Faculty from across the University of California gathered at a forum on Wednesday to discuss why funding remains a persistent issue in the institution, in light of Tuesday’s election results.
About 40 faculty members and students attended the forum at the UCLA Faculty Center, which was organized by the UCLA Faculty Association.
Partly in reaction to the passage of Proposition 30 on Tuesday ““ a Calif. ballot measure proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown to increase sales and income taxes ““ the speakers talked about ways to fund the UC system while it tackles persisting financial issues.
The UC currently has $1 billion in debt from the past four years because of budget cuts and year-to-year mandatory cost increases, such as merit-based faculty raises, said Steve Montiel, a UC spokesman. This year alone the UC incurred $300 million in debt, he said.
Christopher Newfield, a UC Santa Barbara English professor who spoke at the forum, said he feels the University has two options for addressing its funding crisis. It could either privatize UC “flagship” campuses, such as UC Berkeley and UCLA, or reach out to the public, Newfield said.
“We need to re-articulate that public universities are cities of intellect that solve the larger problems of society,” he said.
Because of the passage of Proposition 30, the state plans to allocate $125 million to the UC for the 2013-14 school year, according to the state budget. It would be up to the UC Board of Regents on how to distribute the money.
Robert Anderson, a professor of economics and mathematics at UC Berkeley, focused on the financial shortfalls the UC has faced from budget cuts in recent years and their effects on faculty and students.
He noted that the student-to-faculty ratio has increased in past years, and consistently remains above the projected ratio. Additionally, the average salary for a full UC professor has lagged 11 percent as of 2011, he said.
Daniel Mitchell, a professor emeritus at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA Anderson School of Management who helped organize the event, also attributed recent stagnation in California economic growth to reductions in UC funding over the years.
“If someone’s going to have to think about the issue of funding the UC, it’s going to have to be us,” Mitchell said. “Not the governor, not the legislature and maybe not even the regents.”
Troy Lau came to the forum because his professor was participating in the forum.
Lau, who studies the idea of academic capitalism ““ or academic institutions running more like a business ““ in tertiary education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, said he felt that although he liked Newfield’s idea of retaking ownership of a public funding model, he thought the forum lacked the specifics he expected to hear about.
“I asked two or three times about the alternative funding public model and what it looks like,” Lau said. “I wanted an actual agenda.”
Newfield said there seems to be a disconnect between the purpose of public universities and the general public’s perception of what they do.
“What’s more important is the need to explain the social value of higher education to the public,” he said. “UCLA has a real social impact, and once we start explaining it, people will step up again.”
The regents will meet next week to discuss alternate sources of revenue and how to bridge the UC’s funding gap, among other topics.