A few days ago, I received some updated news from our Chancellor at UC Hastings regarding Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut 100% state funding for the law school. With $24 billion deficit, the governor was searching for further cuts to make up the remaining $5.5 billion and UC Hastings' 10.3 million public fund, equivalent to approximately 25% of the school budget, was proposed to be taken away all together except for $7,000, which is the nominal amount required from the state by the bequest of the founder, S.C. Hastings. The proposal provoked deep distress within Hastings community since it would amount to $8,175 increase in tuition for Hastings' 1260 student population. The problem is further complicated by the fact that Hastings' 2009-2010 tuition has already set for the new school year. Other alternatives are much less feasible such as admitting more students to Hastings over-crowded facilities or letting go highly qualified faculties which would in turn damage the law school's teaching quality and overall rankings. Otherwise, should UC Hastings, supposedly an arm of the UC system, convert into private law school? I will leave this debate to BLT's readers.
Here is the good news from our Chancellor:
We are pleased to announce that on Friday, June 5th the budget conference committee voted unanimously to substantially restore UC Hastings' state funding, which will put reductions made to the law school’s budget in substantial parity with cuts applied to the UC system. If this decision stands, we will still receive a budget cut, but nothing as extensive as 100 percent of our state support, as recommended by the Governor. CFO David Seward reported that several members of the committee spoke about the calls and emails they had received, about UC Hastings' unique history as California's oldest law school, and the inequity of singling the law school out for disparate treatment.
California’s budget crisis is not over, however, and difficult choices remain to be made. The conference committee stated they might have to revisit the higher education budget later in their deliberations, including support for UC Hastings. In addition, even if the legislature continues to support the restoration of UC Hastings' state funding, the Governor can countermand, or “blue pencil” the legislative recommendation. So it is important that we not relax our vigilance. We will continue our work on educating the legislature and the Governor's office.
People talk about the long-term benefit of education as a type of secured and high turnout investment for the future. Yet, at the time of crisis and financial difficulty, the value of education almost always faces challenges and skepticism and funding for public education is often on the top the reconsidered list. What appeared as signs of unequal treatment among public universities for higher education is the reality that the funding cuts for all UC Universities are at roughly 20% while Hastings faced nearly 100% withdrawal from the state. With the recent establishment of UC-Irvine law school, one may also rightly ask, as Senator Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego did: "Why would we start a new law school when we've had Hastings around for more than 100 years, and it has a great reputation?"
I was deeply concerned with public reaction and was distressed over the result of California’s deficit-reducing ballot initiative last month. The result convinced me that misinformed exercise of democratic power through special voting can be much more damaging than non-action itself. Yet, the long-term effect of a possible alternative such as having no voting incentive seems entirely unjustified and unacceptable. This is the case where I suspect that the communication between our governor office the people had failed allowing information disparity gave rise to hostile sentiments toward a possible solution for California budget crisis. My direct experience with the state's budget crisis through Hastings community also reminds me that the harmful effects of these deepening cuts could be much worse for other institutions that are more dependable on public fund. Thankfully, about 75% of Hastings budget are raised through other sources.
The glorious celebration of California's dot-come and asset booms has been long gone. How Californians cope with this financial calamity and budget tightening remains to be seen in days ahead. What I do know for certain is that public service will be drastically reduced, income inequality will rise, hence, lowering quality of life. Lastly, it is the poor and various under-represented groups that will suffer the hardest hits among us all.