The Daily Californian Online

Interview With Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Part 1

By Senior Editoral Board
Daily Cal Senior Staff Writer
Friday, September 10, 2010
Category: News > University > Higher Education

The Daily Californian Senior Editorial Board sat down with UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer for an interview on the state of the university Sept. 7.


Birgeneau: We'll try and be really brief. I'll make a couple of comments and then George can make a couple of comments. So, first of all, welcome everyone. Great to have you here. An extremely high percentage of the time, we really appreciate the Daily Cal. I know if I said we always appreciate the Daily Cal, then you'd say, "Uh oh, we're not going to get the truth from this person." So anyway, I think you all do actually a very good job.

We've had a, I think, a good kickoff to the academic year, certainly it's a lot better than last year, and I'm sure you'll want to talk about that, just in terms of the situation we're facing. We went through a really challenging year last year, and I'm frankly quite proud of, how you know - I'm not proud of everything, everything didn't go as well as we would have liked, but I think overall in managing the situation that we went from a situation last autumn where ... especially the East Coast media, like the New York Times, etc. were predicting that it was the end of Berkeley as a preeminent university and that, you know, because of the state disinvestment that we were basically going to be going down the tubes and that we wouldn't be able to attract and retain outstanding faculty and outstanding students wouldn't want to come here. And we're already in a very different place.

We have a budget which is I think, sort of fairly firm, positive - pointing towards a positive future and we did a number of difficult things, including, most especially, some reduction in the size of the staff. We, you know, had very little faculty hiring for a year, etc. And so there were a number of difficult things, but we cut administrative budgets by 20 percent last year which was really ... not uniformly 20, it averaged to 20, which was really difficult for a lot of units, but we got through all of that, and I think we have a firmer financial basis now. We have of course reduced administrative budgets for the university as a whole.

Fees went up significantly, which of course led to a lot of activism on campus and anger that this happened. I actually totally agreed with the students in terms of unhappiness about the fee increases. On the other hand, some of you may have seen, I wrote an op-ed, which was, the title of which was "No Fees, No Low-Income Students," which is true. And I explained why that's true. We've seen a really dramatic thing happen this year which is that, in part - well, mostly because of the California economy - but we have the largest number and percentage, both of low income students this semester that we've ever had in Berkeley's entire history. And I think what's really remarkable is, in constant dollars, the cost for a low-income student to attend Berkeley is the lowest this year that it's been in the last several years. So this reduced cost is a direct result of the fee increases. Of course, that means it's in part a transfer of income, so it means that middle-income students are carrying a larger percentage of the burden. For students from very well-to-do families, of course, we're still in the situation where in terms of fees, four years at Berkeley costs the same as one year at Stanford, so we continue to be an incredible bargain. So we think we've managed that pretty well.

We've seen an increase in the number of out-of-state and international students, which has provided some new resources although it's important to note that that increase is accommodated entirely through overenrollment. That is that there are no targeted Californians being displaced as a result of the increase in the number of - no Californians are ... it's not the Californians, it's the positions that are targeted or designated for Californians, so we have a goal agreed to with the Office of the President and ... in terms of how large our undergraduate body will be, and the out-of-state and international students are accommodated beyond those numbers. And those have provided - first of all, it makes the class much more interesting, will make classes much more interesting.

I have a sort of dramatic example of this at a welcome event when I was standing there with several new admits who were Californians, you know, one from San Diego, one from Sacramento, one from Fresno and there was a young man from Greece and we started talking about the financial challenges of California, and he said "Wait a second ... wait till I tell you about Greece." And this is the sort of paradigm of conversations that are going to take place in classrooms this year, where just with more international students we're going to have perspectives, you know, broadening of perspectives which wouldn't be there otherwise. And so we're, I'm quite pleased with this. And with George leading the way, and he'll maybe talk about it, the new resources that are coming from the new out-of-state and international students have enabled us to address really critical issues like Reading and Composition classes and the impacted science gateway, so-called gateway courses.

OK, so then in addition we have the whole Operational Excellence exercise in which again we want less money spent on administration. And we want more of it in the classroom and we want better student services, etc. and that's progressing. We haven't yielded any revenues from that yet, but we will and we can see a clear pathway forward on that. And we're being urged by your student leadership to have as much student involvement as possible on that and we intend to do that. In addition, we just came from a meeting about this, private philanthropy has held up and done very well during a really difficult economic time in the state of California. Part of the process there has been to help educate Californians that even though we're a public institution, that funds from Sacramento are not adequate. It don't think I have to convince any of you of this. But that is that, it used to be both, some donors and almost all foundations said, "Well, the government takes care of you, we should - we're going to direct our resources toward private universities." And we have gotten past that. I'm particularly proud with the major foundations, because I've talked to a number of foundation presidents now, saying, sort of the unfair bias of major foundations towards private universities just flies in the face of the facts. And all but one - and I'll leave that one out - of the foundation presidents that I've talked to have said, "Yes, we now understand. We should level the playing field and let Berkeley have the same opportunity to apply for and receive our funds that in the past predominately private universities (had?)." So we've made a lot of progress on that and last year in philanthropy we raised a total of $313 million. Which, for universities without a medical school, puts us second in the country, MIT was first. It puts us ahead of Princeton, which is quite unbelievable, actually. So we think with all of these that we're going in a positive direction. The situation with the state is frankly still quite discouraging, and there's no other way to describe it. What is it? It's Sept. 7, we don't have a budget yet. So try, you know, to imagine a CEO of any corporation with a $1.9 billion a year budget and two and a half years (months) into the fiscal year not knowing what his or her budget is and it's unimaginable, actually. So this is really challenging for us and the possible swings are quite large, so according to the current budget possibilities. And so I don't think we will go negative, but on the other hand you can imagine we'd be flat-funded. The positive, which, I had the good fortune of sitting beside the governor at a dinner during the summer, in which he absolutely promised me that he would hang tough and that the UC system would get the $305 million, I guess it is, of which our share would be, what, $45 million? $45 million is a lot of money, that can fund a lot of gateway courses, etc. So we're still sitting in a situation where, since we don't have a budget, we don't know whether or not the governor will be able to keep, not just the public pledge he's made but even the private ones to myself and I presume to Yudof and to some others. George?

Breslauer: OK, I won't go over any of the same territory as the chancellor did but just throw out a few things. We've declared this the "year of the roofs," because we have a deferred maintenance backlog of more than half a billion dollars, because the state long since stopped giving us enough money to maintain our infrastructure. We came up last year with a figure that we have 63 roofs on campus that leak. And so this year we're borrowing an extra $5 million plus perhaps spending several additional more from the traditional deferred maintenance budget, which is traditionally only $5 million a year, to plug those roof leaks as quickly as possible. There are a good $15 million worth of roof leaks that would need to be plugged, in some cases through renovation, in other cases through replacement. So we can't do it all in one year. But we're going to tackle that problem now, with the primary emphasis being on buildings in which teaching and research take place, and any administrative buildings on campus that have roof leak problems that are not life-threatening or threatening to create collapse will be put off until later. So that's our plan on the year of the roofs. When I came up with that phrase I felt sort of Maoist, but whatever.

The furloughs are over, as you've written in the Daily Cal, and tell a friend because sometimes getting the word out to everybody, staff and faculty, who understandably were nervous about this, is difficult. Not everybody reads their newspapers, not everybody reads their e-mail messages, and so there are bound to be a lot of people out there who are wondering whether the furloughs are going to continue - well they're over already. And that will be reflected in the next paycheck that people get for work done in the month of September.

We had 105 faculty retention cases last year, we have settled about 70 of them, the rest remain outstanding and we did pretty well, we had about a 70 percent retention rate, normally it's 80 percent. There are a lot of times when you just can't do anything, maybe a matter of personal preference to live in a different part of the country. So that's not a loss in the sense that we proved ourselves non-competitive. Have an ailing parent in New York and you choose to take a position in New York to be near them, that kind of thing. So the difference between this year and previous years is not all that great in terms of success rate of faculty retention. We of course spend a lot of time and effort on this and will continue to do so because it's a constant challenge, but my attitude is I'd rather be here than at a university whose professors nobody coveted.

Birgeneau: Given insight on that last year, about this time the East Coast media gave a lot of publicity to two of our faculty who moved from here to the University of Texas and that was publicized nationally as the beginning of the end of Berkeley. Actually, they're both back teaching today.

Breslauer: They stayed at Texas for one year and then came back.

Birgeneau: They said they realized, you know, Berkeley is just a phenomenal place to be and the grass may look greener on the other sides, but after they got to Texas, nothing wrong with Texas but it's not Berkeley - pardon me - and that's now going to appear. (laughter)

But Berkeley's a special place and our faculty even often after they leave, you know, then realize that and they come back here and the students we have here - undergraduates and graduates is an important part of that.

Breslauer: This, by the way, is my 40th year at Berkeley. I started as an assistant professor back in 1971, and so I've found after 39 years of thinking about it that I sort of like this place.

Birgeneau: So I'd say the opposite which is that ... so I was previously on the faculties at Yale and MIT and it took me a long time to see the light. So, now here I am at Berkeley.

Breslauer: The task force on student conduct - the Student Code of Conduct - is being established and will begin its work probably in three or four weeks. We had the first ... and I didn't want to do this over the summer because I didn't want anyone to suggest that we were doing it when students were away. We have been working up the charge for the committee, the task force. It's not going to be asked to re-evaluate every sentence in the Student Code of Conduct because that would be both not necessary and not particularly productive; it would probably take several years. So what we did was to identify the six or seven issues about the Student Code of Conduct and about its administration that were most controversial this last year and we focused the charge to the committee on that, and that charge should be finalized this week or next. We are setting up, in the meantime, the composition of the task force and that will be advertised just as soon as it's finalized. We've asked the Academic Senate to suggest faculty members, we're going to ask the ASUC formally and Graduate Assembly to give us the names of the students that they would like to see on this task force. We expect the task force to start its work in October and present its recommendations in April so we can put those recommendations that are acceptable into effect in the fall of 2011.

The student conduct cases that remain are going to be adjudicated in formal hearings toward the end of this month. The students did not want to come back during the summer for formal hearings, and then they didn't want to come back during the week before classes for formal hearings, and then there were a variety of other causes of delay that lead them to be scheduled the last week of September. Well, next week and then again the last week of September, and

it's not clear entirely that they will all happen then because now we have word that some of their legal counsel cannot make it that day, and therefore they want it postponed. One frustration last year was that students would often have reasons, perhaps quite legitimate reasons, to postpone their hearings or their informal resolution efforts, and then accuse us of not doing things expeditiously. So it was rather frustrating on that front.

You did mention a figure in this morning's Daily Cal that I want to address because I don't know where it came from. You said for every 10 percent increase in out-of-state students, the university as a whole - you were talking about the University of California - would save only $9.8 million. That can't be. Unless by 10 percent you meant a 10 percent increase not from 10 percent to 20 percent but rather from 10 percent to 11 percent. In that case, it would be $98 million systemwide. That might be plausible though I think it's still low. 98 million systemwide if you projected it out to a 20 percent nonresident, that's probably low because we calculate that if we were to double the number of nonresident students in the undergraduate student population from 10 percent to 20 percent, that it would yield us an additional - some people say $50 million, my calculation is $60 million, but in any case somewhere between $50 and $60 million dollars net considering that they would be replacing unfunded California students so you have to take out the fees that we would have been receiving from those undergraduates who were residents.

Birgeneau: Overenrolled.

Breslauer: Overenrolled.

Birgeneau: Right. Therefore were one of the reasons why the courses have been impacted because they didn't come along with money that would actually provide money for their instruction.

Breslauer: Yeah. So, if Berkeley alone will save $50 to $60 million dollars per year by doubling the number of nonresident students, that's a big chunk of change. That's probably the single largest contributor to reducing and closing the gap of $148 million that we faced last year after the state slashed our budget. So that $9.8 million figure, I think, really needs to be looked into before it becomes lore because it's not likely to be close.

Birgeneau: But I want to re-emphasize in the out-of-state and international since it was one of the things that shortly after I arrived here at Berkeley as chancellor I felt was a deficiency here. So my past experiences: Yale, MIT, Oxford and Toronto are all at schools which have very large numbers of out-of-state and international students, where it's an important part of the educational arena and part of the culture. I really felt strongly that California students would benefit from having more out-of-state and international students, that it was really educationally driven. In the early stages, I didn't understand the financial model well enough to realize that there was a financial gain as well. So the media, the newspapers in particular, outside of you all, have focused completely and entirely on the financial aspect. But that's not the driver. The driver is education and what kind of environment will be best for our students to learn from, whether it is in the classroom or in the residences.

OK, so why don't we hand it over to you. But I do want to make one, sort of generic, statement to you all as playing this really important role as editors which is: There's a number of times where I read an editorial which is expressing outrage over something either the quote unquote the administration - whoever it is - has done. Usually it's because we've done a bad job in communicating what we're actually doing so that reaches over something that's not real. I would only just encourage you, if something seems as if that's just really off base that the leadership team is doing, it probably means either someone else has misrepresented it or we haven't done a good job in communicating. So, before you actually finish the editorial, contact my assistant or George's assistant just to clarify what the facts are. We're not saying you necessarily would agree with everything that we do, but at least if you're going to disagree, it should be disagreeing with the facts, not facts that are imperfectly communicated.

OK. So now we're happy to answer any questions you have.


Senior Editorial Board: So, you mention that bringing international and out-of-state students here is not only a financial thing, but it's more of an educational opportunity. However, the University of California was originally intended to be for the students of California. So, this is a general question, but my question is: Is UC Berkeley still for California students - primarily, then - or is it something else now?

Birgeneau: So, first of all, having large numbers of international students at the graduate level has always been true. So, in terms of University of California, this being for Californians, actually the University of California has been an important magnet for outstanding people from around the globe for the indefinite past. We draw our faculty from, not just the United States, but we draw our faculty from around the world. We draw our graduate students from around the world. Our undergraduate education has been primarily focused on residents of the state California, but it was never meant to be exclusive to people who graduated from California high schools.

As I said, that, in fact, nevertheless I can't predict what will happen 10 years from now, but certainly in the current timeframe we have from the Office of the President the target number for the number of Californians, and we will make available education for every single one of those persons. There will be no decrease in the number of slots for Californians.

But at the same time, I can't repeat it to much, if you're having, in a public policy class, a discussion about the Middle East, if you have someone who actually grew up in Iraq in the classroom, it just makes a difference. It's an incredible advantage to a Californian to have someone in the classroom from Iraq or from Saudi Arabia or from Pakistan or who knows what, right?

Breslauer: I would add, also to that, that what we're talking about is going from 90 percent Californians to 80 percent Californians. So, if you're going to use the word "primarily," clearly, even once we attain this ramp-up, this will still be an 80 percent Californian undergraduate student body.

Second thing I wonder about, you might look back to see if there are any records from the 1960s as to what the percentage of nonresidents in the undergraduate student body was at that time. I think we may be assuming that the practices of the recent past, meaning the last two decades, are somehow emblematic of what UC always was. I got here in '71, one of my colleagues who got here in '63 tells me that it was his impression that there were far more nonresidents in the student body at that time than there are now.


SEB: Just to continue with another general question, which you alluded to, chancellor: What is your response to those students who say they are paying more for less?

Birgeneau: So, they are paying more. It's a fact, right? And it's because the state disinvested. All of us feel terrible about that, we worked really hard, we have been working hard, but the state disinvested and so the students are paying more because the state disinvested. It's a simple one-to-one.

For less, that's not true. Specifically, as we've just said, we've invested significantly in Reading and Composition courses. Already last year the provost put significantly more money into TAS funds and we're investing in the science gateway courses now and in language.

Breslauer: Language comes next.

Birgeneau: Language comes up. And I think the number of courses last year dropped by 1 percent, wasn't it?

Breslauer: Something like that.

Birgeneau: So, there was a decrease by about 1 percent. But actually, with the new courses, that number is actually going to go up.

Breslauer: We work really hard at trying to maintain the curriculum. There will always be waitlists. Think of it on an airplane when they have chicken or pasta and they get to the last row. The choices run out. So, on the grander scale, with 25,000 undergraduates, we can never provide the distribution of courses and the number of courses that would allow everybody to get their first choice, obviously. So, we're just trying to keep the waitlists down in terms of their length.

Birgeneau: So this semester, the number of GSIs - so therefore the number of graduate students in direct contact with undergraduates - is up by 4 percent. There's a 4 percent improvement, and we expect that number to go up significantly. So we expect students to have more sort of young scholars direct one-on-one contact - well not one-on-one, but small number of contact over the next couple of years.

SEB: If i could just elaborate on the less, I think, this is, I'm going to quote from the advisory, the Intercollegiate Athletics Advisory Council report, it says, "In the 2009-10 academic years, most research and teaching units had to find ways to meet cuts of 20% and more in budgets that were already lean, these units are not allowed to run deficits. Most units had to lay off staff, thereby increasing the burden on the remaining staff and faculty and have reduced levels of support (not least 19 departments in Letters and Science eliminated telephone service from all faculty offices), mandated furloughs have pushed staff income closer to the poverty line while costs of living increases remain virtually frozen." That's more on the administrative side, and then it also says, "Despite heroic efforts to maintain the excellence of our instructional programs, the faculty-student ratios declined, class sizes have increased, sections have been eliminated, and in some cases the number of classes or discussions per week have been reduced." So I think that's more like the less that we're referring to, and I think, it also mentions the leaky roofs, having only one gardener, things like that. So, if you could address that in responding, maybe.

Birgeneau: So I'll do part of it and George can do the other part. So we had furloughs last year, so it's true that because of the furloughs for a one-year time period that many services were reduced and everyone had to work really hard. People had to work harder. The whole purpose of the Operational Excellence exercise is, in order to do more with fewer staff by having them better organized and by not having duplications of services by not having shadow systems, etc. So Operational Excellence is very specifically designed to address the issues that the intercollegiate athletics report raises. But I gave the numbers, and the number of classes, actually, the number of classes wasn't reduced significantly and as I said already, for the GSIs we're up by 4 percent, so we're actually increasing. George.

Breslauer: Many of the things you pointed to there were increased burdens on faculty and staff, and that's undeniable. You might say that they are doing more for the same amount or less. This last year, because of the furloughs, they are doing more for less. Bear in mind where that all came from now, as a product of a huge slash in our budget by the state at the last minute, we didn't have all that many degrees of freedom. We had to reduce budgets by an average of 20 percent and that often times means, usually means, salaries and critical functions. We have done our best in a very bad situation to try to shield the students as best we can from the worst effects of that shortfall.

The emphasis in using a portion, I mean the increased student fees as well as the increased out-of-state revenues were meant to fill a hole, but we're nonetheless going to leave a portion of that hole unfilled in order to use some of that money to try to counteract the effects on the undergraduate curriculum that you pointed to there. And you know we're pushing back and we'll just keep pushing back, year after year. I increased my own personal contribution from my budget to the TAS budget - you know what that is? That's the temporary academic staffing that goes to support lecturers and GSIs to maintain that part of the curriculum other than the actual professors. So I added $2 million to that from my previous contribution.

Birgeneau: Personal doesn't mean his pocket. It's part of the university budget he has direct control over.

Breslauer: Did anyone here think that I could have written a $2 million check?

Birgeneau: I don't know, I thought there was something I didn't know George.

Breslauer: Unfortunately not. And so expanding the R&C courses and expanding the gateway courses we've still got to find $5 million to build the biology laboratories, the teaching laboratories that will allow us to expand the gateway courses in biology. Right now we can't do that because you can't teach biology properly unless you have those teaching labs. So once we figure out how to finance that, then we will go forward on that front as well, and the same committee that was working on the very, very complex challenge of figuring out how much you could expand these courses and these offerings with what staff and how much it would cost and how that would be distributed around campus, that same committee, now that it's gone through a period of a couple of months of R and R during the summer, is now going to be asked to tackle the foreign language courses to see where we have shortfalls there.

So we're pushing back on all of this, but a delineation of the collateral damage of last year's cut is both accurate and lamentable, but sort of in the short run unavoidable, and all we can do is now try to a year later start pushing back against it in order to repair some of that damage.

Birgeneau: So I know you know this, but just to remind you that at the end of May a year ago, we got informed that $80 million had been removed from our budget, that was $80 million that was there to pay people's salaries, so it means the money literally didn't exist to pay people's salaries.

And so it was a horrible summer for both George and myself. We basically didn't have vacations or barely had vacations because we spent all of our time trying to figure out a strategy of how we were going to get through the next academic year with $80 million less in salary money and continue to offer students, you know, as positive an experience as we possibly could in those circumstances.

And as I said, you know, I think we did as well as, I mean of course we could always do better but I'm proud of how well we did, and I think we're now positioned much better, but again you know we need the state to send us the next extra $45 million to help fill the hole, which is still partially there.


SEB: You talked a lot about, like in the short run, this is what we need to do, we need to push back on the state. Where do you see the UC in 15 years down the line? Do you see these fee increases ever getting rolled back or are we going more in the direction of having higher fees and giving more aid to lower income students?

Birgeneau: My own view is that as a percentage of the total cost of education here that the fees are as high as they should be. That's personal. I'm not speaking on behalf of the University of California, I want to be careful about that, right.

So I think as a public institution that we cannot see fees continue to go up indefinitely as a percentage of the total cost of education, and I think we're, I used to have a rule of thumb which is that in a public institution, the fees shouldn't exceed a third of the actual cost of education and we're in that domain or we're getting close to that now. So I would be very unhappy if, for in-state students, that the fees went significantly above that.

But on the other hand, and we've seen that our financial aid system is extraordinarily successful in protecting low-income students, as long as the Cal Grant program and federal Pell Grants continue. We have a record number of low-income students this semester and costs are the lowest they have been in modern times, which is pretty remarkable, and I think is a dramatic success for the financial aid system.

Of course this means that for middle-income students, it's an increasing challenge and we've initiated conversations among ourselves, and we'll welcome student input on ways of addressing the middle-income challenge.

It's not as trivial as you might think because there are various federal constraints when you receive federal financial aid in terms of what the parental help has to be. But there's no doubt in our philanthropic fundraising, that will be one area where we will put an emphasis on the middle-class challenge.

The other area in which I've done some work on in Washington already, as have others, so far without success, is in the federal financial aid formulae, it's assumed that the cost of living is uniform across the country. Built into their financial model is the assumption that it costs the same to live in Berkeley as it does in Topeka, Kansas, and that's manifestly not true, and so we've been talking to people in the Department of Education saying you have to change this and you have to give us more flexibility, and the federal policies on financial aid have to take into account that it costs a lot more money to live in Berkeley when you are going to school than it does in some other parts of the country.

And that has not got political traction in Washington so far for the very obvious reason that the senators from Kansas are not going to welcome the change in the laws that basically take money out of Kansas, take money away from students in Kansas and send it to students going to school in California.

So this is, you know, this is an example of one of these challenges which are multidimensional and which involve federal policy, which involve our own financial aid protocols and involve convincing donors to help us address this issue.

SEB: Over the last academic year, you have encouraged students to direct their protests and anger not at the university but rather at the state. But students still haven't necessarily seen a fully positive effect from the state yet. Let's assume that the Legislature continues to cut funding to higher education in the coming years. First of all, what do you tell these students and secondly, what is the next step that the University of California, or more specifically UC Berkeley, takes?

Birgeneau: So we don't control the voters of California. Ultimately this is the voters' responsibility. So the voters need to elect representatives that are committed to public education. I don't see any other possibility, and I don't see any other approach ultimately besides of course all the advocacy that we do at the senior level, but I don't see another approach than to have the students, their parents, their parents' friends, etc. organizing, and either appearing in the offices of the local legislators, or ultimately for the candidates, demanding that candidates for the Assembly, for the Senate and for the governor's race make their commitments to public education.

We live in a democracy, and so ultimately it's the voters who are going to decide what the priorities are of the politicians that they elect. And I don't see any other way.

SEB: And if the California voter doesn't value higher education, the University of California will obviously take a huge hit. So if California voters don't elect officials who are going to prioritize higher education, is there another plan? Would we see more fee increases? Would we see more layoffs? Or is the most feasible, best possible - well, obviously, the best possible solution is more state funding, but is that feasible and can we expect that?

Birgeneau: So, I think it's, my expectation is that, that we will not see significant decreases in the near future. I mean, you asked about 15 or 20 years, that's very hard for anybody to forecast. I think in the near future we're going to see that we have a stabilized situation. I think that private philanthropy will become progressively more important, as it has been. I think we will need more and more of the philanthropy directed towards students, and I think we will see many of our donors stepping up as they have been already, actually, in terms of supporting faculty and students. As I said, you know, I personally would hate to see fees increase as a percentage of the total cost of education significantly beyond what they are now. We can save moneys by operating more efficiently. Operational Excellence, well, the diagnostic phase gave us a road map. We're moving forward and we can save a certain amount, but that's limited also. We also, it turns out, on the research front, don't receive from the federal government adequate amounts of money to support the research and, so, that's called the indirect cost rate. So, we're also working on that front as well.

I, of course, haven't completely, as many of you know, have, Frank Yeary and I wrote an op-ed and we've done follow-up through the major organizations. I personally feel that maintaining outstanding public education is not just a state priority; it should be a federal priority. And, so, I personally feel that it will progressively become more important for the federal government to begin to invest directly in public education. I, on behalf of the Swiss Secretary of State, twice shared a committee in Switzerland within this decade looking at their university system. And in Switzerland, two of the universities are actually supported directly out of the federal budget. And then, a number of the other publics are supported out of state budgets. They actually have federal public universities. And, if you scale by population, let's see, that would be two would translate into a hundred in the United States. So, imagine having a hundred universities where their budgets are primarily supported by the federal government across the country. So, that's an interesting model. So I think we're going to need to be creative going forward, and I think we will need federal participation, ultimately. I think, if the states continue to disinvest, if we're going to have great public institutions in this country, then we're going to need to see federal investment. In my meetings, and I've been at meetings which have been included universities which probably wouldn't profit directly from this because they're not top-echelon universities. That's, of course, complicated to figure out a model in our democracy, which, federal support which people would agree on broadly, right, just if you do the arithmetic in terms of realistic cost. So, it's a challenge to devise a model for federal investment in public education that will get, you know, the kind of broad support that one needs in order to move forward.

SEB: You mentioned increased reliance on private funds is going to be probably a reality in the UC's future. Do you have any concerns in terms of the ones that were raised, for example, in the BP deal, as to private interest possibly, taking, having sway in the UC's research?

Birgeneau: So this is the thing which one must be very vigilant on. I, actually, it's not just research, I mean. Once in my previous life where, when I was president of the University of Toronto where this was a concern, we did a detailed study to see when was the evidence for interference, and, it turns out, the only time there was interference was when it came form the federal government, it was political. That, in fact, there was no example where private funders had actually interfered with the research, but government officials sometimes do. So, it's not that, that private funding means that you have dangers of interference and public funding means that you don't have dangers of interference. I guess that probably clear, right? So, first of all, let's talk about philanthropy as opposed to research support. When philanthropy, when we have philanthropic support, once the funds come to us, they're public. So they're not private funds anymore, they're public, they belong to us, they belong to the public. And so our endowment, which is around $3 billion, those are entirely public funds now. And the payout is entirely public. And they are targeted and so, you know, there are some funds, which are designated to provide scholarships for students. There are other funds, which provide research support for faculty. There are other funds, which do other, you know, which may support seminars, or such like. But the donors have played no role in that. I mean, they're public funds.

In terms of private, corporate support of research, as I already said, in one study which I actually participated in, in fact in that case it turns out the difficult people were government agencies, they actually weren't, they weren't corporate interests. We have relatively little corporate support here at Berkeley compared to most other universities, and it comes from a whole variety of industries, whether it's Microsoft or Intel, or what have you, right? And we have some research which is, designed to support underactive research. And we have others, which is really very targeted, and those are contracts and, you now, we have very well developed rules. The particular case of the BP arrangement is one actually, which is a model for the country in terms of protecting the rights of students and faculty. So, so other universities actually look to the BP arrangement as one, which protects the rights of students and faculty.

For part two of the interview, click here.

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