Eliminate Unproductive Workers in California’s UC System?

In the Los Angeles Times, UC Berkely Professors Robert Cooter and Aaron Edlin suggest (gasp!) actually eliminating unproductive workers to save money in the UC system.

Growth has led to bloat at UC. The bloat and bureaucracy stifle creativity and productivity. The bloat is in unproductive workers and unproductive jobs. Many jobs have little to do with our core missions of teaching and research. Within jobs, there is task bloat — mission creep creates too many assignments of little import.

These problems are endemic to most large organizations, but they are particular problems for one like UC, where it is almost impossible to fire an unproductive worker, whether staff or tenured professor, and always easier to hire a new one.

Our plan would be simple. To meet Yudof’s savings targets, a number of employees would be laid off sufficient to save 8% of the payroll. The choices in staff cuts would be difficult, but they are necessary if the regents are unwilling to raise tuition further. Specific decisions on whom to lay off would be decentralized to campuses, and within campuses to schools or departments.

In the case of tenured faculty, for better or worse, they have a good measure of protection. But if an entire unit is eliminated, tenured faculty within it can be fired. Thus, while tenure means that we cannot be fired for writing this Op-Ed article, the university can decide that it does not have the resources to have a law school.

Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.