In a Jan. 19 address at the UC Board of Regents meeting, the UC San Francisco chancellor outlined the broad strokes of a proposal that would afford the campus more financial and governing autonomy from the UC system.
UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s request follows prior efforts from other UC professional schools to increase independence from the system as its financial situation grows more fragile. Should the regents approve the chancellor’s proposal, the campus would become the first professional school to successfully distance itself from the UC.
In response to Desmond-Hellmann’s request, the board agreed to create a committee to explore alternative financial and governing models for the campus.
The committee is expected to recommend specific alternatives at the July regents meeting.
At the meeting, Desmond-Hellmann said adopting a new business model could help resolve the campus’ looming financial problems while a systemwide approach could not.
The plan involves changes to the financial and governing relationships between the campus and UC, including reexamining how it contributes funds to the UC Office of the President.
“We’re concerned about participation in general tax models that may in part be used to replace diminishing state dollars,” Desmond-Hellmann said at the meeting. “We don’t have the flexibility to absorb new general taxation systems and remain highly competitive.”
The “tax” is the annual contribution each campus makes to the UC Office of the President budget. Currently, all campuses contribute a percentage of their total generated revenues to support the office. This year, each campus paid 1.6 percent of its total revenue.
Instead of paying a flat rate to the office, Desmond-Hellmann said she would prefer a model under which the campus pays only for the services it directly receives from the office.
UCSF spokesperson Amy Pyle said the current flat rate system creates a “disincentive to go out and raise funds.”
Nevertheless, the campus generated the second highest income in the system last academic year.
UCSF Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications and University Relations Barbara French said the campus also wants to pay to keep “the University of California in front of our name” in order to retain “the cache that comes from the University of California brand.”
Desmond-Hellmann said the campus could also benefit from more governing autonomy.
A local board of directors would allow the campus to craft its own solutions to budget challenges rather than relying on systemwide actions put forth by the regents, French said.
The new board would ideally have health sciences industry expertise and be better able to use campus resources to generate revenue, French said.
Historically, efforts to obtain more autonomy for UC professional schools have fallen short.
The UCLA Anderson School of Management made the most headway after it developed a proposal for increased self-sufficiency. However, in part due to faculty opposition, progress has since stalled.
Student Regent and UCSF student Alfredo Mireles, Jr. said in an email that the campus faces “tremendous roadblocks” in its quest for more autonomy, but that other campuses may follow suit if the proposal succeeds.
“The decisions that are made about UCSF’s proposal will have a much greater impact then merely what happens to UCSF,” he said in the email.
Curan Mehra covers higher education.
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