Blumenthal says highest priority is increasing faculty salaries

Chancellor George Blumenthal told the UCSC Academic Senate that a four-year plan is on track to bring faculty salaries to the levels of comparable institutions.

He said that despite potential state budget problems there is a commitment on the part of the University of California and himself to increasing faculty salaries. "It is my highest priority to bring faculty salaries up to par," Blumenthal said.

Salaries and the budget were among many issues that Blumenthal and David Kliger, the campus provost and executive vice chancellor, addressed at the fall meeting of the Academic Senate.

Blumenthal said the state budget picture "is not good right now. We'll be very fortunate to get our compact funding." In the current budget year, the state funded UC according to the terms of the "compact" reached three years ago with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But since then the governor has told state agencies to submit budgets for the 2008-09 budget year with 10 percent cuts. Tax revenues are falling behind projections and state budget analysts are anticipating a $10 billion shortfall.

Kliger told the senate that grading and infrastructure work on Ranch View Terrace, the faculty housing project near the base of campus, is 90 percent complete. The project is on target to complete the 45 units of phase one by next fall, he said. He also addressed problems with on-campus childcare, saying the "first priority is to stabilize the situation."

Blumenthal and Kliger both addressed the current protest at the proposed site of the Biomedical Sciences Facility, as did Senate Chair Quentin Williams and three faculty members.

Blumenthal pledged that the building "will move forward and be built." He also said the university has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors and an obligation to maintain university operations.

Those operations have been compromised, said Joseph Konopelski, professor of chemistry and biochemistry. He said the pulling of fire alarms within the Physical Sciences Building and subsequent lock downs of the building have prevented students from meeting with him.

Kliger said he was particularly disturbed that fliers distributed by protestors target individual faculty members and their research. He called it an attack on academic freedom.

Anthropology Professor Carolyn Martin Shaw said she was not reassured by Blumenthal and Kliger's comments about the protest. "The word safety is often followed by violence," she said.

Zack Schlesinger, professor of physics who observed the November 7 protest, said the campus has a long history of civil disobedience and he hoped the response would be "thoughtful and respectful to avoid escalating violence."

Blumenthal responded that "as long as things remain non-violent they fall within civil disobedience."

In his opening remarks, Williams, the senate chair, said the university must "ensure that the rights of free speech and assembly are conducted in a safe and constructive manner."