Exorbitant Campus Construction Projects, Administrative Compensation: It’s Time to Demand Accountability

Avaneesh Narla, Guest Writer

The recent announcement of two exorbitant projects at UC San Diego, Triton Center and Ridge Walk North Living and Learning Neighborhood, unveils the alarming financial stratification that plagues our educational institutions. With a staggering combined price tag of $1.1 billion (funded by external loans that will be repaid over time using UCSD’s operating budget), these projects lay bare the administration’s skewed financial priorities and the potential consequences for students, researchers, faculty, and the quality of education and research at UCSD. It is essential for every member of the UCSD community to come together and demand transparency, accountability, and a reassessment of our institution’s decision-making.

These ambitious projects will exacerbate the university’s existing debt of $4.4 billion as of 2022, and we cannot overlook the troubling implications of such financial commitments. In its own budget report approved by UC Office of the President, the UC concedes that instructional expenditures per student are plummeting annually, the student-to-faculty ratio has continued to worsen, salaries for faculty are not competitive, and vital maintenance on existing infrastructure is being neglected. Moreover, students are experiencing the brunt of these decisions through larger class sizes, less personal relationships with professors, and increasing difficulties in obtaining their desired majors. The elimination of discussion sections in biology courses exemplifies the negative impact these choices have on students’ educational experiences. 

While the administration claims that these cuts are due to a lack of state financing of capital projects, it is the administration’s responsibility to represent the needs of the community. Instead, they are being rewarded for starting expensive capital projects at the expense of students, researchers, and faculty.

The administration’s decision to augment their own salaries, including Chancellor Khosla’s substantial raise of half a million dollars, while our university community grapples with financial challenges is immensely hypocritical. The priority of a public university should clearly not be administrative compensation paid for by tuition, rent, and research overheads. The disparities in administrative salaries compared to other universities and the mounting maintenance backlog emphasize the urgent need for a radical reevaluation of priorities.

The administration’s financial decisions perpetuate divisions within our community and commodify the credibility of the UC system. The administration is transferring the burden of meeting financial demands of living wages for academic employees and researchers — won through a difficult strike — onto departments, faculty, and student employees. By fostering a scarcity mindset, the administration is instigating competition rather than collaboration. This not only degrades the quality of education but also the compensation and support for student employees and researchers, who are indispensable to the success of UCSD.

Now is the time for students, faculty, and departments to unite and demand a change in focus. We must not allow the administration’s current financial priorities to sow discord within our community or propagate a scarcity mindset. Instead, we should join forces to advocate for a more transparent and equitable approach centered on education and research. To take action, the UCSD community needs to:

  1. Demand transparency and accountability: Urge the administration to disclose detailed information about the rationale, costs, and benefits of major projects, as well as their funding sources and possible plans to handle the subsequent debt. Transparency is the cornerstone of an informed, inclusive conversation about our university’s future. When Triton Center and Ridge Walk North Living and Learning Neighborhood were unveiled, the UC failed to mention the cost or how the projects would be financed and instead let glitzy renderings take center stage. We should not succumb to such deceptive obfuscation.
  2. Amplify our voices: Collaborate with student organizations, faculty groups, and departmental representatives to ensure that the concerns of the entire university community, including equitable compensation for student employees and researchers, are acknowledged and addressed by the administration.
  3. Champion academic excellence: Advocate for prioritizing instructional support, competitive faculty and researcher salaries, and maintenance of existing infrastructure. These elements are essential to sustaining the high-quality education and research that UCSD is renowned for.
  4. Encourage collaboration and unity: Cultivate a spirit of cooperation among students, faculty, and departments, recognizing that we share mutual goals and aspirations. United, we possess the power to sway the administration’s decisions and promote a more balanced approach to growth and academic excellence.

We must not let the prestige and credibility of UCSD be undermined by short-sighted, financially-motivated decisions. It is our responsibility, as members of this institution, to stand up and demand a more sustainable, education-centered future. Together, we can preserve the credibility of UCSD and ensure that future generations of students, researchers, and faculty continue to thrive in an environment that values both growth and academic excellence.


Image courtesy of Ricardo Gomez from Unsplash.