Michael O’Hare, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, provides a grim view on the current trajectory of the university, on the well-read progressive blog The Reality Based Community:

The whole university is dismantling itself, and parts of the machinery are not working.  For example, an MPH applicant to the Public Health School received this letter (passed on by a reader):

Thank you for your application to our MPH program in Public Health Nutrition.  Due to budget cuts, we are not able to offer a Public Health Nutrition program next year.  If you are interested in the program in Public Health Nutrition, and you already have a nutrition science, dietetics and/or biologic sciences background, you can apply to the Maternal & Child Health program, the Health & Social Behavior program, the Epidemiology/Biostatistics program, or the Health Policy & Management program, and take Public Health Nutrition courses as electives.  In addition, you can select PH nutrition related topics for your projects and internship experiences.

We’re firing graduate student instructors and reducing class sizes, closing departments and cleaning bathrooms weekly.  Students whose tuition has gone up thousands of dollars can’t get into courses they need to graduate; we’re trying to float an educational ship in a lake that’s steadily draining away to a mudflat.

O’Hare has been one of the most vocal faculty members on the cost of intercollegiate athletics, and provides some new figures on the cost of big-time sports at Cal:

IA [intercollegiate athletics] is beginning to dribble out some financial information.  The first batch is a revised I/E statement for the year ending June 30 ‘09, and guess what? Almost every indicator is substantially worse than the preliminary guff they rushed out before the faculty meeting in November.  In particular, the campus subsidy to this operation is now up to $13m per year, from the $7.7m they ‘estimated’ for us last fall.

At a time where the university is forced to make desperately hard choices, it is mystifying that public health nutrition ranks lower than the football stadium. I was speaking recently to a prominent faculty member who has always been pretty bullish about Berkeley’s ability to maintain its global reputation. He now thinks that it is delicately poised between keeping its lead and slipping back into the ranks of the UC Irvines of the world.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...