Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Hey Big Daddy,
You and Ronald Reagan cut the deal on UC tuition nearly 40 years ago, and now look where we are – I’m referring to the Regents’ meeting at UCLA. Are you ashamed?

–Saddened in San Diego

Dear Saddened,

What more can I say? It’s an outrage and a disgrace.  

The Regents paved the way to raise fees 32 percent to more than $10,000 a year – to $11,000, if you throw in various campus charges – and will probably put the final touches on this outrage later in the week. And that’s for undergrads. When you look at graduate students in specialty programs, you’re talking hikes of up to 65 percent.

I once said “Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” and in UC’s case we’re talking about an entire dairy. The system that was launched and thrived as a meritocracy envied around the world, has turned into a top heavy, politically tone deaf,  administrative and managerial labyrinth.

It complains about state control, but grovels and lobbies to get state money, then after it gets funding, it complains that it isn’t enough and passes the buck, literally, to the students. Meanwhile, the administration is rife with an inordinate abundance of upper six-figure salaries and what can only be described as creative management, divorced from its faculty almost as much as it is from the students.

Its governance is disjointed, with the Office of the President doing one thing and the campus chieftains doing something else. It reminds me of the Hanseatic League or the dysfunctional League of Nations – yes, I read history when I’m finished looking at the Laphroaig label – and the parallels are apt.

UC uses student money as a revenue stream to back bonds for new construction – remember, this is money it gets from students who think their dollars are going for their education – and insulates itself from the very public that supports it. The university even argues for privatization.

To that, I say fine: Just return the institutional facilities, intellectual property, real property (including the housing for administrators), the excessive bonuses financed on the public dime, the patents developed through the public institutions by publicly salaried researchers, and the publicly financed, non-profit think-tanks that piggy back on the institution and the students. And don't forget those publicly financed empires linked to the institution that market information for just about everybody but the students.

I could go on, but I won’t.

As you well know, I’m dead — and one of the things that killed me was UC.

It was the fear – which has come to pass – that UC would one day turn into a profit-mongering machine instead of an educational institution for the best and the brightest, even if they’re poor.

I should have stuck with drinking their liquor and sleeping with their women. Messing with UC was a big mistake.

Like I said: What else can I say?

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