The future of UC Santa Cruz: UC Regents discuss budget cuts, impacts

hancellor George Blumenthal, with UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau
Chancellor George Blumenthal, with UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, right, answers a question during a press conference that followed the chancellors' budget-impact presentations to the UC Board of Regents.

The University of California Board of Regents devoted a day of its meetings this week to discuss the impact of proposed half-billion-dollar cuts to the UC system, including an estimated $31 million cut to UC Santa Cruz.

Responding to the budget uncertainty, UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal told the Regents of the serious consequences that continued cuts to the university would have.

In his 10-minute address, Blumenthal detailed the cuts that UC Santa Cruz has absorbed in the past three years, forcing the campus to chop funding for 80 unfilled faculty positions. He spoke of the likelihood of having to cut 40 more positions.

“These cuts leave departments virtually unable to replace faculty who leave or retire, and several departments already have had to delay or consider suspending degree programs,” Blumenthal said. He also spoke of large cuts to staffing levels and teaching assistants who support the efforts of UCSC faculty.

In an unusual step, the Board of Regents set aside the entire public session of its March 16 meeting to talk about the budget crisis, its consequences, and various scenarios for instituting cuts. Blumenthal was one of three UC chancellors invited to make presentations. The others were UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake.

Most of the cuts have been attributed to the large discrepancy between state support for the UC system and its ever-rising operational costs.

"This is not a blip. This is 20 years of reduced funding for the university," UC President Mark G. Yudof told the board. "We need a long-term plan. Our collective job is to figure out how to do it."

Yudof noted that UC already has made substantial budget cuts in the last few years, and that there currently are 8,000 faculty and staff positions unfilled.