Monday, June 5, 2017
LA Times wants legislature & UC to play nice
Sacramento and the University of California should learn to get along.
Gov. Jerry Brown is withholding $50 million from UC in his budget proposal. State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa) wants to amend the California Constitution so the Legislature controls funding for the UC Office of the President and can reshuffle the Board of Regents. And another state senator, Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) suggests that any time UC pays a certain number of administrators more than the governor earns, it should face restrictions, including on its ability to raise tuition.
All of this stems from a state audit — the eighth related to UC in four years — released in late April. It accused UC President Janet Napolitano’s office of maintaining a secret fund of $175 million, when everyone knows UC has been crying poor. The audit also excoriated UC for paying administrators more than other public-sector employees in similar jobs, and accused Napolitano of interfering with surveys that campuses filled out as part of the audit.
These are serious accusations. They should be examined carefully — much more carefully than legislators did during their slug fest in early May, where they made it sound as though Napolitano had absconded with students’ tuition payments and used the dough to stash Bentleys in the garage at the UC president’s mansion.
If Napolitano intentionally interfered with the audit — a question the Board of Regents is examining — she deserves appropriate discipline. She previously had agreed, well before this audit was conducted, that the salaries of many UC administrators were too high, and she already has put forward a plan for correcting that.
But when it comes to UC’s hoarding a secret nest egg instead of spreading the wealth to individual campuses, it’s the audit, not Napolitano, that should be questioned.
The audit referred to programs that the auditor, Elaine Howle, appeared to find sketchy, or at least not of direct benefit to students. But those programs include UC’s center in Washington, where students from all campuses who are interested in public service can live and take courses. They also include specific efforts to help UC students who are in the country illegally during a fearful time for them. Napolitano says all the “secret” stash is earmarked for approved university programs, except for less than $40 million set aside as a “prudent” reserve.
Howle’s complaint in return is fair enough: At the time of the audit, Napolitano’s office couldn’t come up with appropriate proof to show precisely how the $175 million was being spent. Howle also said, however, that she had found no signs of anything nefarious. And Napolitano quickly produced a plan to fix the bookkeeping problems.
Although that should be enough for the governor and the Legislature, Brown and our representatives are grandstanding, talking about punishing UC by withholding funds that might be needed for actual education and exerting more control over UC through the president’s office...
Full op ed at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-klein-uc-audit-20170605-story.html