Mr. DiFi Cashes in on Crisis
by: Will Parish & Darwin Bond-Graham, Counterpunch, 3.1.2010
This past July, following the California State Legislature’s decision to strip $813 million from the University of California’s Fiscal Year 2009-10 budget, the UC’s 26-member Board of Regents voted to declare “a state of financial emergency.” Such a “state of emergency,” the university’s official by-laws state, should accompany an “imminent and substantial deficiency in available university financial resources.”
The Regents also voted to grant special “emergency powers” to UC President Mark G. Yudof. Yudof promptly marshaled his new and vaguely defined authority to lay off hundreds of workers, impose pay cuts and furloughs on remaining university staff, and propose a 32 percent increase in student fees which the Regents approved in November.
At the same meeting, Regents Chairman Russell Gould announced the formation of a new UC Commission on the Future. Its de facto function has been to further the privatization of the university. Notably, Gould is one of California’s most prominent financiers, a man who served as vice chairman of Wachovia Bank during its growth as one of the leading subprime mortgage lenders in the United States. He and Yudof serve as the commission’s co-chairmen. In Gould’s words, the commission’s task is “nothing short of re-imagining” the University of California.
The State of California’s political elites and business leaders routinely use the language of crisis now whenever discussing the UC. In the past few decades, state funding of the university has suffered steady erosion. The UC now receives more funding than ever from private corporations and the federal government (the latter being in most instances pretty much the same as the former). Its various revenue streams range from student fees to several billion dollars in medical hospital revenue to private grants and donations, to its own hedge fund-like investments portfolio, to atomic bomb dollars from the Department of Energy.
Thus, despite the state budget cuts, the UC’s overall revenue reached an all-time high of $19.42 billion in the 2009-10 academic year, and the Regents’ claim that the UC faces an “imminent and substantial” funding deficit is inaccurate, to say the least. According to both the university’s own financial documents and Moody’s bond rating agency, the university had access to over $8.3 billion in unrestricted investment funds it was holding in reserve at the time.
The university has undergone a neo-liberal-style “structural adjustment” at the behest of the UC Regents, and this transformation has been accelerated during Yudof’s tenure as president. Under the leadership of California’s economic elite, the UC has become the leading prototype for a “disaster capitalist university.”
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