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“We have to have it.”

November 30, 2009, 1:52 pm

On the 11/20 edition of PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer, a story about the 32% fee hike at the UC featured an interview with UC president Mark Yudof, including this segment:

If you can’t see the video, here is a transcription of Yudof’s comments:

Many of our, if I can put it this way, businesses are in good shape. We’re doing very well there. Our hospitals are full, our medical business, our medical research, the patient care—so we have this core problem, who’s gonna pay the salary of the English Department? We have to have it, who’s gonna pay it and Sociology, and the humanities, and that’s where we’re running into trouble.

This assessment surprises me. As it happens, both English and Sociology are among the twenty largest majors at this UC campus; they’re generally quite large. Which is to say, they bring in a lot of students, and each student brings to the UC a certain sum of money from the state as well as a certain sum of money from fees. Moreover these departments have very, very low laboratory or other research overhead costs, and their faculty salaries are surely lower than those of their counterparts in the research sciences. Is it really true that these large, low-cost majors are “where we’re running into trouble”?

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