The whole university is dismantling itself, and parts of the machinery are not working. For example, an MPH applicant to the Public Health School received this letter (passed on by a reader):
Thank you for your application to our MPH program in Public Health Nutrition. Due to budget cuts, we are not able to offer a Public Health Nutrition program next year. If you are interested in the program in Public Health Nutrition, and you already have a nutrition science, dietetics and/or biologic sciences background, you can apply to the Maternal & Child Health program, the Health & Social Behavior program, the Epidemiology/Biostatistics program, or the Health Policy & Management program, and take Public Health Nutrition courses as electives. In addition, you can select PH nutrition related topics for your projects and internship experiences.
We’re firing graduate student instructors and reducing class sizes, closing departments and cleaning bathrooms weekly. Students whose tuition has gone up thousands of dollars can’t get into courses they need to graduate; we’re trying to float an educational ship in a lake that’s steadily draining away to a mudflat.
Governor Schwarzenegger proposed an especially cynical piece of nonsense in his State of the State address, namely a constitutional amendment to reverse the general fund fractions going to education and prisons from 7%/10% to 10%/7%. In a state crippled by ‘ballot budgeting’ that wraps larger and larger pieces of the government enterprise in constitutional armor, leaving less and less for the legislature to decide about, this is simply hooey; it’s also hooey because no-one has any idea how to simply reduce the cost of prison by 30% when we’re under federal court orders to upgrade the correctional system to meet minimal federal constitutional norms. There’s no question the state has this allocation completely wrong, but attacking it with a ballot measure like this is nothing but grandstanding. Is the governor the last person in the state to figure this out: where has he been for all these years on this issue? Does he think budgeting is just a matter of moving high-level aggregate totals around on a summary page?
The Legislative Analyst’s Office skewered this, which is right and proper (the LAO is a hotbed of reality-respecting and responsibility), and the President of the University, recently a national laughing stock for his little outing with Deborah Solomon and deeply unable to display anything that could be thought of as leadership, weighed in vacuously against the LAO’s report.
The little scandal of intercollegiate athletics subsidies at Berkeley is getting interesting again. We have a faculty “Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics” now, creature of the resolution that was passed last fall, and IA is beginning to dribble out some financial information. The first batch is a revised I/E statement for the year ending June 30 ’09, and guess what? Almost every indicator is substantially worse than the preliminary guff they rushed out before the faculty meeting in November. In particular, the campus subsidy to this operation is now up to $13m per year, from the $7.7m they ‘estimated’ for us last fall.
We also have a deal going down to repair the football stadium so it won’t be a seismic disaster waiting to happen (it exactly bestrides the Hayward fault), and build a conditioning center/party venue/coaches office complex exclusively for about 500 letter athletes to use for about $460m. We are borrowing this, and selling seats in the stadium on long-term contracts (that can be terminated by the donors at will) that would total $300m if all were sold (and paid up) today. The debt service on the remaining amount is about $12m per year, and there is no story about how IA can climb up $25m from a $13m (and growing) deficit, not to mention that the seat contracts are payable all at once, over five years, or over 30 years (no word on how each tranche is moving), so whatever isn’t paid in in full is being financed in addition.
You might think $12m per year or more is a lot of money in a place whose faculty and staff are on furloughs, but be assured that this will save us $5m a year, what it would cost to play seven games in another venue, so it’s actually a bargain because $5m is much more than $12m…wait a minute, I’m not explaining this properly. OK, try this: it must be a good deal because our athletic director has an MBA and understands these things, and while the campus financial wizard doesn’t, he worked for J.P. Morgan, and J.P.Morgan is a Big Bank full of Really Smart Rich People…this still isn’t coming out right. OK, never mind about J.P. Morgan; the MBA alone should easily outweigh the quibble that 12 is actually more than 5.