When it comes to the budget, there are no ‘stupid’ questions

CAMPUS ISSUES: UC Berkeley's transparency regarding the budget is laudable, but the plan to close the deficit is still plagued by seeming indecision.

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After the campus announced its $150 million annual structural deficit, then-chancellor Nicholas Dirks came under fire because of his administration’s bumbling, heavy-handed, extremely centralized approach to closing the gap.

Fast forward to today: Dirks has been replaced with a new chancellor, praised for her transparency, but the campus is still not suitably clear in its plan to reduce the deficit.

To the campus’s credit, Chief Financial Officer Rosemarie Rae fielded questions from Daily Cal reporters on budget plans. The release of the extensive information about the budget was unprecedented for the campus in terms of level of transparency, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said. But even then, the seeming indecision, lack of a timeline and even the uncertainty that any given proposal will even be executed is a glaring problem.

The target financial goals on a division level for specific units such as the College of Engineering or the Graduate School of Journalism are unambiguous. The methods by which many of the departments plan to meet said goals, however, are opaque. This is particularly true for new revenue-generating programs and larger projects such as demolishing Edwards Stadium to build housing.

A proposal such as demolishing Edwards Stadium must go through a long process: the first step of which is a firm go-head by the chancellor, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “In other words, we are not going to be putting a shovel in the ground at Edwards Stadium at the end of this fiscal year,” Mogulof said.

Cal Athletics’ uncertain future is rife with similar indecision. Numerous task forces on Cal Athletics have failed to unveil concrete recommendations. A task force was supposed to release recommendations regarding how to reshape athletic programs in January, but it decided to extend that deadline. When the recommendations ultimately released in June, they did not mention cutting any sports programs — the task force was unable to come to a consensus. Yet the 2017-18 budget outlines tentative plans to get rid of some teams. How much longer should we expect this kind of back-and-forth on the fate of Cal Athletics? The budget crisis demands an immediate solution.

When asked about another potential change to athletics policy in response to the budget deficit — selling alcohol at Cal games — Christ said the question was “stupid.” Questions about plans to close the deficit and increase revenue are never stupid, especially when Christ has made deficit reduction the central focus of her tenure.

 

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