In the face of record budget deficits and regular tuition hikes, transparency is absolutely necessary to ensure accountability and confidence — especially at a major public institution like the University of California. A lack of adequate transparency stokes concerns over contentious issues like administrative pay and inspires misplaced displays of anger at a time when students should be protesting the state.
Therefore, we agree with the sentiment of the July 28 report issued by the California state auditor, which suggests that the university be more willing to make more of its financial information open to the public. Students and taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent, especially during difficult economic times. The university is obligated to be open to these constituencies by virtue of its public status.
The report also found a discrepancy in the distribution of funds between campuses. While this might seem alarming — UC Santa Barbara received $12,309 per student while UC San Francisco received $55,186 per student during the 2009-10 fiscal year — it is not surprising. Each campus has individual needs and separate revenue flows, and spotlighting these inconsequential discrepancies distracts from the real issue.
We are pleased that the report did not find evidence of wasteful spending. This is reassuring to a student body concerned with rising fees and tighter personal budgets, and should placate protesters who have been upset with the UC Board of Regents. While the university is not perfect, the report reaffirmed our belief that anger over dwindling funds and increasing student fees should be channeled at state officials.
With that being said, not all state officials deprioritize the university. State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, originally called for the audit and has worked to keep the university accountable. But while we appreciate his resolve, moving forward Yee should refocus his energy toward lobbying in Sacramento on behalf of the university rather than fighting administrators over every action they take.
Regardless of funding levels, administrators should take the report seriously and adhere to its recommendations of transparency and openness. Such a step would show students that university officials are indeed acting in the best interest of those they represent.