By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
As you might expect, the man accepting the check is smiling.
“Is this all $23 million gets you?” Steven Sample jokes, referring to the bouquet of flowers he is handing to Mrs. Roski.
Joking aside, the status of the gift as the largest single donation is questionable. Almost three years before USC’s ceremony, UCLA announced that Roski’s friend, philanthropist Eli Broad, had spent $23.2 million to replace UCLA’s earthquake-ravaged art school with the Richard Meier–designed Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center, which opened in September. Broad's gift had initially been lower, thus the confusion. But Sample and former chancellor Carnesale have both passed out their share of bouquets.
In 2003, USC announced that it had raised $2.85 billion in nine years through its Building on Excellence campaign, then the largest fund-raising effort in higher-education history. UCLA fired back last February, announcing that its own just-concluded Campaign UCLA had raised $3 billion over a slightly longer period, taking the No. 1 spot.
Such a campaign by a public university has few precedents. “When I started out as chancellor, we never had a capital campaign,” recalls Berkeley professor emeritus Michael Heyman, who was Berkeley’s chancellor in the late 1980s. “Sixty percent of our budget came from the state. Now it’s half that. Certainly no one ever went to the private sector for buildings, but now private donors pay for almost all of them.”
Of the approximately two dozen institutions in the country pursuing capital campaigns of a billion or more, roughly two-thirds are public, and UCLA is in the lead. Some experts, like author and higher-education-consultant Lara Couturier, worry that it is increasingly difficult to tell public institutions like UCLA and private institutions like USC apart.
At the same time, both institutions are spending in an eerily similar manner, applying their new funds to approximately 125 new professorships and half a billion dollars in new construction. But UCLA faces a challenge that the relatively tuition-driven USC doesn’t, says Couturier: Most private donors insist that their gifts be directed to specific parts of the university, even when the university faces more pressing issues elsewhere — like fixing its air conditioning.
“It’s hard to find the funds for daily operations,” says Couturier. “It’s not sexy to donors.”
To patch up a couple of neglected areas, UCLA began a second fund-raising campaign even before finishing the first: Ensuring Academic Excellence, which seeks $250 million to endow chairs and support graduate students. That campaign was what helped meet the linguistics faculty’s demand for graduate-student fellowships, which some estimate are $2,000 lower at UCLA than at comparable institutions. At only $2,000 per student, neither school’s endowment compares with that of top Ivy League institutions such as Harvard, where the figure is about $60,000.
Such support is critical to bringing in top talent, especially from abroad. Some faculty worry that UCLA’s stature internationally has suffered because of diminished support.
Roger Geiger, an expert on the economics of research universities, says there are limits to what such fund-raising campaigns can do. As a much larger institution, Geiger says, “UCLA can’t make up the funding gap by building endowment. Of the public universities, only University of Virginia, which is very small, can do that.”
Not surprisingly, UCLA and USC both find themselves wooing local philanthropists like Roski for increasingly important private donations. Despite the similar amount and timing of his gift, Roski denies that his gift was chosen to compete with Broad’s contribution to UCLA’s art school. No matter. UCLA’s average alum may not be as wealthy as Roski, but the school excels at making friends with deep pockets. UCLA grew into a UC flagship in large part through former chancellor Charles Young’s successful courtship of Westside donors starting in the ’60s, when USC had a monopoly on wealthy Pasadena donors.
Back then, UCLA had a single endowed professorship and a budget of $170 million. By the time Young stepped down in 1997, the number of endowed professorships had risen to 120, and the budget to $2 billion. But in the last decade, the geographical loyalties he helped cultivate have eroded.
For every donor like Roski, who has never given money to UCLA, there is another like Broad, who has become a hero to both schools. Besides creating the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center at UCLA, Broad endowed a $25 million stem-cell-research center at USC that will compete with UCLA’s own center for California’s Proposition 71 stem cell research funds.
UCLA has already received the largest Prop. 71 grant of any institution in the state. In an increasingly privatized research economy, the size and public status of the UC system are sometimes liabilities. For instance, because UCLA is a public school, Broad had to build the Broad Institute for Integrative Biology and Stem Cell Research at USC instead.
“You can’t have stem-cell research in a building with federal funding,” Broad explains. For similar reasons, Westwood missed out on the $112.5 million Alfred Mann Institute, a bioengineering program Mann allegedly offered to UCLA in the late ’90s. According to UCLA business school professor George Abe, who teaches a course on patent research, the sticking point in the negotiations with UCLA was Mann’s insistence on retaining too much control over the institute’s patents and patent revenue.
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