Remarks to the Board of Regents

January 22, 2014

UC President Janet Napolitano's remarks to the Board of Regents at its Jan. 22, 2014 meeting, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chair Varner.

I'd like to begin with a travel note from last week. As you may know, I had the honor of joining more than a hundred higher education leaders from around the country for a White House summit hosted by President Obama — or, as I now call him, the other President.

The President was as prescient as ever. He spoke powerfully about the challenges facing institutions of higher education in the country — and the consequences we as a nation will face if we fail to meet those challenges.

I came away from the conversation convinced of three things.

One, we are not alone. The complex, structural issues UC has been wrestling with in recent years — reduced state support, a need to grow capacity, diversity, you name it — also confront our colleagues around the country, especially those who lead public universities.

Two, the stakes cannot be overstated. In this evolving world, innovation and opportunity — all that we have stood for as a country — will be critical. And if the United States is to carry on as a global leader, then its educational infrastructure needs a serious injection of fresh thinking from those who serve it, as well as more fulsome support from those who are served by it.

And three, the University of California, both in terms of its breadth of mission and its history of achievement, is well-positioned to provide the President and the nation with leadership on how to move forward. The President has told me he would appreciate our leadership, and I assured him that I — we — would do all in our power to provide it.

That, of course, means making sure as a first step that we have our house in order.

“Teach for California, research for the world” is more than a slogan. It is what we do. It is what we have done for generations. And it is what we must continue to do for generations to come.

To that end, I launched seven initiatives in the last few months meant to keep our focus on that mission, that vision, and to advance it in ways that range from colossal to incremental.

I'd like to spend a portion of these remarks providing the Regents, and the public, with updates on progress made through this process since we met last in mid-November.

Before I do that, however, and in line with leading by example, I have an announcement to make.

The UC Office of the President will keep its budget flat for the 2014-15 fiscal year. To accomplish this while absorbing mandatory costs like pension contributions, there will be actual cuts of up to 6.5 percent in some areas.

During this year, my first, we will undertake a priority-based budget process covering the next two years that, aligned with the ongoing efficiency review and in consultations with the campuses, will determine the appropriate size, shape, and roles of the Office of the President.

To help meet these important targets, I am directing that, starting immediately, there be a cap on overall staffing at UCOP at the current level. Any replacement positions will be subject to prior approval by me or my designees, and departments will be required to develop staffing plans that address future needs and attrition. Any use of outside consultants or independent contractors will also need prior approval. And finally, there will be a 10 percent reduction in overall travel by UCOP.

Now to the initiatives.

  • First, tuition reform. Every day we move closer to a new tuition policy. Now, we haven't honed in on a specific model yet, but we're making progress. Positive and productive meetings with Gov. Brown's administration have been instrumental to our efforts on this initiative.
  • Graduate students and post-docs. Questions on faculty diversity continue to arise, as they did in the media last week. It's clear that these questions cannot truly be addressed without attention to diversity at the graduate student and post-doc levels. Accordingly, we have identified $10 million in one-time monies to be distributed in support of these initiatives.
  • Equity. Similarly, we recently notified the campuses of their respective portions of funding to provide support to help meet the special needs of undocumented students. We also are providing specialized training for staff members for the student resource centers. Next week, I will meet again with the students who represent our undocumented students.
  • Efficiencies. I announced the first two action items of the Efficiency Review initiative at the beginning of January. These actions concern expense reporting and reimbursement. I am proud of our UC staff members, who submitted these ideas, in addition to more than 400 others. They play a major role in helping us demonstrate to Gov. Brown, and to the people of California, our part in keeping costs down and efficiency up.
  • Sustainability. A few days ago, we announced the proactive steps UC will take with regard to water conservation. Our overall goal is to reduce our consumption of potable water by at least 20 percent by 2020. We are also making headway with our campuses to become carbon neutral by 2025, thus becoming the first public research university in the world to do so. UC is committed to doing its part to address the conservation and sustainability issues facing California as a whole. I will review that commitment in greater detail next week, at the VerdeXchange conference in Los Angeles.
  • Tech transfer. We have been engaged across the system in an effort to collect common-sense ideas that carry the potential to accelerate and enhance the transition of UC-developed technology to the market. We also have been reaching out to the private sector as part of this process. Our aim is to come back to the Regents in March for a discussion of our findings and recommendations on this vital initiative.

Beyond what progress has been made on the Presidential initiatives, a few other items occurred since we last met. Discussions around these arose during the holiday break, when the President's Advisory Group and I met to scope out the next 90 days.

  • UC-Mexico partnership. We aim to boost the university's connection with Mexico through both new and existing collaborations, from Academic Affairs to UC Health. I have met already with Mexico's consul general in San Francisco. I will be speaking with Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora to discuss these partnerships in greater detail in the coming weeks. And I am grateful to Regent Varner and Regent Ruiz for their support.
  • Labor relations. Since we met in November, the university has signed four new contracts representing five bargaining units. We are committed to long-term, multi-year agreements with labor, within the financial parameters for the university that were developed with campus leadership. The goal is to have both a good, fair work environment, and the stability that allows university management to plan effectively.
  • UC Health. In late November, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Services Jack Stobo convened an important, day-long meeting at Cavallo Point with all the UC medical deans, hospital directors, chancellors, and others responsible for leadership of the university's medical enterprise. This meeting produced a lot of good work, including three immediate projects that Jack will address later today. Going forward we will treat UC Health systemically — not in a piecemeal, campus-centered manner — so as to better use the leverage that a system of our size possesses.
  • The Moreno Report. This report arose out of some issues at UCLA, but in my view, they had systemwide implications that need to be addressed. The report was a clarion call on diversity issues at the university. We are taking the steps necessary to heed it. The chancellors and I have agreed on an immediate course of action, and, in the coming week, I will send a letter to the chancellors with additional steps we can undertake together in the coming months to address the important issues raised by the Moreno Report and the follow-up Senate-Administration Working Group Report.

Now, what about today?

For those of you keeping count, you may have noticed that I discussed only six of the seven Presidential initiatives announced in the fall. I raise the seventh initiative — the transfer student initiative — as the final item in my remarks today. Two weeks ago, we met with transfer students to gain their feedback on the transfer experience. The transfer action team will present its recommendations at the March board meeting.

The transfer initiative lies at the heart of our conversation this afternoon with California State University Chancellor Tim White, and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris.

This conversation is an opportunity for the three of us to step back, together, and to discuss the Master Plan and its implementation today. The Master Plan is more than 50 years old. This is a different California. But the purpose the Master Plan served in 1960 remains relevant. It's one that harkens back to the beginning of my remarks, and what we offer the country.

You see, California already leads the nation in surmounting many of the obstacles that hinder public universities and colleges in other states. These include mission creep and costly duplication. Because of this, we are leaps and bounds ahead of most of our counterparts — not only in the United States, but around the world — in educating vast numbers of our young people.

But unless we meaningfully address capacity and affordability, and soon, we will not be able to continue to do so. Chancellors White and Harris well understand this. And while I am greatly encouraged by Gov. Brown's proposed budget, I view it — in light of the challenges that UC faces on this front-as the starting point for a conversation on what the future of public higher education in California can and should be.

Consider the application numbers for UC alone. In this admissions cycle, the number of freshman applications to the university rose for the 10th straight year. All together, more than 183,000 students applied for freshman and transfer admission to UC.

To put that figure in perspective, that's about the same number of all the undergraduates already enrolled in the entire University of California.

Those students deserve the same fair shot at an excellent, public university education that those who came before them did. The vision of “teach for California, research for the world” holds no real meaning if the doors to UC do not stand as wide open as possible, nor if the cost is so high that students self-select out of applying, nor if quality is allowed to crumble.

In closing, let me say this:

Clark Kerr merits special mention this morning. He was not only one of my predecessors, and not only an architect of the Master Plan.

He was also a lucid thinker on the purpose and promise of higher education.

Kerr described the dream of the University of California as, in large part, the dream of “equality of opportunity.” I believe that his words are true for all of public higher education in California. And that is the spirit in which we three leaders meet today:

The dream of equality of opportunity — for all Californians, and for all of us who seek to ensure their education.

Chair Varner, this concludes my remarks.