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UCLA Seeks Funds to Lure, Keep Top Faculty, Students

June 03, 2004|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

Spurred by intensified competition for star professors and top graduate students, UCLA is launching a $250-million fund-raising initiative to step up its academic recruiting and retention programs.

The five-year effort, to be announced today, is aimed at adding about 100 endowed chairs for professors and providing new fellowships and scholarships for as many as 3,000 graduate students a year.

UCLA officials say they are undertaking the campaign partly because of recent state spending cutbacks for public universities. But they say the effort is also a response to competition from richer, mainly private institutions that are increasingly luring top young professors and snaring the most talented graduate students.

"In competing for people, we could see the resource gap growing, and we want to correct it before it gets out of hand," said UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale.

Talent raids by well-endowed private universities are being felt by campuses throughout the highly regarded UC system. USC, one of the most aggressive private universities in hiring, is in the midst of a campaign to sign up 100 star faculty from other schools. USC has snagged 11 full professors and associate professors from around the UC system in the last two years, although none were from UCLA.

At UCLA, administrators report that other universities are making overtures to faculty, particularly young, up-and-coming professors.

"It's in huge numbers," said Ann Carlson, associate dean of the law school. She said 10 to 12 of the law school's 60 professors are being wooed by other universities.

The new initiative is aimed at heading off the loss of people such as Jeffrey Grogger, 44, a UCLA professor widely regarded as a rising star in the field of labor economics. He has emerged as a much-cited expert on welfare reform. He recently accepted a position at the University of Chicago, starting in September.

Grogger said he was leaving partly because of the lure of joining a school long regarded as one of the nation's best in economics. But another reason is the mixed outlook, because of continuing state budget problems, for UCLA and the rest of the UC system.

"There is this question about the extent to which California values a high-quality research university," Grogger said. "It's hard to say the future looks really bright right now."

Although he applauds UCLA's new campaign, Grogger questions why the university didn't put more emphasis earlier on such fund-raising for faculty and graduate students.

Kenneth A. Schultz, a UCLA political science professor who is leaving at the end of this term for Stanford, said his decision was also based partly on his concern that the state's commitment to top-quality higher education might be waning. Over the long run, Schultz, 36, said, the financial outlook for Stanford is "clearly stronger" than it is for the UC system.

However, UCLA said that -- largely by making counteroffers, including increased salaries and extra research funds -- it has managed to retain about 70% of the professors who received offers from other campuses in recent years. Still, in the 2002-03 school year, UCLA lost 21 of the professors it tried to retain. The campus lost 15 the year before. In all, the university has a little more than 1,800 tenured and tenure-track professors.

In announcing the new fund drive, UCLA said it had about $27 million already pledged toward the $250-million goal. The new campaign would almost double the amount raised in recent years for recruitment and retention.

The initiative would complement an existing 10-year fund-raising effort, known as Campaign UCLA, that is due to end next year. That larger effort has already raised $2.5 billion, exceeding its $2.4-billion goal. But nearly 90% of that money is earmarked for specific building projects or programs.

Carnesale said UCLA and other universities had found that wealthy donors preferred putting their money into new facilities and programs rather than such areas as financial support for graduate students. As a result, he said, UCLA is launching the "Ensuring Academic Excellence" initiative to spotlight its recruiting and retention needs.

"Without the very finest people, it doesn't matter how good the buildings are, how well-funded the programs are," Carnesale said.

He dismissed the possibility that the controversy over the UCLA medical school's willed-body program, involving two employees arrested in March on suspicion of illegal trafficking in cadavers, would dissuade contributors from giving money to the university.

"We immediately shut down the program," he said. "People do recognize that the problem was criminal activity in our midst, rather than UCLA acting in inappropriate ways."

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