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For the week of October 05, 2009

Media coverage critical of UC management continued this week, following the statewide mobilization by UC students, staff and faculty to defend public education.

The university’s “Wall Street” management style was critiqued in none other than the Wall Street Journal, while the UK-based Guardian published an editorial by a UCB professor predicting that more student/faculty/staff protests are in the works.

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley has announced that it is going to spend $3 million on an outside consultant to tell it how to slash costs. It’s part of a campaign that management has fashionably termed “Operational Excellence.” The consultant is Boston-based Bain & Company, a multi-national corporate consulting firm, formerly headed by failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Bain & Company issued a cost-cutting report earlier this year for the University of North Carolina, which focused on consolidating administrative and support services. UNC faculty and staff point out that Bain’s experience in higher education is minimal, and that a firm that owns businesses like Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Burlington Coat Factory and the Weather Channel is hardly qualified to make recommendations about running the flagship campus of the world’s best public university system.

But it’s not the first time that Bain & Company has been hired by UC. In the mid-90s, Bain was the consultant that recommended the merger of the UCSF and Stanford medical centers as a cost-savings measure. Despite protests from unions, legislators and faculty members, the UC regents went ahead with the merger. But just two years later, the joint venture was declared a complete failure and dissolved at an estimated $176 million loss.

One alum has already written to the San Francisco Chronicle noting how much could be chopped from the top to help the goal of “Operational Excellence” without spending millions on outside consultants.

Others are also chiming in with their ideas on how to preserve education and research. This week, a student, lecturer, and researcher each wrote about preserving public education for the next generation of Californians, while the president of UC’s lecturers’ union nicely deconstructs some of UC’s budget myths, and has also quoted conflicting statements from UC President Mark Yudof -- which you can hear for yourself on YouTube -- that show why many faculty, students, and union members don't trust what we are being told.

Meanwhile, the California Nurses Association, which represents nursing staff at UC, is trying to find out how much UC is spending on the notorious anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson.

Fallout is also continuing over Yudof’s interview with the New York Times Magazine, in which he compared himself to the manager of a cemetery and also downplayed his salary and benefits. NBC Bay Area pointed out the interview would “only amplify the argument that he should be forced out of his position.” A UCSB professor wrote to the regents that Yudof’s attitude was “shockingly irresponsible” toward the university he is charged with overseeing, and called for his removal.

Students and staff are planning teach-ins this fall on the UC budget situation. At UCSB, a campus teach-in is set for October 14.  The UCB General Assembly, a large organizing group that formed during the strike/walkout, is planning an October 24 conference to defend public education.
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