NOTES FROM THE ACADEMIC SENATE CHAIR
I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of good news to share with you this month. I’m sure you are aware that the University of California is facing additional cuts as a result of a worsening State fiscal situation. The situation is changing rapidly, but as of June 9, the Governor’s May 26 revision cuts UC an additional $207.5M for 2008-09 on top of $510M in previously proposed cuts and another $167.5M reduction for 2009-10 and 2010-11. UCOP estimates that the Governor’s revisions will result in a two-year net state funding reduction to UC of $619M, or 19%. Compounding this problem, UC faces unfunded over-enrollment and mandatory cost increases of an additional $335M over the 2008-10 period for a total of $854M. Given the likelihood of severe cuts to UC, we are facing many difficult decisions, and drastic measures are inevitable.
To that end, you may have participated in the review of, or heard about, a proposed Regents’ Standing Order intended to provide a clear legal and operational framework through which the President can ask The Regents to declare a state of financial emergency and grant the President special authority to implement temporary furloughs or salary reductions at individual campuses or across the UC system. While the Academic Council does not endorse the policy as written, Council appreciated the opportunity to be active participants in the budgetary process and in shared governance at this challenging time. Extensive comments and revisions were submitted to the President, who promised to take the Senate’s comments into consideration. I realize that some faculty are upset about this policy and frustrated about the entire situation, but I think it is important for us—the Senate and all UC faculty—to be involved constructively as collaborators, not obstructers. The Senate is now reviewing options for furloughs or salary reductions for faculty and staff.
Please remember that the 1991 pay cuts were implemented without Senate consultation, so I believe the current process leading up to this Standing Order, and the policy itself, represent a considerable improvement. It is significant that the Senate was asked to help craft an administrative policy before it went to The Regents. Having a role in the implementation of the policy also will be critical, and the implementation guidelines include provisions for extensive Senate consultation. We need all stakeholders to work together to develop and maintain a sense of community with the goal of finding the best solutions. It goes without saying that I will not be taking a vacation this summer, and I will do my best to help you stay informed about what may be a rapidly changing situation.
Let me pause here and emphasize that UC is a community—of scholars, of learners, of friends and colleagues—all dedicated to our teaching, research, and service mission. I cannot do my work without each of you, the systemwide Senate staff in Oakland, and countless others too many to name. I know the same is true for each of you. As such, we must consider the best interests of the University first and foremost. Each of us may be asked to make tough choices and swallow bitter pills, but rest assured that any such actions are borne solely out of necessity and with an eye toward the greater good. We will work hard to ensure that any sacrifices are shared and that hardships are as short-lived as possible.
The Academic Council recently adopted a set of budget planning principles, originally proposed by the University Committee on Planning and Budget, to help guide decision-making in this challenging fiscal climate. The principles have been shared with the President and a joint Senate-adminsitrative Advisory Group for Budget Strategies that is discussing the pros and cons of different cost cutting and revenue generating options. My hope and expectation is that any budget reduction measures will be implemented in as progressive and compassionate a manner as possible.
More bad news. The UC Retirement Plan has been hit hard by the national economic recession and our 18-year contribution holiday must now end. In May, the Academic Council endorsed a recommendation from our University Committee on Faculty Welfare’s Task Force on Investment and Retirement, urging the prompt restart of employee and employer contributions to maintain 100% funding for UCRP and to ensure adequate funding into the future. Of many uncomfortable options, TFIR says the best solution is to implement and raise UCRP contributions as soon as possible to the full recommended contribution under the Regents’ Funding Policy (see item 3, beginning on p. 4). While none of us want to see further reductions in our paychecks, I think we all understand the value of a healthy retirement program for our future financial security.
The need for faculty to get involved in advocacy on behalf of the University is greater than it ever has been. I urge faculty as individual California citizens to put pressure on the State to fully fund higher education. For over 30 years, the State legislature has not lived up to its promise of providing affordable, high quality education. In addition to the declining funds received by the University, the State no longer is willing to honor its tradition of providing employer contributions to UCRP. In addition, the Academic Assembly just passed a resolution against two bills before the California legislature—ACA 24 and SCA 21—that would place before the voters a constitutional amendment repealing UC’s historic constitutional autonomy. As a Californian, you can have a big impact by communicating with State leaders about the harm this legislation would do to UC and California.
Finally, I am pleased to announce that the Academic Assembly has elected UC Davis School of Law Professor Daniel Simmons as incoming 2009-10 Academic Council Vice Chair. Dan’s extensive service to the Academic Senate and the fact that he previously chaired the Senate in 1994-1995, will be a great asset in what will likely be a very difficult year. Incoming Chair Harry Powell and he will be strong advocates for shared governance.