Chancellor's forum with staff covers a number of topics, including state budget

In his winter-quarter "brown bag" lunch meeting with UCSC staff, Chancellor George Blumenthal updated employees on progress the campus has made on a number of fronts.

The chancellor discussed continued efforts toward sustainability on campus, the record number and increased diversity of freshman and transfer applicants to UC Santa Cruz, and the campus's success in receiving stem cell grants.

But the chancellor emphasized that the state budget for 2008-09 represents a significant challenge to the campus. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for UC is $417 million below the 2008-09 level requested by the Board of Regents, Blumenthal reported.

What that means for UC Santa Cruz remains unclear, he said. No decisions have been made about how to fill the gap, according to the Office of the President.

Questions addressed to the chancellor from staff covered a range of topics, including choices of health care providers and premium amounts for different pay levels, salaries and contracts, child care, and downsizing and a voluntary separation program at the Office of the President.

Questioners also inquired about the potential for freezing merit raises given the budget situation.

To date, there hasn't been talk of freezing or cutting staff salaries, said Blumenthal.

"I don't know to what extent salaries will increase next year, but I don't see them going down," Blumenthal said.

Some members of the AFSCME union asked a number of questions concerning subcontracting, contracts, and salaries, before marching out of the room.

For those unable to attend, the forum will be archived on the Staff Advisory Board web site.

In his opening remarks, Chancellor Blumenthal condemned the attack by protesters at the home of a UCSC researcher. See story.