UC 101: Educating Our New President – Intro

UC 101: Educating Our New President

 Introduction, July 22, 2013

 by Charles Schwartz, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley

Janet Napolitano has just been appointed by the Regents of the University of California to be the next President of this great university.  It has been noted that she has impressive abilities and experience in several areas of the public sphere, but not in higher education.  One may expect that she will start out on a “listening tour” of the campuses, to better acquaint herself with the existing structure, personnel and culture of this institution.  That is a familiar “top-down” approach to gaining legitimacy upon assuming leadership from outside.

What I propose here is an experiment in “bottom-up” education.

Faculty, students, staff and many friends of the University of California believe that we know quite a lot about the greatness and the shortcomings of this institution. So let us attempt to provide a course of instruction to orient our new President to her job.

One may see this exercise as an inverse MOOC – an online class with (hopefully) one select student, being taught by any and all interested members of the UC community. It is also intended that this set of ideas and debates be accessible to all the citizens of California. (This is, after all, their university.)

The classroom will be this web site, UniversityProbe.org , where I plan to publish weekly lessons on focused topics and invite all readers to post their comments as essential contributions to the class.

Here is my proposed list of topics for the first four lessons:

#1.  The primacy of public education.

#2. Executive compensation at UC and the misplaced corporate mentality.

#3. Bad financial bookkeeping and priorities.

#4. Overgrown administrative bureaucracies.

I invite others to volunteer their own lessons (e.g., on student debt, police management, shared governance, etc.) to provide a diversity of topics and perspectives. Send proposals to me at Schwartz@physics.berkeley.edu

Next week (July 29), Lesson #1 – The Primacy of Public Education

Comments may start right now.


  1. Gene Anderson said,

    July 22, 2013 @ 9:14 am

    I agree with Dr. Schwartz’ comments. I am emeritus professor of anthropology at UCR. I have been here 47 years; before that I was a student at Berkeley; my father taught at UCLA, starting in 1955. So I now have almost 60 years experience in the UC system.
    I have seen the system rise to ever greater heights, but there are now huge problems with the teaching mission. The “corporate model” has wound up privileging flash and show over content, as the Chronicle of Higher Education and many other sources have emphasized over and over for years. At UCR, library budgets have been cut steadily, classroom teaching is left increasingly to temps, and so on down the usual list–the library is the worst catastrophe here. Instead, we get flashy signs, fancy uniforms, absurdly inflated athletics programs (for a small, not-very-sports-oriented campus), and, above all, fantastic inflation in the number and pay of higher administrators. UCR’s budget increases steadily while we steadily lose money for libraries, labs, classroom teaching, and remedial education for students in trouble. This campus used to be teaching-oriented and was considered the intensive liberal arts school of the UC system. No longer.

  2. Anant said,

    July 22, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

    I don’t necessarily have a lesson plan in mind, but I think that since she’s going to be president of UC and not chancellor of Berkeley, some lessons need to deal with this. I propose the following topics:
    1) UC: how to think about a collection of campuses, hospitals, and labs. What services can/should UCOP be providing to campuses?
    2) Growing one model of excellent education by replication or creating diverse and distinct campuses each excellent in its own way
    3) Economies of scale for UC across campuses: both real and illusory. Where can we leverage our scale for truly improved quality and efficiencies and where is it simply an illusion?
    4) Efficiency by expansion: where can UC improve our financial security while expanding what we do rather than contracting. Should UC start a “teaching Bank” the way that we have world-class teaching hospitals, thereby bringing our financial future into our own hands? Should UC expand its health-care operations to not-only self-insure but to self-provide coverage, while getting other state and local agencies to pay into it? Should UC launch venture-capital funds that take equity stakes in CA companies?
    5) International and Other States strategy: UC has an unrivaled track record in being able to start campuses and grow them to approach the quality of places like Berkeley. (No other institution comes even close!) A lot of places in the world would like world-class universities and seem willing to pay for them — how can UC take a cut while also providing this very helpful service to other countries and states within the USA.
    6) Political leverage: what are the political skills that UCOP has lacked and operational challenges that UCOP has faced in being able to “show us the money” while dealing with Sacramento and Washington.
    7) Tracking our accomplishments: how can we better *quantify* the near-, medium-, and long-term impact of UC on the state’s economy and quality of life in a manner that can inform both the budget process and voters to make comparisons between UC and other areas of state investment and choose an appropriate mix.
    8) Managing and deploying the UC Regents: A good company knows how to maximize the value delivered by its board of directors. Are the Regents being utilized effectively to maximize value for UC?
    9) Unlocking politically relevant value we already have: CA faces many complex problems that involve actual reality and not just rhetoric. How can UC help serve the state by clarifying political choices and cutting through the heated words with unbiased reality-based analysis and creative thinking?
    10) Long-term political risks to UC and managing them: CA faces a new future as a majority-minority state. However children from many ethnic groups are not at the moment qualified/able to enter UCs in proportion to their population within the state. What aggressive moves can/should UC take to show that this is a solveable problem (i.e. should UC adopt certain high-schools with the goal of making at least 10% of their population truly UC-eligible and admit-worthy?) and how can we help to actually solve it at scale.

  3. Charlie Schwartz said,

    July 22, 2013 @ 3:16 pm


    I happen to sit in Berkeley but this educational effort was not meant to be confined to this campus. The four topics I have listed above all deal with statewide (or larger) issues that are familiar to many.

    If you would like to take some specific ideas from your own list and develop them into future lessons for this course, please let me know.


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