UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang opened a Friday afternoon budget forum by thanking the audience filling Campbell Hall for being so “deeply concerned about the survival of the university” and for coming to speak out about the proposed furloughs that will become effective starting September 1.
UCSB’s executive vice chancellor, Gene Lucas, spoke next. He described the proposed plan, which would necessitate between 11 and 26 furlough days for staff and 7 to 17 for faculty in the coming school year. Lucas and Yang emphasized that no plan has been decided upon yet and that “communication and working together” are important parts of what it will take “to get through this storm.”
Joel Michaelsen, chair of UCSB’s Academic Senate, spoke next, sharing the findings of a faculty survey conducted earlier in the month about the furloughs. According to the preferences of the 477 faculty members who responded – 56.4 percent of the total body of faculty – the population of educators was almost perfectly divided when it came to deciding how to organize furlough days. The survey provided two options, the first being the less “visible” option of allowing individuals to choose their own furlough days and the second being coordinated campus-wide furlough days that limit faculty choice but make a greater public statement. The first option was selected by 47.8 percent of the voting faculty members, while 45.1 percent voted for the second. The remaining 7.1 percent had no preference.
This choice posed to the faculty was a central part of many of the comments made by attendees of the forum. While some faculty speakers called upon instructors to avoid penalizing students by holding coordinated furlough days during instruction time, others pointed out the potential pitfall of not making a public statement – something they argued could be achieved by organizing school-wide furlough days. One professor even suggested that the school “declare a general strike for the first week on campus” by concentrating this enforced non-work time into one of the most high-profile parts of the academic year.
Other speakers, including history professor Alice O’Connor, suggested that UCSB should be “a model of transparency,” arguing that “we are operating in a dark that is unnecessary.” The call for more frequent and publicized information about the budget, furloughs, and cuts was a unanimous one, confirming the decision made by the chancellor and others to hold a similar forum next month.
Though Campbell Hall was nearly full, the one demographic clearly missing from the mix was the student population. Alumnus Tim Finney pleaded with faculty members considering using instruction time for furloughs, asking them to “not burn the bridge of your biggest ally.” He also pointed out that the summertime meeting was not an ideal forum for instructing the students about the budget challenges affecting their education. Luckily, several professors mentioned a “teach-in” planned for October 14 in Campbell Hall, an effort to provide students an opportunity to learn and become involved.
Other attendees spoke about both UCSB serving as an example for other UC schools to follow. They emphasized the power of banding together as the collected University of California to make a bigger difference when it came to confronting the state government about the hardships and challenges caused by the expected budget cuts. Mary Furner, another history professor, said that in her opinion, “It’s clear from what I’m hearing that Berkeley is perfectly happy to go it alone,” explaining that she has heard that Berkeley is considering doubling its out-of-state population in order to raise money through increased tuition income.
Though it seemed that the two-hour public forum helped people to process some of the big issues confronting UCSB, there wasn’t necessarily any feeling of relief when it was over. “You’ve got to be willfully blind,” said Jon Snyder, chair of UCSB’s Department of French and Italian, “if you don’t see this furlough plan becoming something permanent.”