The University of California should “substantially decentralize,” longtime UCLA Chancellor Chuck Young said Tuesday.
“People still talk about it as if it’s one university,” said Young, who opened this year’s Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speaker Series in the Vanderhoef Theatre. “The University of California is a configuration of nine very excellent universities and a fledgling university coming along.”
Viewing the university as a consortium would mean a “substantially smaller” UC Office of the President and a change of mission for its Board of Regents. UCOP would still make the budget presentation to the state, for example, but that budget would be crafted by a more bottom-up approach, rather than top-down.
“The faculty and administration at UC Davis do not need somebody to look over them,” Young said. “They know how to run a university. They do a damn good job of it.
“What they need is some people in the Board of Regents and the Office of the President to help all of the universities in this consortium gain funds from the state.”
At 81, Young is as qualified as anyone to take the long view of the university:
A member of UC Riverside’s first graduating class, he earned his graduate degrees at UCLA. He served on UC President Clark Kerr’s staff during the creation of the Master Plan for Higher Education. He taught at UC Davis during its first school year as a general campus, in 1959-60.
At 36, he was named UCLA’s chancellor in 1968, a post he held until 1997.
Each campus should have its own board of trustees, Young said.
That would allow UC top leadership “to turn its attention to policy, which it does not do now, because it is so busy doing the transactional business that they love to do: What color will this building be? Should the assistant director of nursing at (UCD) being paid $147,000 or $150,000?”
UC needs to keep moving toward self-sufficiency, he said. The university did so in a hurry in recent years, as its state funds were slashed.
It coped by raising tuition, increasing federal contracts and grants, searching out private funding and building it business operations.
Moving toward a high-tuition, high-aid model keeps a UC education accessible to low-income families, he said. About one-third of UC’s general fund budget goes to student aid.
Making tuition free again would disproportionately benefit students from wealthier families, because poor families are more greatly impacted by losing a child’s potential income during her college years, Young said.
Structural problems make it “unlikely” that the state will fund UC as it once did, he said, pointing to what he said are two of those problems: the 1979 passage of Prop. 13, which restricts increases in property taxes, and, 10 years later, Prop. 98, which guarantees that a large portion of state revenues go to K-12 education.
The first law diminished the ability of local governments, including schools, to fund themselves. It also made the state dependent on roller-coaster income tax revenue. The second, when paired with other obligations, like maintaining its prison system, has left less money for the state’s three higher education systems.
Asked by UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi about the notion that universities are slow to change, Young said they “have changed dramatically in a reasonable amount of time.”
Student protesters of the 1960s free-speech movement — with whom Young sat up with during long nights, talking and eating pizza — provided one example.
“Those students changed the world and those students changed the university of which they were a part. And the faculty grudgingly to some extent, happily to some extent, went along with that change. One of the main aspects of that is that they have become diverse universities (as a consequence).”
— Reach Cory Golden at email@example.com or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden