UCSD’s top faculty is being stolen

by Tomas Nieto

The University of California and California State University systems have been harshly criticized throughout the past several years, and public calls for reform are getting louder. One of the many problems California public colleges face is losing their incredible faculty. They need to reinvest in the faculty they currently have, or face losing them and the reputation for a quality education they bring to private schools and colleges oversees.

University of California, San Diego’s Frieder Seible guided the Jacobs School of Engineering through a tremendous period of growth during his deanship. Unfortunately, Seible is leaving UCSD in April and moving to Monash University in Australia to become its dean of engineering. If the UC and CSU systems wish to grow, they cannot let go of their top faculty members.

UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering has seen impressive expansion during the past decade while Seible was dean. The department increased the number of faculty and students, as well as the amount of research funding from $130,000 in 2003 to $163,000 in the last fiscal year. He also led the school through several large structural developments, such as the Charles Lee Powell Structural Research Laboratories and the recently built Structural and Materials Engineering building. This year, the Jacobs School of Engineering was ranked among the 50 best engineering schools internationally. He was a great asset to UCSD and contributed to making the university one of the top schools around the world.

While Seible didn’t disclose the salary he would receive at Monash University as dean, it’s no secret California’s education systems are in a financial wreck. Therefore, many professors are choosing to work elsewhere. This makes it easy for private colleges who have much more funding than public schools to recruit the world-renowned faculty the UC and CSU systems are known for. Last year, UCSD lost significant faculty members to other colleges. Three top researchers were lured to Rice University with promises of higher pay and more stable funding for research. This trend of professors moving to other schools is seen throughout the UC and CSU systems. Last year, Los Angeles Times reported University of California, Davis’ faculty received double the number of job offers from private universities while its retention rate of professors dropped from 90 percent to 72 percent. Private institutions are buying out California’s public college professors.

The problem begins with California’s financial crisis. Education has taken major blows because of budget cuts. Teachers have been receiving pink slips since the financial collapse in 2008. This trend is seen throughout all levels of education, from elementary school to college. Therefore, it’s understandable for professors to leave public universities to work at private colleges where they have more job security. The UC and CSU systems’ tightening budgets create doubt in many professors who don’t know if their department will get shafted next.

However, the CSU system seems to understand the value of hiring quality faculty. Last year, San Diego State hired Elliot Hirshman as president.

His annual salary, which is $400,000, is $100,000 more than his predecessor. This could be a sign California public colleges are trying to compete with private universities when it comes to hiring and retaining strong leadership and faculty.

The CSU and UC systems have earned the reputation of being some of the best university systems in the world because of their superior academic standards and ability to serve the growing demand for higher education. But the California education systems are bleeding financially and other institutes are sensing it. They are jumping at the opportunity to recruit California’s amazing faculty.

The appeal of a degree is tied to the reputation of the university and its faculty. If the UC and CSU systems continue to lose more of their award-winning faculty, the appeal of a diploma from those institutions will be lost as well. That’s an outcome SDSU students, administrators and faculty cannot afford.