Faculty Warn Salary Cuts May Damage UC System

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As it makes cuts to cope with a cumulative $813 million budget shortfall for the last two years, the University of California could face the prospect of losing professors, according to a letter signed by 323 faculty members and presented to the UC Regents at their meeting on Wednesday.

The letter outlined concerns that proposed salary reductions, through furloughs, would not only destroy the university's status as the leading public university in the country, but also cripple the state's economy in the long term.

"If the proposed cuts in the president's plan are maintained for more than one year, UC as we know it will start to collapse," said Sandra Faber, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and one of the signatories. "We have a year to fix things, but no more."

The full board is set to vote on a furlough plan today that would reduce faculty and staff salaries by anywhere from 4 to 10 percent this fiscal year. The plan works on a sliding scale so higher paid employees would be required to take more unpaid days off.

Faber said the UC system's highly sought-after professors are the key to the university's excellence but it is in danger of losing them due to salary cuts and more competitive offers from other universities.

Faculty salaries already lag behind market average by 8 percent, according to the California Postsecondary Education Commission. With the new cuts, the gap would widen to 20 or 25 percent.

Mark Krumholz, an assistant professor of astronomy at UC Santa Cruz who wrote most of the letter, said he has brought in nine times his salary in outside funding, such as research grants, to the UC system.

"A lot of young faculty are facing losing their home over these budget cuts," Krumholz said. "If the choice is losing a home or finding a job at another university, they will not have problems finding jobs at other universities."

Krumholz said he has received offers from other universities, and he is not the only one.

The letter also stated that the UC system is an extremely vital part of the state's economy, providing skilled workers and innovation.

"Now is the time to invest more in UC, not less," Faber said. "In fact, disinvesting is like eating your seed corn: you are obliterating one (of your) best hopes of getting out of this economic slump."

Clarification: A previous version of this article may have implied that a $813 million cut in state funding for the UC was not cumulative for the past two years.


Contact Javier Panzar and Alexandra Wilcox at [email protected]

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