Two weeks ago an audit of the University of California found that the UC pays its executives salaries and benefits significantly higher than those given to other state employees with similar roles, but of more concern is it failed to reveal up to $175 million in budget reserve funds as it recently proposed a raise in tuition.
“Our report concludes that the Office of the President has amassed substantial reserve funds, used misleading budgeting practices, provided its employees with generous salaries and atypical benefits, and failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on systemwide initiatives,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote to Governor Brown.
“It is shocking. It is disappointing, but it’s not totally unexpected,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, who asked for the audit. “We’re jacking up tuition for middle-class families, we are squeezing access, and at the same time we are sitting on this $175-million suitcase in the corner.”
Last week, President Janet Napolitano apologized Tuesday for the way her office handled the investigation, but disputed several of the audit’s findings.
Students at UC Davis today will be protesting regarding the audit report. In a change.org petition, they write, “On April 25, 2017 the California state auditor released a ‘scathing’ report that revealed the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) keeping $175 million in a hidden fund and engaging in shady book-keeping practices. This report also highlighted that UC executive compensation is excessively high. This news is disturbing and betrays the public trust.”
The students are therefore making four demands.
First, rollback: “Given that in January the UC Regents voted to raise tuition for the first time in six years, because they claimed to need the $88 million this tuition hike would raise, when the whole time the UC system had more than double this sum, we call for an immediate rollback of the recent tuition hike.”
Second, redistribute: “In light of the UC continually not paying livable wages to its students and workers we demand that the UC pay a living wage to all of its workers – not just those working over 20 hours per week, and to not exempt contracted workers from this living wage. We also demand the UC build more affordable on-campus housing for both students and workers and lower class sizes. The UC can fund these demands with the remainder of the hidden $175 million, after the tuition rollback is paid for, and by cutting the excessive executive compensation.”
Third, responsibility: “We demand Janet Napolitano to resign for this mismanagement of funds, and for lack of transparency and loss of public trust.” As the Mercury News reported, “Napolitano’s office interfered in a survey of campuses. Campus statements that were initially critical of the Office of the President were revised, the auditor said, and quality ratings shifted to be more positive.”
Fourth, restructure: “This $175 million dollar question is the last straw in a long series of UC administrative scandals. Last year UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi resigned under pressure after a thirty-six day long student sit-in outside her office after news about excessive compensation from moonlighting on outside boards and conflicts of interest because of those boards.
“Despite this, the new UC Davis Chancellor, Gary May, will be making more money from his outside board positions than former Chancellor Katehi. There has also been a string of inadequately handled sexual harassment cases that have come to light recently, including top professors from Berkeley and UCLA, a Dean, a UC Regent, and many more.”
The students write, “We believe that the administration is incapable of holding itself accountable. Unfortunately when students try to hold it accountable, the administration has a history of repressing student activists, including but not limited to: beating them with batons, pepper spraying them, drawing loaded guns on unarmed peaceful students, and pressing trumped up charges on them.”
Therefore, they demand structural reform, including:
“More oversight power by students and workers – expand the number of student regents (students need more representation than just two representatives for the regents who aren’t even elected by the students) and add union representatives to the board, or abolish the regent system altogether and move toward a more democratic governance by students and workers
“No more outside board positions for chancellors. Our chancellors should be dedicated and focused to their single duty to the UC community, and not allowed to hold outside jobs that would compromise their jobs as chancellor.
“Better policies and procedures for preventing and handling sexual harassment.”
The students conclude, “Our school needs to be a place of higher learning rather than a place of higher profits. We must resist the growing administrative power and the incentive to run the UC like a corporation for their own profit. We call on all residents of California and students involved with the universities to sign this petition and support our efforts for a more equitable and democratic university.”