State legislators are currently attempting to strip the UC system of its autonomy and place it under direct control of the state of California.

Sponsored by State Senators Leland Yee, Roy Ashburn and Gloria Romero, the proposed amendment to California’s constitution would remove the Regents’ self-governing powers and allow the Legislature to enforce laws affecting UC policy. If passed by both houses, the identical constitutional amendments – Senate Constitutional Amendment 21 and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 24 – would be placed on the state ballot. The governor’s approval would not be needed.

According to a statement from the University of California Office of the President, the state is not equipped to run the University given the grave financial problems it faces.

“Given the current $25 billion hole in the state budget and the political paralysis that chronically plagues Sacramento,” the statement said, “tossing a 10-campus public research university that is the pride of California and the envy of the world into the Sacramento mix should be a non-starter.”

The UC Regents – who were granted autonomy in 1879 – practice control on all issues related to the management of the UC institution. According to a press release, Senator Yee, a UC alumnus, said recent executive pay hikes and increases in student fees are evidence that the Regents hold too much power.

“Enough is enough; it is time for the UC administration to stop acting like a private institution,” Yee said in a press release. “This completely outdated model results in the Regents thinking they are above the law. They continuously violate the public trust and disrespect students and taxpayers.”

Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said he was firmly against the lawmakers’ amendment.

“I would be opposed to coming under the control of the legislature,” Lucas said. “They’re quite uninformed about what that would do.”

A statement from the UC President said the state is the cause of the UC woes.

“State support for public higher education has eroded at an accelerating pace,” the statement said. “Our appropriation from Sacramento, which covers the core costs of educating 225,000 students, has fallen from $3.3 billion in fiscal 2007-08 to $2.5 billion, as now proposed for fiscal 2009-10.”

However, Senator Ashburn said in a press release that UC officials are spending state money recklessly, without any regard to the current economic crisis.

“It’s obvious that leaders of the University of California are out of touch with the real world,” Ashburn said in a press release. “By approving big salaries and benefits, UC Regents showed they are oblivious to the state’s economy and state budget realities. While California’s families and businesses are cutting back, UC paychecks are getting fatter.”

Both houses must approve the proposal with a two-thirds majority vote in order for the amendment to make it to the state ballot.