Wednesday, July 22, 2009

UCLA Sociologists Take a Stand on UC Funding Priorities

My Colleagues at UCLA Sociology have taken a gutsy stand on what the future UC funding priorities should be. I agree with their points and I bet that 98% of the UCLA economics department would also agree. You don't have to be Bill Clinton to anticipate that the median voter among the UC faculty (across the 10 campuses) will not like this proposal. It has a whiff of elitism but ask yourself; what would Larry Summers do? If his next job is President of the UC (I'm kidding), would he keep the status quo?

UPDATE: I found this interesting quote at the bottom of the blog entry from above:
"What a pity that some UC faculty seem more interested in crowding aboard the life-raft than in working together to prevent the ship from sinking."

This made me feel a pinch guilty. Am I part of mad scramble kicking aside "women and children" as I try to save my own ass and escape the Titanic alive? In this case, what does "working together" mean? Not complaining about the huge paycut and the prospect that the cut will persist for more than 1 year? What is the co-operative solution here? The UC must confront that it has too many objectives that it tries to achieve all at the same time. It has not prioritized. People would like to see clear signals from President Yudoff on how we will maintain "excellence". Such signals would calm people down and reduce the concern that UC has a long run problem. Some people are talking about self-fulfilling Prophesies. If excellent faculty leave and we can't recruit new risk averse excellent faculty from other universities, then the UC will sink. To stop a "bank run", a bank has to signal that it could pay back people's deposits if the people want their money. But, when people know they can get their money back then they no longer panic and the bank run ends. How do you build confidence that an institution will remain excellent? Raw $ is one such signal but clear leadership is another.

1 comment :

randall crane said...

Hey Matt. Larry is a student of Feldstein, who in class always emphasized the high deadweight cost of too rapid reform: Generally, one wants to implement big reforms gradually. So I think Larry would figure out how to smooth this out, rather than which organs or limbs to surgically remove ASAP.

Which is my way of saying that as a UCLA faculty member I am more than a bit distressed by these all-knowing op-eds and letters from my colleagues (often, quite uninformed regarding both #s and current campus review efforts -- for example, they never mention that the state's general fund contribution to the UC rose 50% since 1990. The current 20% cut covers two budget years, so even if this becomes a permanent annual 10% cut, that takes us back to roughly 2004 state funding levels) who are so quick to see the sky falling and then to suggest, urgently, that the "better" UCs (and within those the "better" units) -- namely, theirs -- should be protected at the expense of the lesser.

It goes without saying that structural cuts should be strategic. In the meantime, as strategies are developed, a nominal across-the-board approach has clear merit in short-term emergency conditions -- except, I guess, when it is self-evident to some UCLA and UCSD sociologists and UCB economists and lawyers that their programs should be sheltered from the storm, and let someone else work out the details.

I guess what I wish is a bit more shoulder-to-shoulder effort to try to turn this into our finest hour, if only for show, instead of this circle the wagons knee-jerk posturing in the name of academic excellence.

I, too, am angry with the republicans blocking emergency revenues, for no other sensible reason but that they can. So let's take it out on the UCR greek department, or UCLA nursing as in the early 1990s? With any luck at all, we'll be right as rain in a few year's time -- again, as in the 90s. If not, we'll have plenty of time for a measured approach then.