UC’s Hidden $175 Million Surplus and the Continuing Fight for Real Public Education

We are partnering with our sister union AFSCME 3299 (comprised of UC service workers) first to share some disturbing news about the recent scandal exposed by a California state audit which revealed that the UC Office of the President (UCOP) concealed $175 million in a hidden slush fund while simultaneously raising tuition and slashing budgets, and second to invite you to the upcoming Regents Meeting on Wednesday, May 17th to protest for more funding for public education and workers. For more details on attending this meeting, scroll to the bottom of this email.

In late April, California State Auditor Elaine Howle discovered that the University of California Office of the President, led by Janet Napolitano, hid a budget surplus of $175 million in a slush fund. Furthermore, the audit revealed that Napolitano and UCOP brazenly interfered with the audit by facilitating changes to and in some cases censoring campus surveys when they did not reflect favorably on her office. This news has outraged many across the state, many of whom are now calling for Napolitano’s resignation, particularly as the UC system, citing budget shortfalls, recently raised student tuition and has been cutting back on education funding and worker pay all while dramatically increasing executive pay. While we support public demands calling for Napolitano’s removal, we also recognize that these issues of deprioritizing students and workers through privatization schemes are systemic and extend significantly beyond this one individual. For those who have been following UC’s privatization schemes, this news extends a familiar pattern within our university. It’s time to say no more!

This most recent development has even led member of the UC Board of Regents (the governing body that voted on the tuition increase) Gavin Newsom to call for a tuition rollback, a call CA state assembly members have since joined. Importantly, this call moves us toward our union’s demand for fully subsidized public education, which we outlined in our J20 demands. As such, we support the reversal of the previous tuition hike as a strategic step toward achieving free public education. We further support workers’ demands to redistribute this funding toward living wages for all campus workers and affordable housing for students and workers, and we echo the calls for the university to demonstrate responsibility through restructuring the administration to create more transparent accountability, including but not limited to removing Napolitano from office.

Education is a public good and a human right. While we continue to condemn UCOP for its mismanagement of the UC budget and use of tuition dollars to increase administrative positions with salaries of $300,000+, let it be clear that we also condemn efforts by state legislators and the Governor of California to off-load their responsibility to fund public education on UCOP alone. To be sure, UCOP and other high-level university administrators must be democratized with student and worker-led leadership. However, in a state where prison spending ranks 48 places above education spending in the state budget, public funds must be increased through progressive tax policies that do not exempt the wealthiest Californians from funding public education and other social services. The Reclaim Coalition’s research finds that it would only take an average of $48 per CA taxpayer per year to fund a quality public education system.

With that in mind, we must continue the fight for real public education! Here are two ways you can support these efforts in light of this most recent budget scandal:

  1. Sign the petition
  2. Join us and fellow AFSCME 3299 workers at the UC Board of Regents’ Meeting on May 17 at the UCSF Mission Bay campus starting at 8am. You can hitch a ride with our sister union AFSCME 3299. Rides from most campuses will depart on May 16 and return on May 17, and AFSCME will be in touch with campus-specific ride information shortly. To reserve a seat with AFSCME, sign up through this link by May 15 at 12pm.

We hope to see you at the Regents Meeting and on all mobilizing fronts as we continue to demand accountability and a more democratic, transparent, accessible, and inclusive UC!

In Pro-Public Education Solidarity Forever,

The Joint Council of UAW 2865