Chancellor Blumenthal discusses student diversity and provides budget update at Staff Forum

Chancellor George Blumenthal addressed an audience of 170 at a forum for UCSC staff members on Tuesday.

Chancellor George Blumenthal shared good news about undergraduate student demographics and merit-based raises for non-represented staff members at a campus forum on Tuesday.

The Chancellor’s Staff Forum, organized by the Staff Advisory Board, drew 170 people to Kresge Town Hall during the noon hour.

First, the good news:

Blumenthal spoke enthusiastically about diversity in this year’s first-year class. Almost 34 percent of the student body is made up of ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the UC system, up from 29 percent last year, and 45 percent of the new students would be the first in their families to graduate from a four-year university.

The chancellor also hailed four UCSC students and one recent graduate who won Fulbright scholarships for a year of research and study abroad. 
Two are environmental studies graduate students; the others are in history and literature, and another recently received her Ph.D. in biology.

Another piece of good news brought applause: Blumenthal noted that merit-based raises for non-represented staff have been implemented for the first time since 2007. “It’s a major advance, and I’m very pleased to be able to report this,” Blumenthal said.

The chancellor, however, also discussed a number of challenges:

Blumenthal said that employee contributions to the UC Retirement System are going up from 3.5 percent to 5 percent in July 2012, and that the Board of Regents this month will consider a proposal to increase them to 6.5 percent by July 2013.

He also discussed lingering budget uncertainty. Blumenthal spoke of a likely additional $100 million cut to the University of California budget, but he expressed optimism that these cuts will not impact the campuses. “The [UC] Office of the President has plans to absorb the cuts so they won’t affect our campus.”

Staff members in attendance asked a wide variety of questions on subjects ranging from domestic partnerships to minority representation on campus and the affordability of college for middle-class staff members.

But the biggest response came when a staffer congratulated Blumenthal on his recovery following brain surgery August 29. “We’re glad to see you so healthy,’’ she said, to sustained applause.

“It’s like what Arnold said,” Blumenthal replied, referring to the former governor's iconic remark in the 1984 action movie The Terminator.

“I said I’d be back — and I am.’’