You might recall that a few weeks ago University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau co-authored a Washington Post op-ed calling on the federal government to provide direct support – meaning taxpayer dollars – to select public universities. Birgeneau decried decades of “material and progressive disinvestment by states in higher education,” despite, as I pointed out, no such disinvestment actually occurring.
Well now we know where much of the precious investment in Cal was going – to subsidize sports. According to Inside Higher Ed, over just the past few years Berkeley has provided tens-of-millions of dollars in subsidies and loan forgiveness to its sports programs, which are supposed to be self-supporting.
Now, the whole college athletics undertaking is one that deserves lots of scrutiny for its subsidies and excesses. Cal is certainly not alone in this. But for Birgeneau to take to the pages of the Washington Post, cry poverty, and call for the nation’s taxpayers to foot his school’s bills while he quietly pushes millions of dollars to water polo, rugby, golf, and sundry other sports? That takes a lot of gall. Of course, rent-seeking gall is not in short supply when it comes to higher education.
Thankfully, at least this time it looks like the arrogant aggressiveness is going to backfire. Birgeneau is scrambling, and seems doomed to be thrown for a loss.