More information on Berkeley’s strategy

Inside Higher Ed has done some solid work on the Berkeley story I blogged this morning (“Is Berkeley getting ready to consider a queen sacrifice?“).

Here’s what Colleen Flaherty added:

  • On cutting faculty: “Asked if the process would involve faculty cuts, Dirks reiterated that everything is up for discussion.”  Which is big.  There was also a caveat: “But he said the campus already suffers from a relatively high student-to-professor ratio and that it’s committed to maintaining the current size of the faculty.

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    ”  Is that code for “we’ll hire more adjuncts”?

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  • On grad students: “In a follow-up conference call with reporters, Provost Claude Steele said the university is also considering reducing graduate student enrollment.

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  • Sports are secure, or maybe not: “While Dirks’s memo referenced athletics, [Provost Claude Steele] also clarified during the call that the university is unlikely to cut entire teams.”

Flaherty also offered this useful and sobering context:

Like many public research institutions, Berkeley’s been hit with declining state funding, flat tuition, and ballooning pension and health care costs — a mix that’s become especially challenging in the last few years. Whereas the institution once received half its funding from the state, that support now makes up just 13 percent ($333 million) of its budget. Undergraduate tuition, which makes up an additional 30 percent of the budget, hasn’t risen for five years and won’t budge again until at least 2017-18, according to a plan Governor Jerry Brown put in place after many years of tuition increases. Pension and health care costs have risen 100 percent, by some $200 million, over the last seven years.

A faculty senate president adds this dark view:

Benjamin Hermalin, Thomas and Alison Schneider Distinguished Professor of Finance and a professor of economics, and chair of Berkeley’s Academic Senate, said the “simple formula of cutting the fat” doesn’t apply, because the campus is already lean. So the university has to come up with creative ways to become sustainable and more self-reliant, he said, such as achieving new economies of scale and making wider use of available resources. It will be challenging, and the process inevitably will hurt, he added.

I’m still cautious, but this article nudges me a bit closer to the pessimistic side.

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6 Responses to More information on Berkeley’s strategy

  1. amichaelberman says:

    They seem to be sending mixed messages. From the LA Times this morning –

    “He [Dirks] added that faculty and sports teams would be spared and that officials would aim to make up financial shortfalls in the athletic program through more fundraising.”
    “The faculty’s primary concerns are to maintain the 1,500 professors who are tenured or on a tenure track and to make sure that top-quality lecturers are brought in to help accommodate the 750 additional California students that Berkeley has committed to accepting this fall, said Ben Hermalin, the school’s Academic Senate chairman and a professor of economics and business. So far, the faculty has been pleased with the administration’s collaborative approach, he said.”

    They also insist this is not a campaign to get more state funding.

    Full article –

    (If eliminating faculty is a Queen Sacrifice, is eliminating sports teams a King Sacrifice? 🙂 )

  2. Thank you for the California media links, Michael and Vanessa.

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