The University of California's budget problems are well documented. The system has to cut $813 million. The administration and Regents have decided to do so by a draconian combination of faculty and staff furloughs, programs cuts, and so.
Every state system of public education save California manages to sustain (at best) one flagship campus. Many, including such states as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, do not manage even that. We pretend we have ten such campuses. In better times, there were in reality four flagships (Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, and – in its highly specialized way, UCSF). Rather than destroying the distinctiveness and excellence at Berkeley, UCLA, and UCSD by hiring temporary lecturers to do most of the teaching (and contribute nothing to original research, nothing to our reputation, nothing to the engine of economic growth a first rate research university represents), we propose that you urge the President and Regents to acknowledge that UCSC, UCR, and UC Merced are in substantial measure teaching institutions (with some exceptions – programs that have genuinely achieved national and international excellence and thus deserve separate treatment), whose funding levels and budgets should be reorganized to match that reality.
We suggest, more generally, that in discussions systemwide, you drop the pretense that all campuses are equal, and argue for a selective reallocation of funds to preserve excellence, not the current disastrous blunderbuss policy of even, across the board cuts. Or, if that is too hard, we suggest that what ought to be done is to shut one or more of these campuses down, in whole or in part. We have suffered more than a 30 per cent cut in our funding from the state, and we can thus no longer afford to be a ten campus system – only a nine, or an eight (and a half) campus system. Corporations faced with similar problems eliminate or sell off their least profitable, least promising divisions. Even General Motors, which for decades resisted this logic, to its near‐fatal cost, is lopping off Hummer, Buick, GMC, Opel, Saab and who knows what else.
If closing campuses makes sense, and I think it does for the reasons they identified, why not consider closing schools? Or, perhaps, not letting new ones open?
- The occupational and industry projections of the California Labor Market Information Division indicate that the current growth in the number of Bar-certified lawyers will keep pace with or exceed legal demand between now and 2014.
- The State’s knowledge needs in the domain of legal education can be met by existing public and independent law schools.
- The projected public costs are questionable because the need for a new public law school has not been demonstrated by the evidence contained in the proposal.
UCSB's success demonstrates that Irvine law school proponents, such as Joan Irvine Smith, are simply wrong in believing that Irvine must "have a law school in addition to medical, business, and engineering schools in order for the campus to advance as a major university." And Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake is wrong in diverting scarce student enrollment growth funds to hire a law school dean to add graduates specializing in public interest law. California does not face a shortage of public interest lawyers. Indeed, notable public law interest offices have closed their doors.
Drake is mistaken in drawing an analogy between medically underserved Latino populations and the market for lawyers. And Drake is wrong to lead the Irvine campus down the slippery slope of entering the "arms race" to hire "star" faculty lawyers so as to raise the proposed law school's prestige.
With state revenue estimates falling by the day, the Regents would be wise to encourage the Irvine campus to address current problems rather than spend precious enrollment growth funds on a law school the California Postsecondary Education Commission finds unnecessary—because California has no shortage of lawyers.