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Interview with Yudof's Alter Ego


This article contains the real interview that UC President Yudof did with Deborah Solomon of the N.Y. Times Magazine on September 24th, 2009. It also contains a mock interview with Yudof's alter ego, Alter-Y, a fictional character who answers the interview questions with some deference for the position and title he holds, and some consideration for the importance of the decisions his office is making. Finally, there is a fictional N.Y. Times reader commenting on Yudof's real answers. Please remember that Mark Yudof contributed nothing to Alter-Yudof's responses in this interview.

As president of the University of California, the most prestigious of the state-university systems, you have proposed that in-state tuition be jacked up to more than $10,000, from $7,788. Are you pricing education beyond the reach of most students?

Yudof: In 2009, U.C. adopted the Blue and Gold Program, guaranteeing that no student with a family income below $60,000 would pay any fees, and this guarantee will continue in 2010. That’s the short answer.

Alter-Yudof: With the Blue and Gold Program, UC has committed to paying the difference between the cost of fees and any scholarships and federal and state grants a student receives. This program will potentially save students from our lowest earning families thousands of dollars.

Reader: The longer answer is that UC will fund this program with 3.1 million dollars from the federal stimulus program. So, we actually have the federal government to thank for this. And, as the Chancellor of Berkeley recently suggested, UC's hoping to rely more heavily on federal support in the future... At least for some campuses. Also, fee increases over the last two years are expected to generate nearly 400 million dollars. I guess it's the median income student whose parents make slightly more than 60K that will really feel the impact of the 40% fee increase.

U.C. is facing a budget shortfall of at least $753 million, largely because of cuts in state financing. Do you blame Governor Schwarzenegger for your troubles?

Yudof: I do not. This is a long-term secular trend across the entire country. Higher education is being squeezed out. It’s systemic. We have an aging population nationally. We have a lot of concern, as we should, with health care.

Alter-Y: I don't blame Schwarzenegger for this problem, this is a long-term funding issue that's affecting all levels of public education in California and other states. In California, we need to stabilize our budget process and commit more funds to education. I believe in the power of education, and it's my goal to help the Governor and state legislature understand the importance of state funding for providing the level of excellence UC has historically provided.

Reader: Schwarznegger is partially to blame, along with all of the other state legislators who have refused to raise or reform taxes and to reform Prop 13. But Yudof, you're not off the hook. UC agreed to accept less money under the compact for higher education, and to seek out more private funds. Yet now, when the results of less state funding are apparent, UC refuses to use any of the unrestricted private funds to support instruction.

And education?

Yudof: The shine is off of it. It’s really a question of being crowded out by other priorities.

Alter-Y: Education is essential. Our economy depends on it. We've got to do more to secure it.

Reader: The shine is off it?!! The shine is not off your pocket book. DO YOUR JOB! Help make education a priority by advocating effectively at the state level, and committing UC funds to support the academic mission.

Already professors on all 10 U.C. campuses are taking required “furloughs,” to use a buzzword.

Yudof: Let me tell you why we used it. The faculty said “furlough” sounds more temporary than “salary cut,” and being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening. I listen to them.

Alter-Y: Let me tell you why we used it. By using a furlough rather than a straight pay cut, faculty and staff retain their base pay for retirement and other benefits accruals. We realized we could accomplish the level of savings we needed without putting this additional hit on our employees' compensation. UC employees salaries were below market before the furlough, so we take this additional reduction in income very seriously. We also feel that it is fair to reduce time worked when pay is being reduced.

Reader: "Like managing a one is listening"? No, everyone is listening and watching and they're beginning to question your leadership.

The word “furlough,” I recently read, comes from the Dutch word “verlof,” which means permission, as in soldiers’ getting permission to take a few days off. How has it come to be a euphemism for salary cuts?

Yudof: Look, I’m from West Philadelphia. My dad was an electrician. We didn’t look up stuff like this. It wasn’t part of what we did. When I was growing up we didn’t debate the finer points of what the word “furlough” meant.

Alter-Y: Well, I don't know about the etymology of the word, but as I said, there is a difference between a furlough and straight pay cut.

Reader: What does your childhood have to do with it? Plus, you would think that a successful professional with blue collar roots would have more respect for access and affordability at a great public university.

How did you get into education?

Yudof: I don’t know. It’s all an accident. I thought I’d go work for a law firm.

Alter-Y: I studied to be a lawyer, so this isn't where I thought I'd end up. I ended up teaching law and social policy, and education was a part of that. My experience as an educator and my focus on education policy lead me into administrative roles in the institutions I've worked at. This is my third gig as a University President.

Reader: Are you serious, it's all an accident that you're at UC? And now you're making changes that will permanently reduce access, affordability and quality at one of the worlds best and most affordable public universities. Go have your accident somewhere else!

Some people feel you could close the U.C. budget gap by cutting administrative salaries, including your own.

Yudof: The stories of my compensation are greatly exaggerated.

Alter-Y: One of my first tasks at UC was overseeing the downsizing of the Office of the President. We reduced the number of positions there significantly. Yet, we need to be able to offer competitive compensation packages in order to hire and retain the best people. Administrators at UC are participating in the furlough, so many of them have taken a pay cut.

Reader: Isn't Yudof's total compensation 40% higher than his predecessor Dynes' was? Is that really justifiable. And, didn't many of the UCOP administrators simply transfer to another administrative job on one of the campuses? Some even took $100,000 in severance pay only to begin work the next day at UCB!

When you began your job last year, your annual compensation was reportedly $828,000.

Yudof: It actually was $600,000 until I cut my pay by $60,000. So my salary is $540,000, but it gets amplified because people say, “You have a pension plan.”

Alter-Y: That's salary plus some other benefits. I just reduced my pay along with many other UC workers in the furlough program. Again, I believe my experience and qualifications warrant this level of pay.

Reader: So you cut your pay by 60K. That's a little higher than the average salary of a full time lecturer . With that 60K you could teach 9 courses, with 500-1500 students. Depite Yudof's cut in pay, he still earns 9 times the salary of our lecturer. That doesn't include other forms of compensation.

What about your housing allowance? How much is the rent on your home in Oakland?

Yudof: It’s about $10,000 a month.

Alter-Y: Well, in the interest of public disclosure, it's about $10,000 per month.

Reader: (Choking) What! That's worth two full time lecturers, 18 courses, with 3000 students. That would pay off my mortgage in 2-3 years.

Does U.C. pay for that on top of your salary?

Yudof: Yes, and the reason they do that is because they have a president’s house, it needed $8 million of repairs and I decided that was not the way to go. Why the heck would I ever authorize $8 million for a house I didn’t want to live in anyhow?

Alter-Y: Yes, it's part of my total compensation.

Reader: 8 million in repairs? You could build a president's residence near every UC campus with that. Or, you could hire 133 full time lecturers to teach 1200 classes. And, it looks like we're quickly approaching $828,000 again...13.8 times the average salary of a lecturer at UC!

Why can’t you have architecture students repair the house for course credit?

Yudof: Let me ponder that.

Alter-Y: These questions about my compensation are becoming really difficult for me, can we please move on?

Reader: Deborah, please, would you please ask some real questions?

Do you raise a lot of income from private donations?

Yudof: We don’t do it in the office of the president. The focus is campus by campus: Santa Cruz or UCLA or Berkeley or San Diego, Davis. They have their own development offices, and I’m there to — some of the things I do very well. I smile, I shake hands, I tell jokes.

Alter-Y: We have development offices on the campuses, and we take fund raising very seriously. Our donors have made some really wonderful contributions to UC and it's my honor to have the opportunity to thank some of them personally.

Reader: You smile, you shake hands, you tell jokes...Yes, we're beginning to catch on. Trouble is, you do the same thing when you're asked serious questions about UC's finances and the cuts you're implementing to UC's academic mission.

Why can’t you raise money, too?

Yudof: I’m out there hustling, but I go where the chancellors invite me. Otherwise they get upset.

Alter-Y: I have a role to play in fundraising. I work with the chancellors when necessary. Our system works well. Our donors see the value in UC, we raise hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

Reader: I wonder if they've ever asked for donations specifically to subsidize instruction?

What about Hollywood people? Do they just give to U.C.L.A. at the expense of the other campuses?

Yudof: I don’t know where they give. I’ve only met a few. I met Marg Helgenberger from “C.S.I.” at a dinner for Nobel laureates. I don’t know how either one of us got invited, but I enjoyed that, sure.

Alter-Y: I'm sure there are many famous people who generously donate to UC, but we have a huge number of alumni and parents who work regular jobs that contribute a core percentage of our annual donations.

Reader: Did someone ask him who he's met from Hollywood?

What do you think of the idea that no administrator at a state university needs to earn more than the president of the United States, $400,000?

Yudof: Will you throw in Air Force One and the White House?

Alter-Y: I'm responsible for overseeing the world's greatest public university system. This system includes 10 campuses, 5 medical centers, 200,000 employees and 200,000 students. It's a lot of responsibility. I think I earn my pay. By the way, I think the President of the United States is clearly under-compensated.

Reader: Hmm... I almost made the mistake of being charmed by Mark Yudof.

Budget Crisis