Paying the Price

University Issues: UC San Francisco's spending on remodeling and security upgrades provides examples of what is or is not valid.

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Correction Appended

Recent news that UC San Francisco spent $241,800 to upgrade security and renovate its chancellor's offices provides contrasting examples of what spending is or isn't appropriate given the current economic circumstances.

Since 2000, the house has undergone three burglaries and seen 11 other crimes occur in the immediate vicinity. A land management report prepared for the campus in 2001 suggested that security was enough of a problem to merit redirecting a hiking trail. While this is not a large amount of crime, no one should have to experience a burglary every three years on average.

We believe that increasing the security around the house was warranted, but the price tag - $85,800 - seems like a large amount given the relatively low level of crime. We hope that UC San Francisco explored alternatives and found this to be the most efficient use of funds before approving the construction.

The fact that the security upgrades did not come out of campus funds - instead, they were covered by the Edward F. Searles Fund, an endowment specifically allocated to cover non-state-funded expenditures like upkeep of chancellors' properties - makes them easier to stomach.

The Searles Fund has grown to approximately $161 million, and by all accounts these types of expenditures are exactly what it is set aside to cover. It's good that the university has this fund - it can cover forgotten expenses and preserve campus funds for academic purposes.

The spending of $156,000 of campus funds, however, to renovate the chancellor's offices is less excusable. Replacing furniture and removing dividing walls seems hardly necessary as the university faces a $500 million cut. If there were any immediately pressing repairs, the campus should have paid for those and saved any remaining work for a time when the university had more money.

UC President Mark Yudof has repeatedly called for shared sacrifice in the face of unprecedented state cuts. We aren't asking chancellors to sacrifice their security - but we hope they'd consider living with threadbare furniture for a few more years.

Correction: Friday, February 25, 2011
A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that since 2010, the house of UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann has undergone three burglaries. In fact, the house has undergone three burglaries since 2000.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

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