Whether academic officials like it or not, Gov. Jerry Brown has a few good ideas for the state's four-year university systems: Reduce administrative bulk, keep tuition costs down. But several of his demands show a lack of understanding of the universities' role, especially the University of California, in attracting great minds to the state. The UC system Brown outlines — one in which professors do more teaching and less research and state funding is tied to whether the colleges graduate a certain percentage of students — could change the very nature of the state's premier public universities, turning them into workmanlike producers of academic degrees.
UC and California State University operate with virtual autonomy, as they should. The framers of the California Master Plan for Higher Education understood that great colleges are run by academics, not by politicians. But that doesn't mean the universities should expect taxpayers and students to uncomplainingly absorb the cost of bloated administrative ranks and ever-higher pay for university officials. In addition, students who have completed far more course credits than they need to graduate should either pay the full, unsubsidized price for additional credits or take their degrees and go. Brown is right to connect future funding increases to these issues; taxpayers shouldn't pick up the tab for sloth or waste.