In this hyper-sensitive age, academic administrators rise to prominence because of skillful diplomacy. It is virtually unheard of for a university dean or president to take on powerful people -- particularly when they are part of a university committee.
Which is exactly what made the piece that UCLA Chancellor Gene Block wrote for the LA Times this weekend so extraordinary. Block called out California's state legislators -- two thirds of whom are alumni of California's public universities -- for failing to protect the universities that helped them get ahead. In effect, the chancellor accused politically powerful alumni of his institution of disloyalty.
Block particularly targeted lawmakers who have refused to put Gov. Jerry Brown's tax extensions on the ballot. He wrote:
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And what of the legislators who have refused Californians the right to decide whether they want to face such a scenario? Perhaps they will excuse me, but I detect a certain irony in their posture. A majority of them graduated from California's public universities and colleges, and greatly benefited from the high-quality, low-cost education they received.
Overall, two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate members attended a community college, Cal State or UC, many of them two or three of these institutions. These leaders, in other words, built their careers in public service upon the foundation of the state's esteemed Master Plan for Higher Education — now in tatters — that assured an education to every qualified student in California. Of the 42 Republicans in the Legislature — none of whom has yet to provide one of the two GOP votes needed in each chamber to put the tax extension on the ballot — 29 are products of the state's higher education system. They include the Senate and Assembly minority leaders — who attended Los Angeles Valley College and Fresno State, respectively — as well as the vice chairman of the Assembly's Higher Education Committee, who went to UC Irvine