Report: UCSF Chancellor Proposes Autonomy in State University System

1/20/12Follow @xconomy

[Updated: Noon, 1/21/12] UCSF could end up being a much more independent institution if chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann gets her way.

That’s according to a story today in the San Francisco Chronicle, which reported on a proposal Desmond-Hellmann put forward this week to University of California regents, who were meeting at UC Riverside. The plan would be to make UCSF more like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory or Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Those institutions contract with the UC for health and pension services, and are accountable to the regents, but essentially govern themselves with their own boards of directors, according to a report by the Chronicle’s Nanette Asimov.

If such a move were allowed, UCSF would be freed up from paying about $49 million a year to help support the rest of the cash-strapped UC system, the Chronicle said. The move is necessary, Desmond-Hellmann said, because costs of pensions and a new UCSF medical center are rising fast, meaning that even though UCSF’s research engine is growing, the institution will be losing money by 2015.

“What we have here is not sustainable,” Desmond-Hellmann said.

It’s a bold move from Desmond-Hellmann, the longtime Genentech executive who took over the top job at UCSF in August 2009. This week, UCSF released data showing it received $532 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2010, which was about $57 million more than the previous year, and the most of any public institution in the U.S. The university has also put together a string of high-profile collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotech companies under the new chancellor, including deals with Pfizer, Sanofi, and Bayer Healthcare. The UCSF vision, Desmond-Hellmann said in a campus address last October, is to become “the world’s pre-eminent health sciences innovator.”

You can check the full account from the Chronicle here. [Update with video link] You can also see a short video of Desmond-Hellmann’s presentation to the Regents by going to the UCSF site or watching it below.

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  • Milan Moravec

    Before UCSF leaves UC Reign in university inefficiencies before additional funding & taxes. I love University of California having been a student & lecturer. Like so many I am disappointed by Chancellor Birgeneau’s failure to arrest escalating costs, tuition/fees. Birgeneau has doubled tuition/fees. On an all in cost, Birgeneau’s UC Berkeley (UCB) is the most expensive public university. Instate tuition now consumes 14% of a Californian’s median family income.
    Paying more is not a better university. Birgeneau dismissed removing much inefficiency: require faculty to teach more classes, double the time between sabbaticals, freeze vacant faculty/administrator/chancellor positions, increase class sizes, freeze pay & benefits & reform pensions, health costs.
    Birgeneau said removing such inefficiencies wouldn’t be healthy. Exodus of faculty, chancellors, and administrators: who can afford them?
    Californians, Alumni, Donors agree it is far from the ideal situation. Birgeneau cannot expect to do business as usual: raising tuition/fees; granting pay raises & huge bonuses during a weak economy that has sapped state revenues, individual income.
    Recently, Chancellor Birgeneau’s campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting Birgeneau’s increases in tuition. The sky above Cal. will not fall when Robert J. Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) is ousted.

    Email opinions to the UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu

  • Milan Moravec

    Every qualified California student must get a place in University of California (UC). That’s a desirable goal for a public UC. However, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau displaces Californians qualified for education at Cal. with foreigners paying $50,600 tuition.
    Paying more is not a better education. UC tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increase. Birgeneau has doubled instate tuition/fees. Birgeneau jeopardizes access to Cal by making it the most expensive public university.
    UC President Mark Yudof uses tuition increases to pay for faculty & administrator salary increases. Payoffs like these point to higher operating costs and still higher tuition and taxes. Instate tuition consumes 14% of Cal. Median Family Income. President Yudof is hijacking our families’ and kids’ futures: student debt.
    I agree that Yudof and Birgeneau should consider the students’ welfare & put it high on their values. Deeds unfortunately do not bear out the students’ welfare values of Birgeneau, Regent Chairwoman Lansing and President Yudof.
    We must act. Birgeneau’s campus police deployed violent baton jabs on students protesting Birgeneau’s tuition increases. The sky will not fall when Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) ‘honorably’ retires.
    Opinions to UC Board of Regents, email marsha.kelman@ucop.edu