Original post made
on Oct 10, 2010
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Here's sad tale of a University wasting California $. UC Berkeley's recent elimination of popular sports programs highlighted endemic problems in the university's management. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians in Sacramento, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.
A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Compentent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up
.until there was no money left.
It's not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.
From time to time, a whistleblower would bring some glaring problem to light, but the chancellor's response was to dig in and defend rather than listen and act. Since UC has been exempted from most whistleblower lawsuits, there are ultimately no negative consequences for maintaining inefficiencies.
In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC president, Board of Regents, and California legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, students, staff, academic senate, Cal. alumni, and taxpayers await the transformation.
Here's an idea: How about spending some of that money on classrooms and teachers so the school can accommodate more students? Right now Las Positas caps the classes at 50 students, many can't get the classes they need, and some of us can't even graduate on time. But, we have a new theater...
I am a defender of the Arts in many ways. I think that the new Theater complex at the college is great. I certainly believe that people that are artistic have to have a place to perform and develop their art. Over the years for some reason it is always the arts that takes a back seat and funding is reduced or cut off. Remember that during bad times, it has always been the entertainment industry that has kept us all in better spirits. Also keep in mind that way back in the days of a young Shirley Temple, that it was her smile and movies that saved Fox Studios from Bankruptcy. I remember the days when Chabot College & the City Of Pleasanton Recreation Dept. teamed together to do a summer musical. Dr. Mertes was very involved in that at that time. Please support the Arts in every way you can.
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