By Randy Voepel
Last week, the California State Auditor released a blistering assessment of the University of California Office of the President. The report found that the administration had failed to disclose $175 million in surplus funds, spent far more on salaries than comparable offices, and interfered with efforts to audit the program.
As you can imagine, I was appalled to read these findings.
Earlier this year, the University of California was planning to raise its already-high tuition rates. My colleagues and I urged the Board of Regents not to take this step.
At that time, we pointed out that the Office of the President under Janet Napolitano was being audited as a result of significant growth in administrative spending. We had hoped the Board of Regents would table any tuition hike until after that audit was complete.
Ultimately, the UC decided to raise tuition. That vote brought the total annual cost of attending a UC to around $14,000 per year — more than triple what it was 15 years ago.
Now the audit has validated our concerns about administrative spending.
The audit laid out significant issues with the budgeting techniques utilized by the administration, but there are still a number of questions that remain unanswered regarding budget transparency and accountability.
Accordingly, my colleagues and I in the state Assembly are making three requests.
First, we’ve requested that Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issue a legislative subpoena to compel the University of California to produce records relating to the finances behind the $175 million reserve fund, various communications relating to the fund, and all correspondence relating to the auditor’s survey process, which had been interfered with by the Office of the President.
Second, we’ve requested an independent forensic audit to determine if UC administrators engaged in criminal activity in interfering with the audit. This is important. The state auditor serves an integral role in providing oversight and accountability. Interfering with or obstructing their process is a direct attack on transparency. We have to ensure that the audit process is truly thorough.
Finally, we are requesting an immediate freeze of any increases in UC tuition. As stated earlier, our opposition to these increases was based on concerns about the financial management of the system at the top levels. Now that we know mismanagement occurred, it isn’t fair to ask students and parents to pay more in tuition to fund bloated administrative salaries and bonuses.
Collectively, these requests seek one goal: to restore confidence in the administration of the University of California.
Should the subpoena and additional audit turn up no new information, the public will have confidence that the legislature has done its duty in seeking transparency.
Should these examinations uncover new information, it will allow the legislature to implement reforms responsive to the problems discovered.
Meanwhile, by freezing tuition hikes until our investigative efforts are complete, we will strengthen accountability by preventing the potential for mismanagement of these increased funds.
Restoring student and taxpayer confidence in the UC administration will be an extensive process – but it begins today.
Assemblymember Randy Voepel represents the 71st Assembly District, which includes eastern San Diego County and southern portion of Riverside County. He is a Navy veteran from the Vietnam era and the former mayor of Santee.