Science

California's higher education leaders pledge more cooperation

EducationColleges and UniversitiesWest BankLabor Disputes and StrikesPoliticsJerry BrownIsrael

SAN FRANCISCO — The leaders of California's three public higher education systems Wednesday pledged more cooperation, particularly in transferring students, while Gov. Jerry Brown urged them to develop more innovative collaborations.

In a rare gathering, University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said they want to break through some of the walls set up by the state's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which established different roles and student enrollment criteria for each sector. Yet they also said they want to maintain the plan's basic tenets.

Napolitano said she hoped the systems would create a "student-centered" website that could track the academic progress of community college students and keep them on course to transfer to UC or Cal State.

"Transfer should be as streamlined as possible and as transparent as possible," she said as the three leaders made a joint presentation at the UC regents meeting in San Francisco.

Harris said the three systems want to jointly run an outreach program that would inform parents of seventh graders about college-going possibilities and the financial aid available. White spoke of reducing costs by combining some purchasing and services in risk management and legal advice, among other areas.

The challenge for the three systems, White said, is to strengthen the master plan "for the new economy for the next 50 years."

Brown, whose father, Pat Brown, helped form the plan as governor, said he wants more imaginative ideas to improve higher education, possibly forming new entities online or elsewhere. He did not offer specifics.

The master plan, among other things, gave UC control over doctoral degrees and professional schools, allowed open access to community colleges and set higher admissions standards at Cal State and UC. Although many educators speak of it reverently, Brown described it as the result of a political deal in need of updating.

The governor, who is a regent, said he wants educators to probe how knowledge gets disseminated and "how do we certificate the results?" That may lead to new "configurations" in colleges beyond the traditions of UC, Cal State and community colleges, Brown said in what seemed more an intellectual challenge than a policy order.

In other matters, several Jewish organizations complained to the regents about recent lectures at UC Riverside, UCLA and UC Davis by Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian scholar who supports boycotts of Israeli universities because of Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Those speeches by Barghouti violated UC policy against using campus resources for political indoctrination and contributed to a hostile environment for Jewish students, officials of the AMCHA Initiative and other pro-Israel groups alleged.

The UC regents did not respond to those allegations. In recent weeks, however, UC administrators said that they were opposed to any boycott of Israel but that they would not stop Barghouti's free speech. UC Riverside Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox recently wrote that allowing varying opinions "is a core value of this university."

Also Wednesday, a large labor union again raised the possibility of a strike. Although UC has settled contracts with most of its labor unions in recent months, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 — for food workers, custodians, respiratory therapists and other patient care employees — has not. AFSCME Local 3299 officials said Wednesday that they would schedule membership votes next month on authorizing what could be their third strike in a year, with the date and duration to be determined later.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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