UC President Announces Furlough Plan

The Golden State is on the verge of going broke, and the 170,000 faculty and staff of the University of California (UC) are feeling the pinch. Today, UC President Mark Yudof released a furlough plan that would shave $184 million from the university's projected $813 million shortfall in state funding over the next 2 years. Last month, Yudof floated three proposals for salary cuts and/or furloughs. The cuts would have amounted to a roughly 8% reduction in pay across the board. Many UC researchers were particularly aggrieved  because their salaries come from federal grants, medical center income, and other non-state sources. Cutting their salaries wouldn't save the university money, they argued; instead, it would deprive the university of revenue from overhead costs on federal grants and deprive the state of sorely needed tax revenue. Earlier this week, more than 300 UC scientists criticized the proposed cuts to UC in a letter to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and 25 legislators, arguing that UC risks losing its position as a premier public university and its ability to train the science and technology workforce needed to spur economic growth.

The new plan from Yudof appears to take some of researchers' concerns into consideration. It calls for furloughs (preferred by most staff over salary cuts) to be scaled according to pay grade—from 11 days, equivalent to a 4% cut, for those making less than $40,000 a year to 26 days, or a 10% cut for those making more than $240,000. Employees funded entirely from non-state sources would be exempt, as would employees at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who are under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy. But faculty and staff who receive even a fraction of their salaries from state funds would be furloughed.

And the pain doesn't stop there. The pay cuts, higher tuition, and administrative cost-cutting will save the university system only about $500 million. Chancellors at the ten UC campuses are now searching for cuts to make up the remaining $300 million. For example, according to the UC office of the president, UC Berkley anticipates reducing new faculty recruitment from 100 positions to 10 positions a year, and UC Davis has eliminated its liver transplant program. The UC Regents will consider these proposals—along with Yudof's furlough plan—when they meet next week in San Francisco.