In a town hall forum held this past Thursday, July 9, UCSB faculty, staff, and students packed the 860-person capacity Campbell Hall to discuss the campus’s economic future, specifically the three salary cut and furlough proposals provided by UC President Mark Yudof. One of the options Yudof has proffered is 21 days of unpaid leave. The second option is a straight pay cut: Employees getting paid more than $46,000 annually would have their salaries reduced by 8 percent, while those making $46,000 or less would be have theirs reduced by 4 percent. The third is a combination: 12 unpaid days off plus reducing the higher salaries by 3.4 percent and the lower salaries by 1.7 percent.
These proposals have been met with much scrutiny systemwide, and UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said the university will continue to review the opinions of all of its colleagues before reaching an official position. The pay-reduction proposals will address the university’s growing debt, which is currently in the neighborhood of $813 million.
Chancellors from each UC campus are scheduled to meet privately with Yudof on July 14, and the chancellors will make recommendations to the UC Regents at their July 15-16 meeting, when a decision on the salary cuts and furlough options may be made.
Before the July 9 forum, UCSB affiliates were given the opportunity to express their preferences in writing to the UCSB administration. Of the 331 opinions submitted, a large majority of faculty and staff stated that they preferred a furlough plan to any version of a salary cut, according to Yang. However, a large number of the responses offered alternative methods to deal with the UC’s budget shortfalls, beyond the UC president’s proposals.
Instead of using $46,000 as the dividing line for percentage salary cuts, many faculty and staff favor a three-tier model: salaries under $40,000; between $40,000 and $100,000; and more than $100,000. This plan, proponents say, better represents the pay demographic of UCSB, as 834 staff members straddle the $46,000 threshold and would change pay grade as a result of the reduction.
At Thursday’s forum, a panel of UCSB’s top administrators, including Assistant Chancellor of Budget and Planning Todd Lee, addressed the direness of the fiscal situation facing UCSB. According to figures outlined by Lee, the 9.3 percent increase in student fees approved May 7, 2009, and the proposed salary cut/furlough plans for employees will only make up half of the $813 million in budget shortfalls for the UC. “That leaves $400 million to be dealt with,” Lee explained. The remainder of the deficit will most likely be absorbed by each individual campus in its own way.
Q & A: Following presentations by the UCSB administration, audience members were given an opportunity to ask questions and offer their opinions to the administrative panel.
Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor in the history department, pleaded with UCSB administrators to protect what he characterized as the university’s academic integrity. “No decision should be made at the July 15-16 Regents meetings,” said Lichtenstein, representing nearly 50 staff and faculty members. “We want the UC Office of the President and the Regents to begin a process with the goal of defending, not de-funding, the university.” Lichtenstein submitted a proposal asking Yang to be outspoken against allowing Yudof to adopt emergency powers, which would essentially allow the UC president to act independently.
Former English department chair William Warner said Yudof and the UC Regents are moving too hastily with regard to pay reductions. “No one is thinking out of the box,” Warner said. “We don’t accept the framework to become compliant with the trashing of the university. The public uses the UC to propel themselves and if we remove that, we undercut out future.”
Other alternatives discussed at the forum included applying the proposed 21 days in furloughs to the last week of each academic quarter. Proponents of this method say that a diminishing of an entire academic week would help make the budget problem more visible to students and their parents and, in turn, bolster support against the continual slashing of the UC budget.
The Increasing UCSB Deficit: UCSB has a budget of approximately $740 million per year, of which $220 million is funded by the state. Student fees and state funds make up nearly 50 percent of UCSB’s entire annual budget each year.
In comparison to the past several years, the projected 2009-10 budget deficit is a result of not only the nation’s economic situation, but decision-making in Sacramento. In February 2009, the state adopted a UC budget for both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 fiscal years that reduced funding systemwide. UCSB received $16 million in permanent cuts for 2008-09, and another $12 million were projected for 2009-10.
However, those figures did not remain fixed, as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger divulged new plans to deal with the growing state deficit. In May of this year, the governor proposed an additional 20 percent reduction for the UC system.
(To put these figures into perspective, UCSB saw a permanent budget reduction of $41 million in four years from 2003 to 2007.)
Although the UC budget has declined steadily over the last six years, the 2008-2009 academic year saw exponential growth in UCSB’s deficit. The deficit rose to $8 million in the spring of last year, $12 million in the fall, and $16 million beginning this January.
Yang said UCSB now projects a budget shortfall for the 2009-10 fiscal year of at least $40 million, with a “real possibility of this increasing to closer to $45 million or more.” Gene Lucas, executive vice chancellor, said the continual rising in deficit levels for UCSB may prompt staff and faculty layoffs if left unaddressed. “The size of the budget cut is so large, that we are looking at not being able to operate efficiently without cutting down on our staff,” Lucas said at last Thursday’s forum.
To date, UCSB has siphoned between 5 and 12 percent from its various administrative departments in order to cope with the diminishing amount of state funds. Both the Chancellor’s Office and the Vice Chancellor’s Office of Student Affairs saw the highest reduction level, decreasing funding by 12.2 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively. Other departments seeing sizable budget reductions include an 8.5 percent cut to Administrative Services, 7.9 percent from Institutional Advancement, and 7.6 percent from the Vice Chancellor’s Office for Research. The Executive Vice Chancellor’s Office incurred the smallest reduction to date of 5.3 percent.
Previous coverage of the UC budget crisis, including an explanation of the three pay reduction plans, can be found here.