The University of California, the nation's largest public university
system, is being transformed by its need to solicit private dollars from
corporations and wealthy benefactors.
Fund raising by chancellors, deans and professors has influenced course
work, redirected research and brought the corporate presence into everyday
academia. For instance:
-- At the University of California at Berkeley, where nearby Bank of
America branches were once targets of violent student protests, a $2 million
donation resulted in the dean of the Haas School of Business being officially
titled the "BankAmerica dean."
-- Undergraduates at the University of California at San Diego recently
spent class time designing a cell phone antenna for corporate donor Nokia.
-- At the University of California at Los Angeles, a $5 million donation
last year resulted in an auditorium named for modernist composer Arnold
Schoenberg being renamed to honor Dreamworks records executive Mo Ostin and
his wife, Evelyn. Public outcry forced reversal of the action.
The money raised by hundreds of university administrators, faculty members
and professional fund-raisers can have an effect on what gets taught. Certain
courses and entire degree programs would not exist without private money.
A minor in Jewish studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz,
for instance, was created with more than $2 million in donations.
Private industry, foundations and wealthy individuals subsidize research
and faculty positions.
Many schools and departments have forged formal, sometimes controversial
relationships with companies. Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, was given
two of five seats on a research committee at UC Berkeley after donating $25
RAISE FUNDS OR PERISH
Professors say they feel pressure to raise funds but fear it will consume
valuable teaching and research time.
"I think about how more faculty time is being taken away from thinking, how
more time is taken away from creative teaching," said Kenneth Wachter,
chairman of the department of demography at UC Berkeley.
Some worry about being judged on their success in collecting money. At the
University of California at Davis, African American studies professor Patricia
Turner said members of the faculty are asked to report on their fund raising.
"In a lot of the paperwork you have to fill out now, there is a line that
says, 'How much external money did you raise?' , " she said. "If you've
published in journals, how much grant money you've generated should be of
Said UC Berkeley history professor Leon Litwack: "We work very hard as
professors, teaching and advising graduate students. To try to add fund
raising to that job, I think, impairs the quality of education our students
Those who aren't successful at fund raising pay the price.
In Stephens Hall at UC Berkeley, the Center for African Studies occupies a
two-room office marked by cracked walls and scuffed linoleum floors.
Down the hall, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies operates out of a
sumptuously appointed suite of offices with stained glass, gleaming copper
paneling and a trickling fountain.
A few years ago, these centers were virtually the same. Both made do with
modest budgets and tiny offices. They shared a copier.
Then Nezar AlSayyad, chairman of Middle Eastern Studies, took two trips to
Saudi Arabia with UC Berkeley chancellors. He landed a $5 million donation
from a Saudi Arabian foundation for remodeling and for "The Sultan Program,"
which finances visiting professors and a research program on issues of Arab
Despite his success, AlSayyad said he would rather be teaching than raising
money. "I don't regret it, but if you ask if I'd do it again, I'd say no," he
A QUALITATIVE DIFFERENCE
Fund raising brought more than $1.2 billion into UC coffers in the 1999
The nine-campus university system accelerated fund-raising efforts after
the state cut its financing in the early '90s. The state now provides less
than a quarter of UC's budget, down from more than half a decade ago. Other UC
sources of revenue include student tuition and fees (10 percent), federal
funds (15.5 percent), sales and services, including those at the medical
centers, and investment income.
Although less than 7 percent of UC's revenue in 1999-2000 came from private
sources, that money often is the difference between being good and being great,
between attracting solid faculty and hiring academic superstars, between
outdated equipment and cutting-edge laboratories.
"The state of California really provides a level of funding that would not
permit us to maintain a great institution," UC President Richard Atkinson said
in an interview. "Private funds (are) a requirement to maintain the quality of
the University of California."
A survey by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism of 81 department
heads and other administrators throughout the system found that:
-- Seven out of 10 administrators said their fund-raising efforts increased
moderately or dramatically during the past five years.
-- Eight of 10 said private funds are important, very important or critical
to their department's health.
-- Eight of 10 said the private sector is involved in the academic life of
"We're discovering that the only way we get extra money is to get it
ourselves," said Fred Gable, chairman of the music department at the
University of California at Riverside. "It goes against the entire notion of
UC as a public school that gets funded by the state."
When UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business announced that its dean -- now
economist Laura Tyson -- would be called the BankAmerica dean, some alumni
raised questions, said associate dean Jay Stowsky.
"Our answers have always been consistent," he said. "What is the
alternative? If the state of California is reducing the budget for the
university, we have to make sure the university has top-notch faculty. We have
to turn to private sources, rich individuals and corporations."
Sometimes just the possibility of a conflict of interest is enough to
ignite controversy. In 1997, UCLA's history department turned down a $1
million grant from the Turkish government to fund a professorship in Turkish
history after the Armenian community complained that such a post would help
Turkey cover up its role in the massacre of a million Armenians between 1915
COST OF FAILING TO FUND-RAISE
Older campuses with more alumni raise far more money than their newer
counterparts. UC Berkeley and UCLA attracted as many million-dollar donations
last year as the other seven campuses combined.
Private fund raising creates disparities among departments as well. Without
private money, departments have trouble paying for visiting professors and
research assistants. They lose graduate students when they cannot offer enough
Recently, Atkinson encountered a young anthropology professor struggling to
find research money.
"She has to scrape by, and students scrape by," Atkinson said. "And yet she
can look across the campus at someone in computer science and every time they
turn around, someone is trying to support their program. Those contrasts are
Santa Cruz's astronomy and astrophysics department, which runs Lick
Observatory on Mount Hamilton, is considered one of the nation's best. But
just two graduate students decided to join the department last fall. Many
declined to enroll because comparable private schools offered them more
"It has gotten dire," said Stanford Woosley, department chairman. Woosley
said he doesn't know how to court private donors.
"I'm not very good at going and asking somebody to give me money,
particularly if I don't know them very well," he said.
GROWTH OF CORPORATE INFLUENCE
In reaching out to corporate America, fund-raisers bring companies -- and
sometimes controversy -- into the universities.
After the pharmaceutical company Novartis donated $25 million to UC
Berkeley's department of plant and microbial biology, it was given two of five
votes on a research committee as well as rights to license and sell some of
the products of that research. This prompted hearings in the state Senate last
year into conflict of interest issues, but the corporation ultimately retained
Some departments set up corporate affiliates programs to foster
relationships with executives. At the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San
Diego, members of the affiliates program receive a report on the school's
financial status, research and education programs during quarterly meetings
with the dean.
"Our dean is very committed to partnering with industry," said Jeff Nagle,
external relations program director at the Jacobs school. "I think we take it
to a new level."
Their approach affects undergraduates such as Will Navaja and classmates
who spent hours beneath a Nokia banner in the mechanical engineering
laboratory, designing an automatic cell phone antenna. The work was part of a
required course that features hands-on design projects sponsored by industry.
"I'd much rather do something for a company than for some (professor) out
of his file cabinet," said Navaja.
Professor Nate Delson said students benefit from their real-world
experience but do not profit financially. Nokia budgeted $3,000 for the
antenna project, Delson said.
EFFECT ON CURRICULUM
Outside funds are shaping more than research agendas. Both individuals and
industry affect curriculum when they fund academic subjects that interest them.
-- Twelve corporations, including Goldman-Sachs and Morgan Stanley Dean
Whitter, provided seed money for a new master's degree program in financial
engineering at the Haas School of Business. The program will produce graduates
whose training in analysis of financial markets could benefit these firms.
-- Bloomberg LP, a financial news service, provided $585,000 to the
Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley to start a business reporting
Some worry about the lack of a clear line delineating just what a private
donation can purchase at the university.
UC Berkeley history professor Litwack, who came to the campus as an
undergraduate in 1948, said all donations should be like the one funding his
endowed chair -- "no strings attached."
He's concerned about partnerships such as the one that had students
designing a cell phone antenna for Nokia.
"I don't see the university existing for the benefit of corporations,"
Litwack said. ". . .There should never be any corporate influence on the
UC Santa Cruz computer science professor David Haussler, whose salary is
paid by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, acknowledges concerns about
conflict of interest when private entities start funding academic research,
"You don't want to be so adamant about conflict of interest that you
discourage entrepreneurship among the professors, especially the engineering
schools, but also the biotech area, especially microbiology. There's a lot of
exciting things happening with companies."
BEHIND THE STORY
This story was reported by students at the University of California at
Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and edited by The Chronicle. Part of
the story is based on a student-conducted survey of fund raising by
departments in 11 academic areas at the eight University of California
campuses with undergraduate programs. Eighty-one of 130 departments responded
to the survey, which was part of a course financed by the Schumann Foundation.
Data collection was performed by Olga Rodriguez and John Cote of the
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle