La UCLA ante la crisis: liderazgo y capacidad de toma de decisiones


Me han impresionado mucho las cartas que el Chancellor de la UCLA, Gene Block, ha enviado a la comunidad universitaria de la UCLA y a los Alumni de la Universidad no solamente por la forma cómo cuenta con toda crudeza la crisis económica que afecta a la UCLA si no como admite sin subterfugios que la rebaja de financiación procedente del Estado de California (en abierta bancarrota) no es un problema puntual si no para diversos años. Entre las soluciones propuestas hay un aumento de tarifas para los estudiantes, una disminución salarial significativa, reducción de la oferta de programas y un esfuerzo de captación de donaciones en tiempos adversos para el patrocinio.

Reproduzco una parte de la carta y que cada cual haga sus propias reflexiones:

What is the scope of the current problem?

Since the passage of the earlier state budget in February, California’s fiscal picture has declined dramatically, and the May election did not deliver relief. We have been forced to shift from plans to reduce our general funds budget next year by $33 million (about 5% for most units) to a cut of $132 million. For the fiscal year beginning July 1, this represents an approximate 17% reduction in our general funds allocation. I should emphasize that the situation is still fluid, but these are our most current figures.

How do we plan to respond to this unprecedented loss of funding?

First, the campus will receive approximately $15.5 million in additional funds from the approved 10% increase in the Education Fee paid by our students. Of this amount, about half is needed to fund mandatory cost increases for the upcoming year, leaving only $7.5 million to offset state budget cuts.

Second, the 5% reduction in campus expenditures that we had already planned will save $33 million.

Third, the salary reduction/furlough options proposed by the Office of the President will save UCLA approximately $30 million in state funding, if implemented on August 1.

Fourth, while we still have some reserves to temporarily assist with the shortfall, we must implement at least another $40 million in budget cuts to balance our books. Soon after the Regents’ meeting on July 16, we will send further information to our academic units regarding reductions and appoint task forces to advise on targeted cuts. We must take this deep and sobering reduction in a way that maintains our stature as one of the world’s great universities and ensures that UCLA continues to fulfill its public mission.

What must we preserve in order for UCLA to remain UCLA?

Our “core” values. As we consider significant reductions, the following principles and priorities will help guide our decisions.

We must:

Continue to offer the very best undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to receive a world-class education. This means ensuring that our students progress toward their degrees and that students of all backgrounds receive the services and financial support they need to attend UCLA and flourish while they’re here. Our $500 million Bruin Scholars Initiative will play a key role in this effort; we have already raised almost $25 million.
Ensure that UCLA’s world-class faculty stays here, and continue to attract top scholars to our campus. A great university cannot survive without attracting and retaining scholars of the highest distinction. Becoming smaller, as I will outline later in this letter, does not mean growing weaker. We will do what it takes to increase faculty excellence.
Ensure that we support our outstanding staff, devoted individuals who provide critical service for our students, faculty, visitors and patients. A great university must have highly motivated and professional staff. UCLA is blessed with such a group, and we deeply appreciate their dedication to the university. In support of staff, we will continue to make training and development a priority.
Protect our faculty’s ability to engage in extraordinary scholarship. The hallmark of an eminent research university is outstanding research and the benefits it provides to students and society. We must ensure that our faculty have the time and research infrastructure to keep UCLA among the nation’s elite research institutions.
Protect UCLA’s attractiveness to a diverse student body, faculty and staff. In recent years we have made gains in diversity among our students, staff and faculty. I don’t have to tell you how fragile these advances are. We will maintain our focus in this area.
Emphasize our role as a public institution serving the people of California. Although we are deeply disappointed by the lack of state support, we recognize our responsibility to maintain critical engagement within our community, especially in the areas of healthcare and K-12 education. But we must become more efficient and cost-effective in how we deliver these services.

How can we protect these core values, maintain academic excellence and yet drastically reduce our budget?

We must:

Reduce undergraduate over-enrollment. UCLA is bursting at the seams with students. This year, we enrolled approximately 1,750 students over our target. This is largely because of the extraordinary qualifications of our applicants and our desire to serve as many students as we can. But we must reduce our student population to ensure that we have the resources to offer a quality education. We also will consider increasing the proportion of non-resident students. UCLA currently enrolls a greater proportion of state residents than our peer public institutions. There are strong intellectual arguments for geographical diversity; non-resident students can enrich the educational experience for all. A moderate increase in the proportion of non-residents would generate millions of dollars in new revenue to protect instructional programs for all UCLA students.
Operate with a smaller faculty and administration. EVC Waugh has limited faculty recruitment next year to 25 searches campus-wide. (For 2008-09, we hired 75 new faculty, reflecting more than 100 searches.) We will do all we can to retain our distinguished and highly productive faculty as we continue to aggressively recruit distinguished senior faculty and promising junior faculty. But their numbers will be smaller to match a reduced student body. In addition, I will be proposing an initiative to achieve administrative cost savings through streamlining and consolidating campus business processes.
Reduce the number of educational programs we offer. UCLA offers an astounding array of majors and interdisciplinary programs. Some are among the very best in the nation, but not all remain vital and of significant interest to our students. Pruning programs will help us emphasize areas in which we are strongest. Academic advisory groups, working with EVC Waugh, will identify areas that can no longer be supported by general funds.
Remove redundant functions, both administrative and educational, that have arisen over time, in order to enhance our effectiveness and efficiency. In addition to measures we are already taking related to energy use, travel and campus systems, we will consider centralizing and/or combining functions in such areas as business operations and institutional assessment. We are asking deans to consider reasoned reductions in major requirements, elimination of redundant course offerings among departments, enhanced use of information technology, and any other efforts that would improve efficiencies in the curriculum.
Reduce the use of general funds to support research, and instead attract funding from other sources. Many research programs receiving regular state support can obtain competitive funds from federal sources, foundations or philanthropy. In most cases, general fund support of research should be temporary and used to catalyze and leverage other forms of funding. There is little justification for programs that are fully supportable by outside agencies to continue to receive large amounts of general fund support.
Recognize that the reduced level of state support will be a multi-year problem. Immediate modifications in our budget for 2009-10 must be followed by systemic actions that permanently reduce our need for state support.
Take full advantage of vacant positions following retirements and voluntary work reductions to minimize the need for layoffs. Most of our expenditures at UCLA are labor costs. We can speak of “consolidation,” “increasing efficiency” or “program reductions,” but in the end, these measures result in fewer jobs for faculty and staff and fewer employment opportunities for students. This means not replacing individuals who retire, allowing individuals to reduce their working hours through the START program, not renewing annual contracts and, unfortunately, layoffs.
Rededicate ourselves to philanthropic efforts. Alumni and friends of UCLA have been remarkably supportive of our university in the past. Without a change in the downward spiral of state support, UCLA increasingly will need to be privately funded. We especially must focus on growing endowments for undergraduate aid, graduate fellowships, faculty chairs, and research centers and programs.

(La imagen es de Cornelis Bega)