Saturday, August 3, 2013

From Clark Kerr to Janet Napolitano: The Rise and Decline of the University of California

From Clark Kerr to Janet Napolitano: How far has the University of California Fallen? Clark Kerr was Chancellor of he University of California Berkeley and the President of the University of California when Berkeley was ranked the top university in America- better than Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford or MIT. The people of the state of California built Berkeley, a public university, into the greatest university in the world, in less than a century. They also built the University of California into the world’s greatest university system. It’s taken less than five decades for the political leaders of California to rip away the glory of Berkeley and UC. Three Presidents of Berkeley, Benjamin Ide Wheeler from 1899-1919, Robert Gordon Sproul from 1930-1952, when he became the first president of the University of California system, and Clark Kerr from 1952 -1958 when he succeeded Sproul as president of the University of California, led Berkeley to greatness. The fortune of California poured into Berkeley during the Nineteenth Century. Stanford wasn’t founded until 1891, USC in 1880, and Cal Tech traces its modern roots to 1921. Wheeler emphasized the sciences and humanities. By 1906 Berkeley was considered one of the “Big Six” research universities (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Berkeley, and Michigan). President Sproul led Berkeley through the great depression. He invested heavily into the sciences, especially physics with Ernest Lawrence and Robert Oppenheimer. Berkeley exited World War II running three of the nation’s great physics labs, Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Los Alamos, and reaping a long string of Nobel Prize winners in physics and chemistry. Ernest Lawrence built the cyclotron and Robert Oppenheimer was the science director at Los Alamos in developing the bomb. Clark Kerr built on Berkeley’s primacy in the sciences and engineering to build up the humanities side of the campus to equal greatness. Berkeley and Stanford were rivals, but Berkeley had a narrow edge in most fields. Clark Kerr was named the first Chancellor of Berkeley in 1952 and continued in that position until named in 1958 to succeed Sproul as president of the University of California. The American Council on Education designated Berkeley in 1964 as the “best balanced distinguished university.” It had more academic programs ranked in the top six than any other university. By this measure Berkeley is still the best university in America with more academic programs ranked in the top ten than any other university, followed by Harvard, Stanford, and Michigan. Yet the seeds of destruction had been planted. The Free Speech, Peoples’ Park, and other riots lowered the public esteem for Berkeley. Ronald Reagan ran for governor in 1966, partially on a plank to clean up Berkeley. One of his first acts was to have the Board of Regents fire Clark Kerr as President of the University of California. Kerr said he left the Presidency as he entered it, “fired with enthusiasm.” The Governor also imposed budget cuts on UC, which formally imposed tuition for the first time. Earlier it charged “fees,” which seem like tuition. The second seed was the rise of UCLA as a great university in its own right. UCLA was established in 1881 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School, now Jose State. It became the southern Branch of Berkeley in 1919, but not a separate university until 1951. Just as Berkeley had three great leaders, so did UCLA. Franklin Murphy from 1960-1968 and Charles Young fought to make UCLA equal to Berkeley. The board of regents voted in 1958 to treat all campuses as equal for appropriating state funds. No longer would Berkeley receive the bulk of the funding and resources. The result was that especially UCLA, San Diego, and UCSF rose to national prominence, while Davis, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz also received high rankings as public universities. Albert Carnesale served as Chancellor of UCLA from 1997 to 2006. He recognized that the future of UCLA depended not on its current reputation, but on prodigious fund raising. His Campaign UCLA, with a target of $1.5 billion, raised $3.05 billion, a record for public universities, subsequently exceeded by the Michigan Difference with $3.2 billion. Berkeley had agricultural research labs in Davis and Riverside, and a marine biology lab at the Scripps Institute in San Diego, all three of which became the foundations of new campuses of the University of California. UCLA has built itself into an equal in almost every respect with Berkeley. The non-Berkeley campuses are unique in prestigious American higher education. They were all founded in the 20th Century whereas almost all the nation’s highly ranked universities, public or private trace, their roots to the earlier centuries. Clark Kerr’s successors as Chancellor of Berkeley and President of the University of California were highly qualified leaders. They succeeded in maintaining the stature of Berkeley and the University of California while fighting a series of budget cuts, increasing deferred maintenance, and earthquake retrofitting. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Berkeley starting slipping. A generation of scholars retired or past on – not all of whom were replaced. Its ability to hire distinguished laterals was limited while not all the offers from rival institutions for its stars could be matched. Physics is an example. Once preeminent, coming our of World war II into the 1970’s, US News now ranks it fifth. Stanford surpasses Berkeley in may areas today. Berkeley’s hold on the “best balanced distinguished university” is precarious. Our state legislators are in the process of destroying the great University of California through the slow bleed of persistent budget cuts, interrupted occasionally by a budget increase. The University of California Board of Regents has hired Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as the new President of the University of California in a move that befuddles most onlookers. The University of Miami hired Donna Shalala as its President when she left the Clinton Administration, but she was experienced, having previously served as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Madison. Janet Napolitano has no experience in higher education except four years as a undergrad at Santa Clara and three years as a law student at the University of Virginia. She’s inexperienced with university financing and politics. One argument is that she can work well with legislators who control the university’s public funding. She had success as the Democratic Governor of Arizona in getting the Republican legislature to substantially increase funding for the Arizona universities. Arizona was rolling in money a decade ago. It has subsequently reduced the state allocations for the universities. That theory did not work in Massachusetts with an experienced, powerful state legislator. William “Billy” Bulger was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate in 1970 and served as President of the Senate from 1978-1996. He was appointed President of the University of Massachusetts on November 28, 1995, presumably to increase public expenditures for the public university. He was unsuccessful, even with all his connections. Janet Napolitano has no connections with the California legislature. She is personable and will probably get along well with the state Assembly and Senate members. However, the California Legislature is run by the leaders of the public employee unions, whose interests are the salaries, pensions, health insurance, and vacation and sick days of their members. If something has to be cut from the budget, it will be the large, discretionary budget item of the University of California – not the public sector employees. Another argument is that because of her experience first as Governor of Arizona, and then s secretary of Homeland Security, she will be able to deal with minority students who have recently been protesting at Regent meetings tuition increases and for the rights of undocumented immigrants. Some pundits remark the University of California is a mass bureaucracy. The Secretary supposedly proved she could run a bureaucracy with the Department of Homeland Security so she should be able to tame UC’s. The history of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the billions wasted by the Agency, and the low morale of the employees, lay waste to the competency claim. The scariest part of the Napolitano hire is that, according to someone familiar with the hiring process, is that at no point did she lay out her vision for the University of California. The Regents of the University of California took a bold step in appointing Janet Napolitano as President of the University of California, but whether it's an enlightened step remains to be seen.

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