Neither the California State University or University of California systems are subject to outside oversight for seismic repairs. While K-12 schools and community colleges fall under the jurisdiction of the Division of the State Architect, which monitors safety upgrades, the two public university systems report to no one.
Universities have little outside oversight of their compliance with the state's Alquist-Priolo Act, which prohibits most types of structures from being built within 50 feet of an active earthquake fault.
In the UC system, the university often provides a project inspector, depending on who manages the construction contract. Similarly, in the CSU system, an in-house staffer can serve as inspector as long as the person meets certification requirements or is a licensed architect or registered engineer.
By contrast, for K-12 and community college projects, the district is supposed to hire an independent project inspector who performs continuous inspections and submits reports to state regulators. The Division of the State Architect has the power to stop work on a school site if inspections don't pass muster.
"Any time you don't have an independent inspector, you've got to assume that everybody is morally perfect and doesn't cut any corners," said Lucile Jones, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey, who served on the California Seismic Safety Commission from 2002 until 2009.
"It's inherently a major problem," she said.
Thomas Kennedy, chief of architecture and engineering for the CSU system, argued that the system has checks and balances that prevent shortcuts from being taken, however.
"If it was just, I don't know, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo hanging out there all by themselves, you might make that argument," Kennedy said. "But there's enough checks and balances in the system where the campuses act in a delegated fashion...but we provide oversight here at the office of the chancellor, to the system. We are audited both internally and externally."