To be fair, sometimes there are other sources of revenue, but these cases are the exceptions. One of the examples we cited in the earlier post was the development project in Lower Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley. The reason it came up at the time was that, even before the project had gotten underway, it had already gone $10 million over budget. Funding for that project comes, as the Daily Cal reported, from "contributions from the campus, the UC Office of the President and student fees approved . . . in the 2010 ASUC General Election." As we wrote at the time:
In other words, not only are students paying directly for the project -- after all, we voted for it! Democracy in action! -- we're paying for it indirectly as well, through tuition increases that have already taken place (that money goes into the general fund) and the promise of future tuition increases that the UC now owes the bond raters.Today, the Daily Cal reports that this same construction project, which will take many years to complete, is already showing a negative cash flow. The article draws on a presentation given by an outside consulting firm, Brailsford & Dunlavey, which is based in Washington, DC. (It's not entirely clear how much the firm is charging for its services, but it's possible that we might be seeing a repeat of the scandalous Bain & Company contract worth $7.5 million.)
The consulting firm's presentation is noteworthy, though not in the sense that Messrs. Brailsford & Dunlavey were hoping for. For example,
A deficit as high as $800,000 may occur between 2019 and 2022, after an expected bump in revenue due to increased student fees in 2018, according to the presentation.Either the consultants are privy to information about future tuition increases that the rest of us aren't or they're just making shit up (in which case why is UC Berkeley hiring them?). It's important to remember that privatization is not a response to immediate crisis but a long-term strategy. Tuition hikes, it appears, are plotted out years in advance. While they are adjusted to take immediate political concerns into account (like state budgets, for example), these adjustments are little more than slight deviations here and there from the original projections. [Update 7/12 10am: Our mistake. The comment below is correct on this point, that the fees in question are not actually tuition but rather the student fees approved in the vote. However, this doesn't change the fact that the construction project is still financed through multiple sources, including the sale of construction bonds backed by student tuition as collateral. In any case, you can find the schedule for increased student fees for the project here. Further update 7/14 12:39pm: For a full discussion of what the vote actually approved, and why the earlier comment isn't exactly right, check out the comment from Zach Williams below.]
But most important are the comments from Assistant Vice Chancellor for Physical and Environmental Planning Capital Projects Emily Marthinsen:
“If the students are footing the bill for things that are not only the students’ responsibility, then those things have to be very defensible,” Marthinsen said.If the students are footing the bill... From her isolated office in the A&E Building, Marthinsen can't understand the full implications of her words. Because what Meister shows us is that as students we foot all the bills: "Because UC pledges 100% of tuition to maintain its bond rating, it has also implicitly assured bond financiers that it will raise your tuition so that it can borrow more. Since 2004, UC has based its financial planning on the growing confidence of bond markets that your tuition will increase." Defensibility, furthermore, performs an interesting function here. What administrators find defensible is obviously not defensible for the rest of us -- students, workers, faculty, those of us who use the university. But beyond that, the logic of defensibility is the logic of the liberal technocrat, the enlightened bureaucrat who cannot be held accountable for decisions and as such offers little more than explanations and well-formulated "defenses" -- at best -- that lock the rest of us into decades of debt.
From our perspective, however, the administration's drive toward privatization is simply not defensible. There is little use in appealing to their hearts or letter-writing campaigns or attending glossy presentations by highly-paid consultants. These are the administration's bureaucratic fortresses, sites designed specifically to be highly defensible. And paradoxically, our participation only makes them stronger.