state level when Jerry Brown pushed that through, but UC has just pushed through pension reform. The main difference between UC’s pension reform and the state’s is that it protects executive pension compensation. If we actually brought UC’s pension reform into line with the state, we would see $130 million in savings, or more, and that could be used to actually lower tuition costs. It could be used to actually start hiring more faculty. The number of faculty’s slipped by two percent in the same years, the budget crisis years, when the number–the greatest number of workers hired was in the executive level, the managerial level–

AGUILAR: Well, Kathryn, I’m really glad–Yeah, I’m so glad that you brought up the solutions. I hate to cut you off. We just have full lines and I want to make sure we get to them. We’ve got just over ten minutes left. If you can send us a link about that pension information that would be great, because I’d love to see those numbers and then we can share that with the rest of our listeners. And the e-mail is: feedback@yourcallradio.org. So thanks so much for calling, Kathryn. Let’s go through a few more calls and then we’ll get responses from our guests. And it’d be great if you could also share some of your solutions. Let’s hear from Andy in Redwood City. Hi Andy.

ANDY (Redwood City, CA): Hi, how ya doin’, Rose?

AGUILAR: Good, thanks.

ANDY (Redwood City, CA): On Janet Napolitano, I just want to mention that there’ve been a number of studies done that show skill sets of CEOs, executives don’t transfer well between industries and even between companies within industries, and Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times has written about this quite a bit. But CEOs are way, way overpaid for what they actually bring to the table, and this goes for Ms. Napolitano, and then not to mention you also brought up, that it’s the morale problem by not hiring from within the organization, and it’s really the relationships within the organization, within the institution that counts the most on being effective and getting the most productivity and creating a world-class organization, and I just think it’s a big mistake to bring in Ms. Napolitano, and she’s way overrated, because these skill sets just do not transfer. Thank you.

AGUILAR: Alright, thank you, Andy. We will get a comment in just a couple minutes. First let’s go to Martice in San Francisco? Hi, welcome to the show.

MARGARET (San Francisco, CA): Hello?

AGUILAR: Hi, go ahead, you’re on the air.

MARGARET (San Francisco, CA): Actually, it’s “Margaret”–

AGUILAR: Oh, sorry. Hi Margaret.

MARGARET (San Francisco, CA): No that’s OK, and just a couple things. First I wanted to address someone’s comment about how modest the compensation of the president is, and you know, Mark Yudof is retiring with less than, I think, about five years service and he’ll get $250,000 for the rest of his life, a year. Mark Laret, the CEO at UCSF made $1.3 million last year and will make more than $300,000 upon retirement, so you know, I think that’s pretty good, and yet one thing I don’t think that the taxpayers really appreciate is how much the bloat at the top of UC is hurting not only students, not only faculty, not only staff, but patients. At all of UC medical centers there is understaffing–well documented understaffing. A hospital [inaudible] actually a death, because the category of worker at UC San Diego who watches people that might walk away was replaced by a video monitor and that person walked away and was found days later dead in a canyon. So, you know, as one of your recent guests said, you know, all of the improvements in pay and, you know, much of the hiring is at the upper-administrative thing. I believe that in the past five years the number of executives or administrators making more than $400,000 has gone up five hundred percent, you know, and that’s kind of shocking. And then there will be people, the lowest-paid people, who will retire after 25-30 years of service with $12,000 a year. Yeah, I really think that UC needs to be a lot more responsible and answerable to issues the way that they abuse and waste taxpayers’ money. Thank you very much. It’s a great show.

AGUILAR: Well, thank you so much, Margaret. And again, Janet Napolitano’s base salary will be $570,000 a year. She’ll receive free housing in a UC-leased house, $8,900 a year for car expenses and $142,000 for one-time relocation costs. Peter, how would you go about tackling this issue of salaries and waste at the top?

SCHRAG: Well, I, you know, we could discuss this for hours and hours. It’s a hugely complicated situation. If you’re talking about the medical schools, you have to ask are they part of the academic world, or are they part of the medical world? If you’re talking about them as part of the medical world, that’s itself a huge scandal, as we know, and of course they compete with the medical world. If you want a good doctor for a UC hospital, he might work just as well at a private hospital and maybe make more money. So this is a very complicated situation. As far as people at the top, I don’t know what the numbers are. I do know that when Yudof was hired, the first thing he was asked to do was to clean out some of the over-staffing at the president’s office, the central office, and he in fact reduced the number of administrators at UCOP, the University of California Office of the President, by a significant number. How many of them later–were then ended up at the campuses, I don’t know, but there certainly was a reducation in administrators at the central office. Again, I don’t know the numbers, or I did know the numbers, but these are not things one remembers very long.

AGUILAR: Yeah, well, just to let everyone know, I’ve been pitching a show about CEO pay. The average CEO pay [in the Fortune 500] is about $12 million a year now, so we might just do a show about this, because as Peter said, it would take a long time to focus on salaries, but it’s an important one we’re talking about, this UC system. Peter Schrag is–served 19 years as editorial page editor for the Sacramento Bee. Brian Riley is a PhD student at UC Davis. Colleen Lye is co-chair of the UC Berkeley Faculty Association. And going back to the bigger picture, I want to read an e-mail from Kathryn Klar with UC Berkeley. She’s a lecturer there who says: “The privatization/corporatization and the shift in values Peter mentions has not ‘just happened.’ It’s been done systematically by people who can be identified. The main plan for what is now happening was originated in something called the ‘Gould Commission Report on the future of UC.’ It was overseen by Regent Russell Gould. He was with former Regent Gerald Parsky, a close friend of Dianne Feinstein and other powerful California state operatives, and multibillionaire Richard”–Is it “Blum” [bluhm] or “Blum” [bloom]? I always forget, Peter.

SCHRAG: It’s “Blum” [bluhm].

AGUILAR: Blum [bluhm], thank you–“Feinstein’s husband.” Kathryn writes: “In 2008, when Blum fired Robert Dynes and hired Mark Yudof, Blum stated publicly that, quote: ‘I’ve spent most of my waking hours for the last year dealing with the restructuring of the University.’” That’s what he said to the Chronicle. So, Kathryn says people need to start naming names and she thanks you, Peter, for pointing out Willie Brown’s sense of influence. She said if we don’t “name names, nothing will change. Everything will remain opaque, and the reality of public education will continue receding into a hazy memory.” What are your thoughts, Peter?

SCHRAG: Well, Blum actually, I mean, there can be all kinds of conspiratorial notions about Blum and what he’s doing, but he was the person who, as much as anyone, worried about the excess of administrators at the central–the president’s central office, and one of the reasons that–I mean, I remember when Yudof was hired, in talking to Blum at the time, and Blum was like–like the father of the ugly soprano in some opera, finally getting his daughter married off and saying: “Whew, I’m glad I got rid of this headache.” He was a–he was so relieved when Yudof took the job and essentially started tackling the mess at the president’s office. So, but as I say, I’m not here to defend Richard Blum. He can do that for himself, but he did play, I think, a positive role in reducing the excess of administrators at the central office.

AGUILAR: And Colleen, anything to add there about Richard Blum and the importance of naming names, according to Kathryn?

LYE: I don’t have anything specific on that other than to say that I think that the question of transparency and accountability that the public expects of public institutions raises another interesting point that was brought up earlier regarding–I think it was Andy who mentioned skill sets not transferring necessarily, and so this comes back to the question of Napolitano’s challenges, right? In coming from her background to leading a university, which is to say that law enforcement culture, which is her background, is not the same as university culture. So I see that one of the challenges will be how to adapt to that. Law enforcement culture, as we know, especially now with concerns about NSA surveillance, is a culture of secrecy, and university culture is a culture of intellectual curiosity, you know, free exploration of ideas, as well as a space where student protests and the freedom of speech have been of great historical importance. So those are some of the concerns that we also have with regard to her coming into the office.

SCHRAG: Can I throw in a couple of things here–

RILEY: Can I add a brief word?

AGUILAR: Sure, let me just get Brian, because Brian’s been waiting patiently. Go ahead, Brian, just quickly. We’re almost out of time.

RILEY: If you Google–Blum issued a public statement in 2007 titled: “We Need to Be Strategically Dynamic.” If you Google that, you’ll see that he’s been a major force behind the attempted privatization of UC, and I hope that Governor Jerry Brown does not nominate him for reappointment [as UC Regent] next spring in 2014, and if he does, I hope the Senate rejects it.

AGUILAR: We only have about a minute left, Brian, and Nancy in Berkeley’s on the line. We don’t have time to take her. She’s almost 90. She said when she went to UC it cost her $27.50 a semester and didn’t hurt her family. What are you paying right now?

RILEY: What am I paying in tuition?

AGUILAR: Yes.

RILEY: Whew, it’s over $13,000 a year.

AGUILAR: $13,000.

RILEY: The last time I checked.

AGUILAR: And again, the tuition has tripled since 1992. Brian, what would you say to Janet Napolitano?–in about 30 seconds.

RILEY: [laughing] I would say: Please resign as quickly as possible, so we can get an academic in there.

AGUILAR: [laughing] Wow. Colleen, what about you. What would you say?

LYE: I would say: Janet, I hope you will do a great job being an effective advocate for the value of a public research university, in Sacramento, because I think you’ve been hired because of your Democratic Party clout.

AGUILAR: And, Peter, we’re getting e-mails from listeners who say: How do we break this cycle? What can citizens who are concerned about this do?

SCHRAG: Well, citizens can vote for a higher public support of public universities. But I would also say a couple of things about Janet Napolitano–

AGUILAR: –And we have about 20 seconds.

SCHRAG: Sure. One is she went to a small college, a liberal arts college. If that helps her reduce or change or modify the culture of UC, which is essentially so focused now on selling itself as a high-tech, career-training institution, that would be helpful. The other thing I think we should say is that as head of Homeland Security, she not only was in law enforcement, she also did disaster relief. She had a–

AGUILAR: Alright.

SCHRAG: –great large portfolio beyond law enforcement.

AGUILAR: Thank you. Peter Schrag, Brian Riley and Colleen Lye. Thank you all for joining us. 

AGUILAR: And thank you for listening. I’m Rose Aguilar. It’s Your Call.

 

 

 

 

Related program: