Thursday, January 7, 2010

Birgeneau Keeps It Classy

Yesterday, Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed a constitutional amendment that would require that the state of California dedicate more money to higher education (specifically the UC and CSU systems) than to prisons. While it sounds nice on face, the shift wouldn't actually alter the state's obsession with prisons or sever its ties to the prison-industrial complex -- indeed, it would strengthen these ties. Prisons won't be eliminated -- they'll be privatized.

The basic points of the plan are here; a good critical analysis, which suggests that even aside from the prisons issue, the amendment won't resolve the budget crisis at the UC and CSU, is here.

But this isn't what I want to talk about here. What I want to talk about is cooptation and the UC administration. About a half hour ago, Chancellor Birgeneau sent out an official statement on Schwarzenegger's proposal to the UC Berkeley community. The Governor, he writes, "has taken a bold and visionary step to reposition support for education among the State's highest priorities." And what made Schwarzenegger take this seemingly incongruous step?
We commend Governor Schwarzenegger for taking this strong stance in response to the efforts of UCOP leadership to restore funding for the university.
As usual, Birgeneau has the UC administration take all the credit. Everything that happens happens because the administration makes it happen. Protests? What protests?

But look at what the governor's chief of staff told the New York Times:
“Those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point,” the governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, said in an interview after the speech. “Our university system is going to get the support it deserves.”
Again and again, the administration has tried to take credit for the effects of direct actions carried out by students, faculty, and workers. Cooptation is the first prong of its political strategy; the second, of course, is violence.

Here's the whole email Birgeneau sent out:
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:

Yesterday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a very important statement of commitment to higher education in his State of the State Address from Sacramento. In acknowledging that "we can no longer afford to cut higher education" and proposing a constitutional amendment to rebalance spending between education and prisons, the Governor has taken a bold and visionary step to reposition support for education among the State's highest priorities.

We commend Governor Schwarzenegger for taking this strong stance in response to the efforts of UCOP leadership to restore funding for the university. Across the UC campuses, including our own, we have all been working hard to convince Sacramento of the critical importance to our State of investment in public higher education. I am sure that you are as uplifted and encouraged as I am by this very positive outcome.

I want to emphasize, however, that this is just a beginning. First, we must remain focused on the near-term and on the budget for the upcoming year. Although the Governor has indicated that he wants no further cuts to higher education, we will need to convince legislators from both parties to support the Governor in this, given the $19.9 billion projected State deficit. Second, passing a constitutional amendment to guarantee that the University of California and the California State University systems receive no less than 10% of the state's operating funds each year will require all our support in ensuring that the Governor's commitment survives the legislative process and succeeds as a ballot initiative. We will need to continue to advocate with our legislators and the California public to secure stable financial support of public higher education.

I look forward to working with you all in the coming weeks and months as we continue our efforts to ensure that the legislature restores funding to the University of California.

The Governor's statement can be read at

President Yudof's response to the Governor's announcement is available at

Yours sincerely,

Robert J. Birgeneau


  1. Clean up your house before asking for assistance from others UC President Youdof & UCB Chancellor Birgeneau. $3 Million Extravagant, Arrogant Spending by UC President Yudof for UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau to Hire Consultants - When Work Can Be Done Internally & Impartially

    These days, every dollar in higher education counts. Contact Chairwoman Budget Sub-committee on Education Finance Assemblywoman Carter 916.319.2062 and tell her to stop the $3,000,000 spending by Chancellor Birgeneau for consultants.

    Do the work internally at no additional costs with UCB Academic Senate Leadership (C. Kutz/F. Doyle), the world – class professional UCB faculty/ staff, & the UCB Chancellor’s bloated staff (G. Breslauer, N. Brostrom, F. Yeary, P. Hoffman, C. Holmes etc) & President Yudof.

    President Yudof’s UCB Chancellor should do the high paid work he is paid for instead of hiring expensive East Coast consults to do the work of his job. ‘World class’ smart executives like Chancellor Birgeneau need to do the hard work analysis, and make the tough-minded difficult, decisions to identify inefficiencies.

    Where do the $3,000,000 consultants get their recommendations?
    From interviewing the UCB senior management that hired them and approves their monthly consultant fees and expense reports. Remember the nationally known auditing firm who said the right things and submitted recommendations that senior management wanted to hear and fooled the public, state, federal agencies?

    $3 million impartial consultants never bite the hands (Chancellor Birgeneau/ Chancellor Yeary) that feed them!

    Mr. Birgeneau's accountabilities include "inspiring innovation, leading change." This involves "defining outcomes, energizing others at all levels and ensuring continuing commitment." Instead of deploying his leadership and setting a good example by doing the work of his Chancellor’s job, Mr. Birgeneau outsourced his work to the $3,000,000 consultants. Doesn't he engage UC and UC Berkeley people at all levels to examine inefficiencies and recommend $150 million of trims? Hasn't he talked to Cornell and the University of North Carolina - which also hired the consultants -- about best practices and recommendations that will eliminate inefficiencies?
    No wonder the faculty, staff, students, Senate & Assembly are angry and suspicious.

    In today’s recession economy three million dollars is a irresponsible price to pay when a knowledgeable ‘world-class’ UCB Chancellor and his bloated staff do not do the work of their jobs.

    Pick up the phone and call. Together, we will make a difference: save $3 million for students!

  2. The UCB budget gap has grown to $150 million, and still the Chancellor is spending money that isn't there on expensive outside consultants. His reasons range from the need for impartiality to requiring the "innovative thinking, expertise, and new knowledge" the consultants would bring.

    Does this mean that the faculty and management of a world-class research and teaching institution lack the knowledge, impartiality, innovation, and professionalism to come up with solutions? Have they been fudging their research for years? The consultants will glean their recommendations from interviewing faculty and the UCB management that hired them; yet solutions could be found internally if the Chancellor were doing the job HE was hired to do. Consultant fees would be far better spent on meeting the needs of students.

    There can be only one conclusion as to why creative solutions have not been forthcoming from the professionals within UCB: Chancellor Birgeneau has lost credibility and the trust of the faculty as well as of the Academic Senate leadership that represents them. Even if the faculty agrees with the consultants' recommendations - disagreeing might put their jobs in jeopardy - the underlying problem of lost credibility and trust will remain.