UC President Janet Napolitano hosted a joint interview Friday afternoon with student journalists from across the UC campuses and UC Student Association President Ralph Washington Jr. The students and Washington asked questions regarding the recently released UC Office of the President audit, and Napolitano's subsequent apologetic response.
After an opening statement by Napolitano, each reporter and Washington were able to ask two questions. Napolitano began by stating that her office will be accepting all of the recommendations in the audit, with the exception of one.
"The exception is the recommendation that the legislature directly appropriate the budget of the Office of the President," Napolitano said. "The Regents have filed a separate response contesting that recommendation on the grounds that it interferes with the constitutional autonomy of the University, and that they as Regents are better positioned to ensure that we are implementing the audit's recommendations."
Napolitano followed up this contestation by expressing her office's disagreement with the audit's implied characterization of the UCOP, adding that the office disagrees with "the notion that we have amassed and not disclosed 175 million dollars."
When addressing the criticism by the California State Auditor that the UCOP kept $175 million in undisclosed budget reserve funds Napolitano asserted that $5 million of it was "not part of the budget," $83 million is restricted funds and a total of $38 million dollars are held in reserve.
"That is a prudent reserve given the contingencies and emergent circumstances that can arise between the time our annual budget is reviewed and approved by the Regents," Napolitano said.
According to Napolitano the remaining $49 million have been previously allocated to a variety of system-wide and presidential initiatives — "money that directly benefits the campuses."
The previously allocated funds go towards a variety of programs such as those to support undocumented students, investment in carbon neutrality and funding for enhanced efforts to combat sexual violence and sexual assault on the campuses, according to Napolitano.
When questioned why the audit office did not account for restricted funds and previously allocated funds in their audit, and why these funds weren't originally noted in the UCOP budget, Napolitano responded by explaining that UCOP creates its budget in a different manner than the auditor was expecting.
"When we tried to persuade the auditor about the nature of those funds we were clearly unsuccessful," Napolitano said.
Washington concluded the questions by advocating for more communication between students and the UCOP — noting the conference call as a particularly good example.
"Would you be willing to have regular conference calls with student press?" Washington enquired.
"Um, sure," Napolitano replied. "We could make them on a more regular schedule if you thought that would be helpful."
A cacophony of agreement and "thank you" ensued.