Berkeleyan

Mark Yudof UC President Mark Yudof addressed the spring meeting of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate last week, his first such exchange at Berkeley. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

UC president addresses Berkeley Senate

'There's a lot of [budget] pain to be shared,' Yudof tells faculty

| 01 May 2009

"This is the first time I've been at a podium in a classroom at Berkeley since 1977, and I was teaching constitutional law," UC President Mark Yudof joked last Thursday. "I didn't finish the discussion of the dormant-commerce clause, so I was sort of hoping that maybe I could get into that today."

What Yudof did, in fact, get into was the dormant California economy and its continuing impacts on the $19 billion UC system, whose top job he assumed in June 2008. During a rare appearance at a meeting of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, he delivered a good news/bad news message for the campus: that "we're sharing the pain that it is not being done just on the backs of the students, or just on the backs of the faculty, or just on the backs of the staff. "

"Unfortunately," he added, "there's a lot of pain to be shared."

In an informal, 20-minute talk to a hundred or so faculty assembled in Sibley Auditorium, Yudof sought to provide the Office of the President's perspective on what he called "this $450 million problem," namely the budget shortfall facing the UC system largely due to cuts in state funding. Over the course of discussions with chancellors at the system's 10 campuses, he said, his "No. 1 concern" had been to "make sure that some principles were abided, not that any particular cut was made."

Under no illusions

"I wanted to make sure [each] campus had a coherent plan," Yudof explained, "and that it was based upon some value judgments about what was essential and what could be pared back. I didn't want to make the value judgment in Oakland I didn't feel that was my role, it was up to the campus and I wanted to make sure there was an appropriate consultation process on each campus so that the divisional senates and other groups would feel involved.

"I'm under no illusions that you can escape in a situation like this without any injury to the academic program," he added. "But you can make it a priority to preserve it over other programs. And that's what I was looking for."

As on the Berkeley campus, systemwide responses to UC's financial crisis the result of both state-funding cutbacks and shrinking revenue from other sources, such as endowment earnings remain a work in progress, with discussions set to continue when the regents meet next month. Yudof said it was safe to "assume roughly a 10 percent fee increase" for students and "no catch-up raises" for staff, though merit raises for faculty are expected to be implemented as planned.

The Office of the President, he reported, has whittled its budget by $67 million, with roughly half that amount going to campuses and the rest coming in the form of staff reductions, cuts in travel, limits in bonuses and incentive pay, and salary freezes for staff and administrators though not, he stressed, for those whose job responsibilities are expanded via promotions.

This is sometimes hard to explain to the media," said Yudof. "You know, an associate dean becomes a dean, and the person gets a raise for more responsibility, and someone holds up a sign and says, 'There you go again, it's AIG all over.' We will have promotions at all levels in the university. People who take greater responsibility will get increases in salary. And people who get promoted on the faculty that is appropriate, if we can arrange it."

As for furloughs and salary cuts two much-rumored options for getting campus budgets back into balance Yudof said his focus has been on hammering out a process to guide campuses, which could ultimately take such actions individually or as part of a UC-wide mandate. "I don't know whether we'll have to do this or not, or when," he said.

Despite losses, UC pension is 'well-run'

Yudof also dismissed calls for employee advisers to the UC Retirement Plan, to which staff and faculty are scheduled to begin making contributions in 2010 after an 18-year "contribution holiday."

"I don't know why you would think that by increasing the employee representation you'd get better investment policies," he said. The pension plan, he insisted, "is incredibly well-run. But the problem is, markets go up and down, something that apparently did not occur to some of the people who decided there would be no contributions for 18 years. That was a historic mistake."

Urging faculty members to "get mad" at the state's ongoing failure to support the UCRP, he added: "The big issue is not who are going to be the advisers to the plan. Really, frankly, the big issue is not 2 percent from the paychecks, although that hurts. The big issue is, when will the state of California get behind the retirement of tens and tens of thousands of University of California staff and faculty? And right now they're not there.

"And the only excuse, really, is, we didn't budget for you for the last 18 years."