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Chancellor Brown?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Could Gov. Jerry Brown be his own chancellor of the University of California?

If he were anyone but the governor, you’d think he was auditioning for the job. Over the last several months, Brown has effectively set policy on a host of financial matters, blocking fee hikes and successfully pushing for online education. He’s also weighed in on the hiring and pay of individual campus leaders, including suggesting that journalists could do the job of running such universities. (I don’t know if that’s right, Governor Brown, but I’m available – and I love Riverside).

Brown has already done what good chancellors do: cowed the UC regents, who at this point seem to be going along with whatever he’s suggesting. That’s because Brown has proven he can raise money – not from wealthy donors or from grants, but via Prop 30. By giving the university systems more money – but not as much as they wanted – with his new budget, Brown has the universities seeking to stay on his good side, with the hope that they might get a bit more.

Of course, governors have a seat on the public university system governing boards, so one could argue that what Brown’s doing is not all that extraordinary. But he sure does seem deeply interested in transforming the UC system – which is the kind of effort that a chancellor may be better positioned than a governor to lead.

So what should keep Brown from the UC job? Perhaps his interest in running the other university systems as well. He’s trying to remake the community colleges, according to a new LA Times report. And he’s scheduled to attend the meeting of the CSU trustees this week.

So it’s not clear that Brown could give him undivided attention to just the UC. And running three university systems is probably too much for anyone, even Chancellor, er, Governor Brown.

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