NOTES FROM THE ACADEMIC SENATE CHAIR
For the Academic Senate and the rest of the UC community, the first half of 2008-09 has been a time of great uncertainty and anxiety – about the budget, the UC retirement program, even job security. But it also is a time of great hope as we look forward to changes and transitions that I believe will have a positive impact on the University’s academic mission.
First, I would like to take a moment to highlight my most pleasant surprise of the year so far: President Yudof’s enthusiastic embrace of shared governance. To be sure, the UC model is new to the President, but Mark has embraced shared governance to a very broad and significant degree. Thankfully, we have been consulted on nearly all issues facing the University. On occasion, these consultations have provided very little time to conduct our reviews. However, the President has slowed down other decisions to allow for Senate input, while we have continued to speed up our processes.
The University and state are clearly facing a dire budget situation. The budget approved at the February 19 Special Session clears a major hurdle, but leaves much work to be done. It contains an additional $50M cut to UC, on top of the $65M mid-year cut proposed by the governor in January. This permanent $115M reduction in base program funding is in addition to the one time reduction of $33M that UC took in the fall, which will be restored in 2009-10. The new $50M cut could be rescinded on a one-time basis in April if the state receives enough unrestricted money from the federal economic stimulus package. UC also faces a state funding shortfall of $121.8M for unfunded enrollment and $213M for other mandatory continuing expenditures such as merit increases, benefits, and utilities. The implications to UC’s core missions of teaching, research, and service are significant, especially given previous unrecovered cuts. President Yudof has suggested that we, as concerned citizens, contact our state representatives to make clear the damage being done to UC’s educational mission, and by extension, to the state’s economic base.
And while the Senate holds a number of principles dearly, we also recognize the circumstances we currently face. Council recently endorsed a statement written by the University Committee on Faculty Welfare, which supports the resumption of employee and employer contributions to UCRP in April 2010 in spite of the effect on total faculty remuneration. The statement also makes clear that restoring competitiveness to the faculty salary scales is equally important, and asks UCOP to make appropriate salary improvements in 2010-11. So although the faculty salary plan is being delayed until next year, it remains a top priority. Funding for the plan is in next year’s budget, and I will do my best to ensure that it stays there.
The Regents voted in February to endorse the Senate’s admissions reform proposal, detailed in the story at right. Its passage is a testimony to the work and dedication of the Academic Senate, particularly the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, as well as a testimony to the collaborative relationship between the Senate and UCOP.
Unfortunately, high fees remain an impediment to broad access, and the budget crisis will do nothing to ease that pain in the short term. In January, however, the Senate expressed support for President Yudof’s new financial aid policy, the “Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan,” which is intended to send a clear message to students and their families that UC is affordable and accessible for students with documented financial need and family incomes below $60K. Under these circumstances, UC will cover Education Fees and Registration Fees. Our hope is that students will feel encouraged to consider UC. It is a thoughtful, inexpensive, pragmatic approach in a time of incredible economic constraints.
UC is currently overenrolled by 11,000 students systemwide for whom we do not receive state support. The Regents recently voted to curtail undergraduate freshman admissions and slightly increase transfer student admissions for 2009-10. Over the past several years, the Senate has strongly advocated curtailing enrollment, because continuous and cumulative declines in state funding are having a direct negative impact on educational quality. The Senate will be serving with several groups within Academic Affairs in the President’s newly formed Enrollment Management Council to conduct enrollment planning and advise the President on various scenarios and their impact on UC.
The President also has asked me to co-chair a task force with UCSB Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas to discuss creative ideas for responding to the budget crisis. We will be exploring a variety of possible funding strategies, including some ideas that were suggested when the chancellors held their budget meetings with the President. Many of these may prove to be unworkable in the end, but we need to put everything on the table for consideration. I invite you to contact me with your ideas for cutting costs and for increasing revenue.
Finally, I am thrilled to welcome former Academic Senate Chair Larry Pitts to UCOP as interim provost. Larry’s extraordinary experience in the Senate spans several decades. His work as a divisional and systemwide Senate chair and UCFW chair, and as a member of UCFW’s Health Care Task Force and ACSCOLI, give him broad and relevant experience. Larry will be overseeing the reorganization of Academic Affairs, and his knowledge and experience of shared governance will be of great benefit as he examines the content and format of that unit. I also want to wish outgoing Interim Provost Bob Grey all the best in his retirement. Bob has been an exceptional leader who did an excellent job of representing and sustaining UC’s values.
The Senate has completed its review of a proposed new business plan for the UC Education Abroad Program and forwarded its recommendations to the President. I hope the Senate will be able to work with UCOP to make progress on the business plan in a way that rationally assesses the need to maximize efficiencies while maintaining EAP’s academic quality.
As we continue to work on important issues facing UC, I encourage you to share your expertise, insights, and opinions by becoming more involved in the shared governance process. Contact your divisional office to learn more. And thank you for your commitment to maintaining the quality of UC.
— Fiat Lux, Mary