Senate Source

November 2008

Mark Yudof
I appreciate this opportunity to extend my personal greetings to the faculty of the University of California system. I was drawn to California by the extraordinary academic accomplishment and impact of the UC faculty, and I am honored to be your colleague and president. In the month of November I am attending a dinner in honor of University of California winners of the Nobel Prize over the years, and it requires a very large room to accommodate them – much larger than it would have in Texas or Minnesota, I can assure you! It is yet another indicator of the international excellence of the UC faculty.

In the 1946 film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” James Stewart sees a vision of what life in his town, Bedford Falls, would have been like without his presence. It’s an intriguing proposition to relocate to the present day: What would California be like without the University of California? So much of the state’s historical success in developing a vibrant economy, improving human health, and enhancing our quality of life flows from the work of the great UC system.

In my first months as president, I have become more convinced than ever that we must all work to improve public understanding of how all Californians benefit from the University of California, regardless of whether they have a family member attending or working at one of our campuses. This endeavor is critical, and it is one I am going to be engaged in personally, because the challenges we face as an institution today are great.

The national and international financial crisis of recent months means further stress on our revenue streams at a time when our core activities are already underfunded. Our retirement plan requires the resumption of employer and employee contributions to remain on track to meet its obligations to future retirees. And we have pressing need for investments in quality and competitiveness – including the compensation of our faculty – if we are to maintain the academic excellence and rich public contribution that have defined the UC system for so long.

Part of our path forward must involve telling the story of the UC system as actively and vocally as possible. In addition, I am pursuing a series of other efforts I believe are necessary preconditions for improved funding. One is the continued restructuring of the Office of the President in Oakland, an effort focused on ensuring that all central operations add value to the campuses and that available funding is directed to the campuses as much as possible. A second effort is improved performance management for senior leaders of the university, to ensure that we have clear and measurable operational objectives and that we make progress on those objectives.

— Mark G. Yudof, President