|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, May 10, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle 5-9-04
Editorial: UC's invisible regents
Four months ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came up with a package of tough measures for the University of California, including raising fees, reducing financial aid and increasing class size. UC has already implemented his proposal to send thousands of UC eligible freshmen to community colleges for the first time in the university's history.
You might think the crisis would have triggered a vocal response from UC's Board of Regents, made up of some of the most powerful and wealthiest citizens of California. Eighteen of the board's 26 members are chosen by the governor (and confirmed by the state Senate) for 12-year terms, longer than any other appointed office in California. Increasingly they are big money donors to the governors who appointed them.
They include San Diego Padres owner John Moores, Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing, Hollywood television mogul Haim Saban, Palo Alto real estate magnate George Marcus, entrepreneur Richard Blum (husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein), San Diego philanthropist Peter Preuss and Norman Pattiz, founder of Westwood One, the nation's largest radio network.
Yet the regents remain almost invisible to the public, even during this moment of extreme crisis for the university. With a handful of exceptions, they are not accessible to the press.
Of all the regents, board chairman John Moores has been the most visible -- on an issue unrelated to the budget. Rather than mobilizing the regents against the cuts to the university's budget, his focus has been a crusade to challenge UC's admissions policies. With his own money he has hired research assistants to come up with a highly critical report on admissions, especially at UC Berkeley. In a recent article in Forbes magazine, he accused UC of ''thwarting the law,'' ''manipulating the admissions system'' and ''blatantly discriminating against Asians.'' Instead of being an advocate for the university at this moment of crisis, he has emerged as one of its toughest critics. His fellow regents got so fed up they passed a resolution censuring him.
A university spokesman told us that some regents have indeed been working behind the scenes, such as making phone calls to key players in Sacramento and arranging dinner parties with senior UC and Schwarzenegger officials. Judith Hopkinson, one of a handful of regents who actually talks to the press, insisted that her fellow board members have been active, although she herself has not been to Sacramento because she doesn't know Schwarzenegger personally. "Everyone is working very hard, and we are having some success," she told us.
But the only "success" she and others hint at is persuading the Schwarzenegger administration to accept a compromise fee proposal that would raise graduate tuition by "only" 25 percent -- in place of the 40 percent increase proposed by Schwarzenegger. In return, undergraduate fees would rise another 15 percent next year, instead of the 10 percent Schwarzenegger called for.
This amounts to little more than a shell game. Even if Schwarzenegger relents on this issue -- imposing less pain on graduate students and more pain on undergraduates -- the total amount he is proposing to cut from UC's budget will remain the same. There is no sign that Schwarzenegger will back off from any of the budget cuts he specified in his January budget. The governor appears determined to adhere to his campaign pledge of no new taxes.
The regents have a few more days to persuade Schwarzenegger that he is on the wrong track. On Thursday he will announce his revised budget, which will show whether the discreet efforts of some regents have had results. While UC tries to scramble out of its fiscal morass, board chairman Moores is on vacation -- out of the country and unreachable, his office told us last week.
This crisis demands that the regents assume a more public role and initiate a statewide conversation about what the state's role must be in underwriting UC's future.
"We may have reached the point where behind-the-scenes brokering (by the regents) may not be enough," says Pat Callan, president of the national Center for Public Higher Education in San Jose. "Isn't it time for someone to lead a crusade against these cuts?"
If the regents -- among the state's most prominent citizens -- can't do it, it's hard to imagine who could. To paraphrase a Talmudic saying, if not now, then when?
Regents, the University of California needs you. Now.
-- Richard Blum, chairman of Blum Capital Partners, husband to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. (Davis, 2002-2014)*
-- Ward Connerly, land-use consultant, leader of anti-affirmative action campaigns in California and elsewhere. (Wilson, 1993-2005).
-- Judith Hopkinson, former executive of Ameriquest Capital Corporation (Davis, 1999-2009).
-- Odessa Johnson, former dean at Modesto Junior College. (Davis,1999- 2012).
-- Joanne Kozberg, partner in California Strategies, formerly secretary of consumer affairs under Gov. Wilson. (Wilson, 1998-2010).
-- Sherry Lansing, Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures (Davis, 1999- 2010).
-- David Lee, adviser to former Presidents Bush and Clinton on international trade. (Wilson, 1994-2006).
-- Monica Lozano, publisher of La Opinion in Los Angeles (Davis, 2001- 2013).
-- George Marcus, chairman of the Marcus & Millichap Company, a commercial real estate firm. (Davis, 2000-2012).
-- Velma Montoya, formerly member of U.S. Occupational and Safety and Health Review Commission (Wilson, 1994-2005).
-- John Moores (board chairman), owner of the San Diego Padres. (Davis, 1999-2009).
-- Gerald Parsky, chairman of Aurora Capital Partners, chairman of George W. Bush's 2000 California presidential campaign. (Wilson, 1996-2008).
-- Norman Pattiz, chairman of the radio network Westwood One (Davis, 2001- 2015).
-- Peter Preuss (board vice chairman), founder of Integrated Software Systems Corporation (Wilson, 1996-2008).
-- Haim Saban, founder of Fox Family Worldwide (Davis, 2002-2014).
-- Tom Sayles, former secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (Wilson, 1994-2006)
* Appointing governor and length of term.
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