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I grew up in the hood

July 16th, 2009 · 2 Comments

People laughs when I tell them I grew up in the hood. I guess I don’t look, sound, or act like someone who grew up in the hood.

But, I really did. For one year. Probably the most important year in my life.

It was almost twenty years ago. My family just immigrated to the United States. We were living in East Oakland, CA.

I attended high school there for one year. I spoke very little English.

For the entire year, I saw one white student in the school. My classmates were African Americans and refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, etc.

I had a major cultural shocks when I saw teenager mothers holding their babies in the school hallway.

I was saddened when my physics teacher was attacked by a student. She was one of the most dedicated teachers I’ve ever known.

I was inspired when I heard the story about the class valedictorian. Coming from a refugee family, bullet once broke into window in her house and barely missed her head. She was accepted by several prestigious institutions.

I was touched by many of my hard-working classmates. Many of them held two or three jobs. They were playing a major role in their household to support their families while completing their school work.

Despite all of these, many of my classmates still ended up attending 4-year colleges, mostly in the University of California system or the California State system.

I learned to appreciate the value of public education. I know public schools are under a lot of criticism these days. But, without public school, our society will be much worse off.

I attended University of California at Berkeley, one of the most intellectually stimulating, and open-minded places on earth. I would not be who I’m today without the education I received from Cal.

This weekend, I learned that "it now appears likely the UC system, in this current fiscal crisis, will be ordered by Sacramento to absorb yet another $800-plus million in additional cuts. Its 2009–10 core budget will be reduced by an estimated 20 percent. This will bring the amount of state investment in the University down to $2.4 billion—exactly where it was in real dollars a decade ago."

If you care about public education, please take actions. Below are a couple of links:

Attached is an open letter to UC alumni and friends from University of California leadership.

An open letter to UC alumni and friends
At the corner of 13th and Franklin Streets in downtown Oakland, a worn bronze plaque hangs on the wall of a two-story parking garage. Easy to miss, state Historical Marker No. 45 identifies the spot where, 140 years ago, a California miracle began. Here the University of California spent its infancy, occupying a two-story Victorian that had housed one of the state’s first colleges. In 1873 the university—after graduating an original class of 12—migrated to Berkeley and began its rise as a land-grant college dedicated to teaching agriculture, mining and the mechanical arts.

The enterprise, of course, has endured, and then some. Under the stewardship of some great leaders, and with the support of alumni like you and, for that matter, all of California, the University has grown from its humble origins to the point where it now stretches all across the state, from Merced to Santa Barbara, Riverside to San Francisco, Irvine to Santa Cruz, San Diego to Davis, Los Angeles to Berkeley—10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories, 225,000 students, 55 Nobel Prizes and 1.6 million alumni.

It is to that great army of alumni, along with other friends and beneficiaries of the University of California, that we write today, and we do so with a sense of great urgency—to ask you to become engaged as never before in building legislative and financial support for this great institution.

This is a time of peril for the University we all love.

The UC model—providing universal access to a top-notch, low-cost education and research of the highest caliber—continues to be studied around the globe among those who would emulate its success. And yet, this model has been increasingly abandoned at home by the state government responsible for its core funding.

In the past 20 years, the amount of money allotted to the University through the state budget has fallen dramatically: General Fund support for a UC student stood at $15,860 in 1990. If current budget projections hold, it will drop this year to $7,680.

Moreover, it now appears likely the UC system, in this current fiscal crisis, will be ordered by Sacramento to absorb yet another $800-plus million in additional cuts. Its 2009–10 core budget will be reduced by an estimated 20 percent. This will bring the amount of state investment in the University down to $2.4 billion—exactly where it was in real dollars a decade ago.

In the same time frame, by the way, funding for state prisons has more than doubled, from $5 to $11 billion. It’s been reported that, based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget soon will overtake that of the state’s universities and community colleges.

And so, our work is cut out for us. As one Chairman of the Board of Regents steps down and another takes over, we are asking you, as stewards of UC, to step up and help arrest this slide of support, as quickly as possible. It’s often said that it takes 40 years to build up a great university, but only a few to tear one down.

Elected officials in Sacramento who control our core budget must be asked to re-examine their priorities when it comes to future higher education funding. They also need to understand that a fiscal crisis is precisely the wrong time to be putting the pinch on education. Consider what Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote in a recent column:

"… The country that uses this crisis to make its population smarter and more innovative—and endows its people with more tools and basic research to invent new goods and services—is the one that will not just survive but thrive down the road. We might be able to stimulate our way back to stability, but we can only invent our way back to prosperity. We need everyone at every level to get smarter."

The core money UC receives from taxpayers, via Sacramento, goes to the nuts and bolts of higher education, everything from paying professors to lighting laboratories. But it also establishes the institutional foundation needed to attract the research grants and endowments that enhance the mission and burnish the University’s international status.

Over time it’s been money well-spent. Of the more than 4,000 higher education institutions in the nation, only 60 research universities, public and private, have been judged worthy of membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities. The UC has six members. No other state system has more than one.

In turn, the University has given back to California, not only by educating generations of high-achieving Californians, but also through its triumphs of research. From better ways to grow tomatoes to the birth of biotech, from viticulture to cancer treatments, UC campuses have been incubators of countless scientific and product breakthroughs that add quality to California life and invigorate its economy. For 15 years in a row, UC has developed more patents than any other university in the country.

This is what’s put at risk as state support shrinks. In the end, there are two choices: excellence or mediocrity. While a mediocre UC might cost less in the short term, over time it will enforce on society its own ledger of taxes. Top professors and researchers will begin to drift away, taking with them the best students. Pools of grant money will recede. The engines of invention will sputter.

To those who complain the university has been bloated, wasteful, we say this is a new day. In the last few years, we have seen the institution reform itself. Under a new administration, it is setting new standards for transparency and leadership. We’ve worked hard to maintain strong bond ratings, cut spending in the Office of the President by $60 million, and taken additional cost-cutting measures at the campus level. But there is only so much that can be cut. We are no longer chopping at fat and muscle. With the new cuts, as proposed, we soon will be slicing into bone.

And so, there is much at stake and the threat is real. Now is the time for alumni and other supporters and beneficiaries of the University to spread the word that UC excellence must be preserved and nurtured. Please, do whatever you can. Take time to write a letter or an email to your political representatives. Or lend whatever support possible to the UC system or to your preferred campus.
The message—not in just this current crisis, but into the future as well—must be clear: A just-good-enough University of California would not be good enough at all. Mediocrity is not an option. It’s time to start fighting back for the UC.

Richard C. Blum, Immediate Past Chair, UC Board of Regents
Russell S. Gould, Chair, UC Board of Regents
Sherry Lansing, Vice Chair, UC Board of Regents
Mark G. Yudof, President, University of California

Here are some links that might be useful:
Cal Advocacy at UC Berkeley
California State Legislature

Tags: Learning and Growing · News

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 milanmoravec // Dec 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    $3 Million Extravagant, Arrogant Spending by UC President Yudof for UCBerkeley Chancellor Birgeneau to Hire Consultants – When Work Can Be Done Internally
    These days, every dollar counts. Contact Senate (Ms. Romero 916.651.4105) & Assembly (Ms. Brownley 916.319.2044) Chairperson’s Education Committees or your representatives.
    Do the work internally at no additional costs with UCB Academic Senate Leadership (C. Kutz/F. Doyle), the world – class UCB faculty/ staff, & the UCB Chancellor’s bloated staff (G. Breslauer, N. Brostrom, F. Yeary, P. Hoffman, C. Holmes etc) & President Yudof.
    President Yudof’s UCB Chancellor should do the high paid work he is paid for instead of hiring expensive East Coast consults to do the work of his job. ‘World class’ smart executives like Chancellor Birgeneau need to do the hard work analysis, and make the tough-minded difficult, decisions to identify inefficiencies.
    Where do the $3,000,000 consultants get their recommendations?
    From interviewing the UCB senior management that hired them and approves their monthly consultant fees and expense reports. Remember the nationally known auditing firm who said the right things and submitted recommendations that senior management wanted to hear and fooled the public, state, federal agencies?
    $3 million impartial consultants never bite the hands (Birgeneau/Yeary) that feed them!
    Mr. Birgeneau's accountabilities include “inspiring innovation, leading change.” This involves “defining outcomes, energizing others at all levels and ensuring continuing commitment.” Instead of deploying his leadership and setting a good example by doing the work of his Chancellor’s job, Mr. Birgeneau outsourced his work to the $3,000,000 consultants. Doesn't he engage UC and UC Berkeley people at all levels to examine inefficiencies and recommend $150 million of trims? Hasn't he talked to Cornell and the University of North Carolina – which also hired the consultants — about best practices and recommendations that will eliminate inefficiencies?
    No wonder the faculty, staff, students, Senate & Assembly are angry and suspicious.
    In today’s economy three million dollars is a irresponsible price to pay when a knowledgeable ‘world-class’ UCB Chancellor and his bloated staff do not do the work of their jobs.
    Together, we will make a difference.

  • 2 milanmoravec // Dec 19, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    $3 Million Extravagant, Arrogant Spending by UC President Yudof for UCBerkeley Chancellor Birgeneau to Hire Consultants – When Work Can Be Done Internally
    These days, every dollar counts. Contact Senate (Ms. Romero 916.651.4105) & Assembly (Ms. Brownley 916.319.2044) Chairperson’s Education Committees or your representatives.
    Do the work internally at no additional costs with UCB Academic Senate Leadership (C. Kutz/F. Doyle), the world – class UCB faculty/ staff, & the UCB Chancellor’s bloated staff (G. Breslauer, N. Brostrom, F. Yeary, P. Hoffman, C. Holmes etc) & President Yudof.
    President Yudof’s UCB Chancellor should do the high paid work he is paid for instead of hiring expensive East Coast consults to do the work of his job. ‘World class’ smart executives like Chancellor Birgeneau need to do the hard work analysis, and make the tough-minded difficult, decisions to identify inefficiencies.
    Where do the $3,000,000 consultants get their recommendations?
    From interviewing the UCB senior management that hired them and approves their monthly consultant fees and expense reports. Remember the nationally known auditing firm who said the right things and submitted recommendations that senior management wanted to hear and fooled the public, state, federal agencies?
    $3 million impartial consultants never bite the hands (Birgeneau/Yeary) that feed them!
    Mr. Birgeneau's accountabilities include “inspiring innovation, leading change.” This involves “defining outcomes, energizing others at all levels and ensuring continuing commitment.” Instead of deploying his leadership and setting a good example by doing the work of his Chancellor’s job, Mr. Birgeneau outsourced his work to the $3,000,000 consultants. Doesn't he engage UC and UC Berkeley people at all levels to examine inefficiencies and recommend $150 million of trims? Hasn't he talked to Cornell and the University of North Carolina – which also hired the consultants — about best practices and recommendations that will eliminate inefficiencies?
    No wonder the faculty, staff, students, Senate & Assembly are angry and suspicious.
    In today’s economy three million dollars is a irresponsible price to pay when a knowledgeable ‘world-class’ UCB Chancellor and his bloated staff do not do the work of their jobs.
    Together, we will make a difference.

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