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Salary increases take center stage at fall Academic Senate meeting

– A significant infusion of new funds for faculty salaries was the focal point of the fall meeting of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. Working with UC Office of the President, "we have come up with a program which, though not perfect, is something we can all be proud of," Chancellor Robert Birgeneau told Senate members gathered in Sibley Auditorium Nov. 8.

As detailed by George Breslauer, executive vice chancellor and provost, UC Berkeley faculty members will receive a 2.5 percent cost-of-living (COLA) increase, to be calculated on total salary, rather than on base salary as in past years. (Long-tenured full professors above step IX will receive 3.9 percent COLAs, in recognition of their level of accomplishment during long careers on campus.) And a market adjustment to the salary scales will help move faculty salaries closer to market.

These increases represents the first phase of a four-year plan, Birgeneau noted. "Assuming that the state budget holds up ... our overall salaries will be much closer to market" at the end of the four years. He added the caveat that next year's state budget is predicted to be "challenging."

The meeting included reports from two of the four Academic Senate committee chairs who provided faculty oversight on the UC-BP contract to create the Energy Biosciences Institute, expected to be finalized within days. "The interests of the Senate across a range of areas were taken extremely seriously," said Christopher Kutz, chair of the Senate's Committee on Academic Freedom. "We were given full access to the documents as they developed. … We know that our suggestions were taken extremely seriously — that they resulted in changes to languages and to understanding how the contract would be implemented." History professor Carla Hesse, who chairs the Budget and Interdepartmental Relations Committee, believes that faculty oversight of the EBI contract "set an important precedent for Senate consultation in major contracts. And that in itself was worth the experience." In important ways, she added, "we had tangible and substantive impact on the final outcome."

Hesse reported separately that plans to move the academic-review case- assembly process online might soon bear fruit. "If I can bury the Biobib form, I would consider this a really great year," she said — to an outburst of faculty applause.

Speaking on the status of the UC Retirement Plan (UCRP), Professor Robert Anderson of the Faculty Welfare Committee said the fund's liability grows by about $1 billion annually. Happily, the fund's assets grew by almost 19 percent in the past year, he reported, but it's "not reasonable" to expect similar performance as a matter of course going forward. UCOP had hoped to restart employee contributions this summer. Although that proposal "went nowhere," said Anderson, employee contributions are going to be necessary in the near future. The Academic Senate position is that a restart of faculty and staff contributions to UCRP must be accompanied by salary increases, he noted.

Details on the faculty-salary program may be found in a Nov. 2 Cal Message and from the Academic Personnel Office. An audio recording of the Nov. 8 meeting will be available shortly on the Academic Senate website.