Campus leaders hold forum for academic personnel on budget, furloughs/pay cuts

Questions asked at the faculty forum on furloughs/pay cuts July 31 included:

What is nature of the coordination of the furlough policy with other campuses?

The Santa Cruz division of the Academic Senate has proposed that the campus receive permission from the Office of the President to take some of the furlough days on days of instruction, said Chancellor George Blumenthal.

"And, of course, that is a hot topic," he said.

For an issue such as days of instruction, a systemwide decision is necessary, said Blumenthal, though individual campuses would need to come up with their own specific plan since their academic schedules vary.

The decision on changing days of instruction lies with Larry Pitts, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, according to Quentin Williams, chair of the Santa Cruz Academic Senate. The Academic Council recommended to Pitts that he should approve requests from campuses for six to 10 furlough days on days of instruction, said Williams.

If next year if the budget situation with the state doesn't improve, we will have to come up with approx $25 million in permanent cuts on this campus in order not to continue with salary cuts for another year. Is that the objective toward which you're planning right now, or are we just hoping the state budget improves?

"That is the number we're planning for," said Dave Kliger, campus provost and executive vice chancellor.

Furloughs on a semi-permanent basis don't "make any sense for the University of California," added Blumenthal.

"And I think it is very likely that private endowments will improve, and that the competitive situation for faculty will change from what it is today. Right now private universities are hurting because their endowments are hurting, public universities are hurting everywhere because all states are hurting--other states may not be quite as dysfunctional as California, but everyone is hurting," Blumenthal said. "I think that's not going to continue. I suspect stock market will recover relatively quickly whenever it does ... I think continuing the furloughs is not a good idea."

Can people who are furloughed be paid during their furlough days with external funds if they are not 100 percent externally funded?

Any employee who's funded 100 percent on external funds, such federal contracts and grants, is excluded from furloughs, said Blumenthal. The difficult situation is where someone partially funded on state funds and partially funded on external funds, he said. The current rule is those people will face 100 percent furlough because of fears that the HR systems on the campuses can't handle the complexity of doing a partial furlough.

"But," said Blumenthal, "we're all being asked to assess by October 15 whether we will be able to handle a more rational approach to divvying up the furloughs by percent--that is, the percent of an individual that's federally funded would not face furloughs or pay cuts and the percent that's state funded would, and whether HR systems would be up to that."

If the campuses find they're able to do this, then on a systemwide basis they would change the rule, probably starting January 1 so that it would be a pro rata amount of pay cut and furlough depending on the percentage of federal vs. state funding.

UCOP's Pitts will make a decision on other questions pertaining to faculty-such as, can faculty who take furlough days consult more than the number of days they're allowed?-in the next couple of weeks, said Kliger.

What are your views on some of the main issues involving the future--the composition of the Commission on the Future of UC, the role of the general campuses in the future of the university, privatization.

There has been some controversy about the makeup of the commission, acknowledged Blumenthal, but "I don't think that commission's membership has been finalized," he said. "I suspect there will be some changes based on the feedback they've received."

As for the future, Blumenthal recommended reading the 2006 "Futures Report," which he said is useful because it sets forth an assessment of the funding structure for the university.

At the funding level, there aren't a whole lot of choices, Blumenthal said.

"There's fees and tuition, there's out-of-state tuition if we arrange to be more accessible to out-of-state students," he said. "Those are certainly options, and those are options by which other universities have gone."

However, what he'd really like to see is for the state to take on the responsibility of funding higher education.

"But on other hand," he acknowledged, "that probably is just not realistic going forward, so we need a backup plan, and that backup plan probably is going to have to involve higher tuition or fees for students, more out-of-state students, and less responsiveness to the needs of state of California."

Some of the areas I've noticed getting cut have to do with services that are really important for supporting students who are first in their families to go to college or from cultural backgrounds that are not represented well in higher education. Can you give us some reassurance that we're looking out for the well being and success of those students?

Over the past two years, Student Affairs has had a $6.2 million cut, said Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

Roughly half of that cut was from housing, and the other half was in student-fee-funded areas.

"We've gone back and tried to backfill some of those areas and to preserve specifically those services that impact the most underrepresented students-first-generation college students, students with disabilities, veteran students--so we've given special care to those populations," McGinty said. "It is increasingly difficult to continue to preserve those because they are part of a division that's being cut, but we have a deep and abiding commitment to those students and we are working with their best interests at heart."

We need to see exactly how things are being affected. You said you were going to protect University Relations and the academic research--that makes faculty a little worried, because University Relations being protected, we don't know what it is they're going to have PR about when the academic programs are being so eroded. So I'd like to have transparency about who is being fired and how things are being affected at the very local level.

The main reason for protecting University Relations is that it includes fundraising, said Blumenthal.

"The activities of the research office are there specifically to support the faculty in their efforts to do research," added Kliger. "The functions of University Relations, particularly the Development Office, is to raise money not for themselves but for the faculty and the students and the core mission of the university. These are investments to enhance the core mission."

Also, he said, "I agree with you about transparency at the local level."

He's issued statements nearly every month about the budget process, "but we realize that's not enough," Kliger said.

He plans to put out a weekly message to the campus in the coming year.

To view the video or listen to the audio of this forum, or for more information about the budget, visit the Budget Update center.