Failure of Measures Will Force Cuts

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UC Berkeley and the rest of the UC system are bracing for another round of deep cuts to state funding after five out of six state budget propositions failed in Tuesday's statewide special elections.

The reductions announced last week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger-which total $1.3 billion in cuts to the UC and CSU systems-may drive the university to further limit courses and enrollment. Of the cuts, $200 million is directly due to the failure of the propositions.

The cuts will increase the likelihood of furloughs and staff pay reductions for next year, UC officials said.

"Such a severe budget reduction, following years of chronic underfunding, would force the university to weigh a number of stark choices," said UC President Mark Yudof in a statement.

UC Berkeley now faces a hefty $30 million in cuts on top of an existing $60 million to $70 million budget shortfall.

While the campus will try to maintain undergraduate programs by preserving the number of class sections and GSIs, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said the cuts will necessitate further staff layoffs and an approximately 8 percent cut to campus units.

"In my now more than 40 years in education, I've never seen as difficult a budget situation as we're encountering now," he said in an interview yesterday.

Birgeneau, who added that the campus's budget challenges are similar to those at private universities like Stanford, said the extent of the cuts will not be known until at least June, when the final state budget is set to be released.

"One of my major concerns is that we're going to have a significant shortfall in our budget, but we're not going to know what our actual academic budget is until well into the year," he said.

UC Student Regent D'Artagnan Scorza said although state funding for the university has been declining for the past two decades, this round of cuts is a drastic departure from the trend.

"I think we're going to see cuts to areas that we haven't seen in quite some time, and that students are going to bear the brunt of this," he said.

Over the last 19 years, state funding per UC student has dropped 40 percent after adjusting for inflation-from $15,860 to $9,560 a year-according to UC Office of the President data.

To prepare for the cuts, which will be partially offset by $640 million in federal stimulus funds over the next two years, the UC Board of Regents is considering an amendment to the Regents' Standing Orders. The amendment would enable the UC president to declare a state of fiscal emergency, in which case he could institute furloughs and salary cuts.

But Tanya Smith, local president of the University Professional and Technical Employees union, said the university should have the resources to weather the new cuts.

"I am not convinced by the actions I see that UC needs to lay off employees or consider furloughs," she said.

The regents have approved a variety of measures this year to meet the budget shortfall, including curtailing fall enrollment by 2,300 students in January and raising student fees by 9.3 percent earlier this month. The university has also frozen pay for senior executives and reduced spending at the Office of the President by $60 million.

While Birgeneau said he is "moderately pessimistic," about the campus's budgetary outlook, he urged students to lobby the state government in opposition to the recent state cuts.

"Any advocacy (students) can do-in Sacramento and with their local politicians to convince politicians to take money out of somewhere other than education-really helps," he said.

Tags: STATEWIDE SPECIAL ELECTION, MAY REVISION


Rachel Gross covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]



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