Considering that the current UC president is a former government bureaucrat, it is no surprise that accountability is offensive to her. Consolidation of power is always good for bureaucratic incompetents.
Proposed changes in the governance of the University of California System would empower its president, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, with greatly enhanced autonomy by hamstringing the principal check on her power, the Regents. Regents of the University of California are entrusted with the supervision of a vast enterprise with an annual budget of over $25 billion, comprising 10 campuses, and employing almost 20,000 professors and 135,900 support staff, all ultimately reporting to Napolitano.
University of California Regents begin their terms with an oath to serve as fiduciaries -- legally obligated to act solely in the best interests of the people of California. Preserving the Regents’ authority to protect the University is even more important now that the State of California contributes only a small fraction of UC’s budget.
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At the July 2016 Regents Meeting, they will vote whether to change the Regents’ Board governance procedures in ways that would diminish the power of the Regents relative to UC President Janet Napolitano’s administration. Napolitano already has demonstrated a reluctance to consult the Academic Senate on issues such as pension reform and disciplining UC Davis Chancellor Katehi, and, according to Regent Rodney Davis, failed to inform Regents of Katehi’s response to Napolitano’s allegations.
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A major change would rescind the longstanding authority of an individual Regent to place any item on the Regents’ meeting agenda. This authority proved an important bargaining tool when certain Regents balked at the Administration’s proposed UC Statement of Principles Against Intolerance, enabling Regents to craft a statement acceptable to civil libertarians from both the left and right of the political spectrum.
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Some Regents argue that the proposed governance changes could be tried for a year, and then reconsidered. Once implemented, however, it likely would be impossible for now less-powerful Regents to regain their lost authority.
As they did with the proposed Intolerance Principles, the UC Regents should call time out to consider governance changes, and concentrate on enhancing their role as fiduciaries. Included in these considerations should be whether to rescind the relatively recent change to have the General Counsel report not only to the Board but also to the UC President. The General Counsel cannot properly serve two masters. Another consideration should be whether, like UC Academic Senate members who choose to remain non-voting members, the UC President’s Board membership should be changed to a non-voting member. In almost all public university boards, the president is a non-voting, ex-officio (serving while holding the office) member. The UC President reports to the Board, after all.
June 30, 2016
Gutting Accountability at the University of California
By Velma Montoya