Carol Christ has a clear philanthropy vision.
In the Christ Administration’s budget for 2017–18, Christ and her team envision a campus in which donations are a primary source of revenue.
Indeed, revenue generation was bandied about during the lead-up to the new budget. The plan reveals that revenue makes up 52 percent of the gap between a $110 million budget deficit and Christ’s goal of a $57 million deficit at the end of the fiscal year.
Some of this revenue will come from the development of campus programs: “new or expanded academic programming in University Extension, Summer Sessions, Concurrent Enrollment, Self Supporting Graduate Professional Degree Programs and via Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition,” according to the Office of the Vice Chancellor Chief Financial Officer.
Many of these proposed programs are incredibly optimistic and lack solid definition. And even if these programs come to fruition, a great deal of this revenue generation has been written into the budget with the expectation of additional private gifts. Philanthropy is unreliable. The last few years have each been the best year yet in terms of alumni donations, but that can’t possibly be sustained forever.
Moreover, whether these new gifts come from alumni or from random beneficiaries, the hope is that individual divisions will raise substantial funds themselves. The College of Natural Resources even wrote that their 2 percent budget cut — the largest proportional cut among academic departments — will lead to a “negative impact on staff morale (and) high levels of faculty frustration and complaints.”
Some campus units can’t become more self-sustainable. Many less marketable departments within the College of Letters and Science will now also be responsible for generating this donation revenue, placing them into difficult positions. Cuts should not fall to departments that cannot generate revenue to meet their deficit reduction goals.
Christ and her team are trying to make something out of nothing, and while the budget has a lot of problems, the new administration was put into an impossible position.
It’s not the administration’s fault that they’ve had to craft a budget that looks like this. People often say that UC Berkeley’s educational model is unsustainable, but the only reason for this growing unsustainability is the ever-shrinking allocation of resources from the state.
The truth is that no matter how much California would like to believe it, public universities should not be run like private institutions. Many of the stuffier Ivies sit atop vast stores of wealth and live lavishly off alumni philanthropy, but public schools shouldn’t work like that. Increased philanthropy may be a short-term solution, but until UC Berkeley can once again rely on the state for the majority of its funding, its public mission and identity will increasingly be under threat.