Scarce Solutions

University Issues: In an interview with the Daily Californian, Mark Yudof failed to propose real solutions to the university's problems.

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The Senior Editorial Board would like to acknowledge UC President Mark Yudof's effort to be transparent in giving us the opportunity to interview him.

The meeting addressed a wide range of topics, from the university's budget gap to its relationship to the state to intercollegiate athletics. Throughout this discussion, Yudof maintained a singular approach to the issues-he focused on explaining the past, rather than looking forward to the future. His responses to several questions seemed defensive, and his repeated expelling of supposed "myths" and "rumors" about himself and the university diverted the conversation from the truly serious issues which he ought to be addressing.

This tendency was most problematic when editors questioned Yudof about his methods to ameliorate the university's dire finances, and especially its allocation from the state government. Though he repeatedly pointed out the major problems facing the university, Yudof gave no concrete solutions in the entire meeting. While having a step-by-step plan to fix public higher education is unrealistic, it's reasonable to expect Yudof to have at least some idea of how to solve the university's most pressing dilemmas.

Lobbying the state legislature is the closest Yudof came to articulating a solution, and even that was not fully convincing. Without a doubt, he's correct that advocacy at the state level cannot begin and end with those who attend, have attended or are employed by the university. But instead of citing the 25,000 letters that have been sent to Sacramento-or otherwise trying to quantify his advocacy there-Yudof should have better addressed how he would get results despite the "structurally unsound" legislature.

Yudof offered other answers that seemed contradicting, such as why he asked the UC Board of Regents for emergency powers and whether he considered lessening furloughs to mitigate fee increases this year.

When he asked where he was during the Sept. 24 walkout, the biggest university protest in decades, his answer-"I may have been out of town"-indicates a distinct lack of interest in the widespread concerns of faculty and student demonstrators. Such answers only serve to fuel negative characterizations of Yudof as ambivalent to the struggles of the less fortunate UC stakeholders, especially students and employees.

We are also concerned about Yudof's deference to the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which has been the president's (and other administrators') go-to answer to questions about maintaining access. The presentation of this plan in the past year has been, and continues to be, highly disingenuous. Virtually all students who do qualify for the plan are covered already by federal and state financial aid, such as Pell Grants and Cal Grants. Only the small sliver of students who fall between the bureaucratic cracks, or whose aid comes up short, actually receive resources under this plan to cover their fees.

We are, however, cautiously optimistic that new financial aid measures mentioned by Yudof could provide assistance to students who aren't already covered. His plan to raise the income ceiling to more than $60,000 to qualify for the Blue and Gold plan could alleviate the burden of some middle-class families. And assuming that low-income students won't have to worry about fees, a portion of proposed fee increases ought to be similarly allocated to students in the middle-income levels.

Overall, we were looking to Yudof for creative ideas-and found none. With the university reliant on what Yudof calls a "dysfunctional" state government, it will remain jeopardized unless its deeper systemic issues are addressed. He said he believes that the University of California should not lead the process of reform. But becoming a true agency of change, with the potential to save the broken system of public higher education, is worth running the risk of "politicizing the university."


The full transcript of the interview is available online at dailycal.org.



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