June 19, 2009
Yesterday, you received a request for comment from our AHR and SHR offices on a system-wide "Proposed Furlough/Salary Reduction Plan Options" with a feedback deadline of June 25, 2009 (next Thursday). As your Senate Chair, I want to provide some of the missing context that informs the request.
We are all surely aware that both UC and the state are in dire budgetary straits. Yet, state funding per student for the University of California has progressively declined for a number of years, so this year's cuts to UC could be viewed as the most severe manifestation of a long term pattern in funding for the state's research university.
But, in the context of the "reductions" and the request for expedited review, the inadequacy of our state support has long been recognized by the system-wide Senate, which has made serial recommendations on how UC could fundamentally change its budgetary models (see, for example, the recent Senate document on "Coordination of Budget Planning and UC's Future"; the 2008 "Cuts" Report of UCPB, and the 2006 "Futures" Report).
These documents demonstrate that the current budget emergency reflects a chronic condition to which the UC has repeatedly failed to respond. Such a systemic lack of consideration of marked changes to UC's overall funding models in the face of the ongoing decline in state support, that has led us to our getting a request on a 1-week time frame to opine on how we would like our take-home pay cut. Indeed, the Senate having played the role of the mythical Cassandra on such budgetary matters provides no solace unless we are shown that the "death-by-a-thousand-cuts (and the occasional big one)" budgetary philosophy that has been the signature of UC over much of the last decade is being fundamentally altered. I believe that it is ABSOLUTELY incumbent on the UC and its President to articulate our multi-year institutional strategy in the likely event of continuing draconian cuts to state funding. Otherwise, next year (and very likely in following years, until the budget "turns around"), we will simply be informed that whatever "reductions" that were instituted this year will either be continued or increased.
CPB Chair Gillman has already pointed out possible shortcomings and inadequacies of these policies, and I will not reiterate these. I would simply note that the lack of certainty about impacts on retirement benefits is appalling--the usage of the recurrent phrase "unless redressed by Regental action" is meaningless without an assessment of the likelihood of such actions. Moreover, you will also note that two of the three plans involve "some challenges for implementation in the payroll systems." In short, we are presented with plans that are inadequately described, and two-thirds of which may not even be able to be fully implemented.
I will mention one other sore point for our local Senate. In AVC McQuitta and AVC Peterson's transmission letter, they state that "The Plan is being developed in conformity with the Draft Amended Standing Order 100.4, Duties of the President, and Draft Presidential Furlough/Salary Reduction Guidelines that were previously distributed for comment and which will also be presented for approval at the July 2009 meeting." For your information, the Senate at UCSC opposed this Draft Standing Order in the strongest possible terms (see our letter); other UC campus Senates and system-wide Senate committees found the draft Standing Order 100.4 that we saw to be somewhere between seriously and fatally flawed. But, it appears that the approval of Regents Standing Order 100.4, on Emergency Powers for the UC President, is being viewed as a fait accompli.
I hope these thoughts are of some assistance to you as you prepare your responses to the solicitation for comment.
Quentin Williams, Chair
UCSC Academic Senate