Report calls for new UC campus governing model

A group of top UC administrators, including UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and former UC Provost C. Judson King, have published a report calling for increased autonomy for UC campuses. The report urges the UC regents to consider the implementation of individual campus governing boards that would be able to determine their own tuition and out-of-state student enrollment rates—decisions currently reserved for the UC Board of Regents.

“[The UC] should adopt a hybrid governance model that preserves constitutional autonomy and Regental control while empowering local action and innovation. This would strengthen the UC system as a whole and enable it to maintain, and hopefully increase, access and excellence,” stated the report. UC President Mark Yudof has already expressed his disapproval of the suggestions made by the authors.

“It’s like you have 10 children and each has different talents and challenges. We need a system in which each of them receives the kind of attention they need,” stated Birgeneau in an article by the Los Angeles Times. Birgeneau has insisted that campus-unique governing boards would be more informed and better equipped to make “front-line” decisions related to their respective campuses.

Aside from bestowing the governing boards with the freedom to determine undergraduate tuition and out-of-state enrollment levels, the report also calls for control over graduate/professional student tuition, major construction projects, determination of certain salaries (which currently require regent approval) and campus budget decisions.

The report also provides guidelines on the makeup of each campus governing board. “It is envisioned that there would be eight general members of campus boards, plus the chancellor of the campus, two student members, and involvement of faculty and staff representatives,” stated the authors, who also recommended that two UC regents would serve on each campus boards for three years before being transferred to another campus. Meetings would be held once every two months or more frequently under special circumstances, while the number of UC regent meetings would decrease.

The report concludes that the combination of regents’ presence on campus governing boards and the familiarity of general board members with each campus would allow for better decision-making at both levels. UC regents would gain a more personal understanding of each campus, thereby influencing their decisions during UC regent meetings. Meanwhile, the new authority of the general members would allow them to micromanage campuses in a way that is impossible with the current system.

Some of the recommendations contained in the report, entitled, “Modernizing Governance at the University of California,” have already gained the attention of UC regents in previous years. The prospect of differential tuition—each UC campus having different tuition rates—received a particularly cold reception when brought up during a UC Board of Regents meeting last May. The UC Commission on the Future immediately opposed the concept due to concerns regarding the plan’s potential impact on the “perceived reputation or academic quality of some campuses.”

A frequent prediction made by critics of differential tuition have argued that the most prestigious UC campuses would immediately enact tuition increases—thereby limiting access and negatively influencing public perceptions of less competitive campuses. “If Riverside charges less than UCLA or Berkeley, that will be immediately transformed into a reinforcement of the already existing view that UCLA and Berkeley are a more valuable place to send your children…Riverside would wound up as being among the less expensive campuses but also the least resourced,” stated Douglas E. Mitchell, interim dean and professor of the UC Riverside Graduate School of Education, in an interview with the Highlander last May.

Advocates of the plan, however, have argued that individual campuses would not simply be given complete control of tuition rates. It has been suggested that the regents establish a certain tuition rate and allow campuses to charge 25 percent above or below that level. Debate over this and other issues is welcomed by the report authors, who noted that the report was intended to initiate a serious discussion about proposals.

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