Regents' meeting report
By Cathy Cockrell,
20 SEPTEMBER 00 | The UC Board of Regents, at its meeting in San Francisco last week, approved campus plans for a seismic replacement building at the south end of the Oxford tract.
During their two-day meeting September 13-14, the regents also amended the University of California's 2000-01 budget to include a $41 million central student dining and office facility at Berkeley; discussed policy considerations guiding the 2001-02 UC budget; and mandated health insurance for all University students.
Several action and discussion items were related to recruitment and retention issues. The regents modified two programs designed to attract and retain faculty and senior managers by helping them purchase homes, and they approved raises for UC President Richard Atkinson, 10 chancellors and other senior UC officials. They also discussed proposed changes to the UC Retirement Plan.
Seismic Replacement Building 1
The regents approved the 75,000-square-foot building and underground parking facility planned for Hearst Street between Oxford and Walnut, despite several public comments citing potential implications for pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and campus expansion.
In response, Chancellor Berdahl noted that the campus has both evaluated alternative sites and brought plans for the building down from four stories to three in order to accommodate community concerns.
"It is important for us to realize the terribly crucial nature of the sequence of events (needed to proceed with the retrofitting for the campus)," Berdahl said. "Lives of staff and students are at stake. We have to find the means to retrofit buildings and move people out of them (while the construction work proceeds)."
The regents' action removes one of the last hurdles to the project. The campus hopes to break ground on the new building in June 2001.
The Berkeley City Council this week will consider a request from Councilwoman Dona Spring, asking for "all possible legal action" to contest the final environmental impact report approved by the regents. Among several objections, Spring contends that alternative sites were not adequately studied.
Proposed retirement program changes
The UC retirement system "has served us well," but may be due for some improvements, Judy Boyette, UC associate vice president, human relations and benefits, told the Board of Regents in a presentation on proposed benefits changes. The University of California Retirement Program (UCRP) has ties to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). Recent improvements in benefits offered by CalPERS stimulated "a stream of UCRP members asking when we are going to make (comparable) improvements," Boyette said.
A package of proposals being developed by the Office of the President will be on the November regents' meeting agenda as an action item. It includes:
Liberalized age factors. UC retirement benefits are defined by formulas that factor in an employee's salary, years of service and age. A gradual, uniform increase in age factors, for employees in the 50-60 age range, is being contemplated.
Reduced vesting period. Currently, career employees are entitled to retirement benefits if they have worked at UC five years and are 50 years of age. The University may propose to change the vesting period to three years, in part to increase its ability to recruit staff in fields like information technology, where many do not sign on expecting to stay for five years.
Portability. In line with marketplace trends, it is proposed to make retirement benefits more portable, allowing employees to take some benefits with them if they leave before age 50.
Expanded eligibility. The proposal under consideration is to extend retirement benefits to some temporary employees, or "casuals," and retroactively, "to some (temporary workers) who have been in positions for long periods of time."
Benefit adjustment for retirees. Purchasing power has been eroded by inflation for those who retired before July 1, 1985. The proposal is for a one-time adjustment to increase these retirees' monthly pension.
The discussion focused on whether the proposals were necessary to keep UC competitive and whether they would facilitate retention or instead encourage faculty and staff to leave sooner. Regent John Davies, a San Diego attorney, noted that the retirement fund is over funded by $9 or $10 billion, so could support more liberal benefits.
UC President Richard Atkinson, in an overview to the Board of Regents, summarized upcoming concerns, including the need for new approaches to admissions; the need to expand and strengthen graduate education; huge capital demands in light of projected student enrollment increases; and the need for a major expansion of childcare services for students, faculty and staff.
Details on salary increases and mandatory student health insurance approved by the regents are available online at www.ucop.edu/ucophome/uwnews/.
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