UC President Explains Emergency Power Use

Yudof Said Declaring a Fiscal Emergency Limits His Authority, Rather Than Augmenting it

Photo: UC President Mark Yudof said the emergency powers were
Skyler Reid/File
UC President Mark Yudof said the emergency powers were "designed to curb" his and the regents' authority.

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Analysis of Mark Yudof's emergency powers

University News Editor Angelica Dongallo speaks with reporter Chris Carrasi regarding Mark Yudof's emergency powers.

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Correction Appended

In a recent interview with The Daily Californian and student publications from two other UC campuses, UC President Mark Yudof claimed that his use of emergency powers in administering furloughs and pay cuts actually served to limit his power, rather than expand it.

Citing previously unhindered authority by the UC Office of the President and the UC Board of Regents to deal with fiscal crises, Yudof said in the interview that the establishment of emergency powers was "designed to curb my powers and to curb the powers of the Board of Regents," which he said "have the inherent fiduciary power to reduce salaries under California law."

The president's authority to declare a state of fiscal emergency, defined by UC bylaws as "an imminent and substantial deficiency in available University financial resources," is derived from an amendment drafted by UCOP that was confirmed in July by the regents, who will next meet Nov. 17 to 19 at UCLA.

According to Yudof, because the recently adopted amendment bestows no additional powers, but rather requires the president to consult with faculty, campus leaders and other UC officials before declaring a state of emergency, his power is therefore restricted.

Daniel Simmons, vice chair of the UC Academic Council, said he agreed with Yudof's statement because previous fiscal crises, such as those occurring in the early 1990s, saw the regents and UCOP initiate furloughs and staff cuts with no restrictions or consultation.

"You can get into a lot of arguments about the degree to which the authority is curbed," Simmons said. "With this president, I am confident because I think he believes in the consultative process. But he also understands he has the authority to disagree with that advice."

Still, Simmons said the amendment may yet prove to be problematic.

"It is a huge power," he said. "What a president might do in that circumstance is kind of worrisome, and you might have a president that you do not trust in the future. And that's very troubling."

According to an August memo released by then-chair of the UC Academic Council Mary Croughan, the original amendment was submitted to the council-a body of professors that represents faculty systemwide to the regents-for its consultation over the summer.

Though the council was concerned about the early draft of the amendment, including a lack of both a sunset clause and a requirement to consult the council before any action taken, Croughan said in the memo that the concerns were "largely addressed in the President's final recommended plan to The Regents."

According to the amended UC bylaws, the president may propose a declaration of fiscal emergency to be confirmed by the regents. But before the proposal is made, the president is required to "engage in consultation with campus Chancellors, representatives of the systemwide Academic Senate" and other officials in the crafting of his proposal.

If a proposal is confirmed by the regents, the president is then conferred emergency powers that would allow him or her "to implement furloughs and/or salary reductions, on terms that the President deems necessary, for some or all categories of University employees." These powers cannot exceed one year in duration, according to the bylaws.

Christopher Kutz, chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, said in an e-mail that while he agrees the amendment "only imposed a set of elaborate requirements for consultation," he is nonetheless concerned about the need to declare emergency powers at all.

"There is an undeniable rhetorical effect about a 'state of emergency' that works in the opposite direction-and this is an intended effect, to legitimate actions that wouldn't otherwise be deemed acceptable," he said in an e-mail. "That rhetorical effect is real, and it is worth exploring why UCOP thought it was necessary."


Correction: Tuesday, October 27, 2009
An earlier version of this article stated that UC President Mark Yudof was interviewed by The Daily Californian and two other UC student publications. In fact, there were students from publications at two other UC campuses.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Chris Carrassi at [email protected]

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