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University of California Fails Lesson in Cutting Costs

Tuesday June 14th, 2016   •   Posted by K. Lloyd Billingsley at 5:16pm PDT   •  

sather3_MLThe regional transit authority in California’s state capital recently laid off 20 employees, most of them administrators. “We don’t have business needs to justify these positions,” new business manager Henry Li told Tony Bizjak of the Sacramento Bee.  In other words, the jobs were not necessary, and therefore wasteful.

The staff reductions will save the agency $1.5 million and avoid cuts in service. Indeed, the transit agency is planning to make improvements such as increased security and remodeling of stations.

Since 2007, Regional Transit has reduced staff from 1,200 to the present 960, and Li’s own salary of $216,000 is $14,000 less than that of the outgoing boss. Taxpayers might contrast this kind of bureaucratic trimming with the way the University of California has been bulking up.

Between 1993 and 2013, the UC system boosted administration staffing by more than 300 percent, and that is a major factor driving up costs. The university’s officials have been crying for more state money and have also enrolled more students from out of state, who pay higher tuition.

UC bosses have demonstrated an eagerness to cut low-level workers while retaining upper-level bureaucrats. As UC student association president Kevin Sabo explains, in terms of cost, “one vice chancellor position is the equivalent of a handful of service workers.” Such positions are largely redundant and serve up convenient opportunities for nepotism.

For example, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi, who ordered campus cops to pepper spray students peacefully protesting tuition hikes, employs three family members on the UC campus, including her daughter-in-law Emily Prieto. Prieto’s PhD is in education, and she previously ran the Latino Resource Center at Northern Illinois University. Over the span of two and a half years at UC Davis, Prieto received promotions and raises that boosted her pay by more than $50,000. Last year UCD made her a “assistant vice chancellor,” boosting the pay of Chancellor Katehi’s daughter-in-law to $130,000. What a cozy world.

The University of California should take a lesson from Sacramento’s regional transit agency. When UC bosses start cutting administrative positions such as assistant vice chancellor, taxpayers will know they are serious about accountability.

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June 2016