UC Campuses Look to Increase Faculty Hiring

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Faculty hiring, which has been at a standstill in the past two years due to the state's deteriorating economic condition, appears to be on an upswing as several UC campuses plan to expand the size of their faculty this coming year despite uncertainty regarding the level of funding the university will receive once the state budget is finalized.

UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UCLA are planning to significantly increase their faculty hiring for the upcoming academic year, with 67 searches planned for UC Berkeley and 40 searches authorized for UC San Diego.

Although UCLA has not yet determined a specific number of searches to conduct, "the intent is to increase faculty hiring at levels necessary to maintain academic excellence while remaining mindful of the long-term reduction in state financial support," said Phil Hampton, spokesperson for the campus, in an e-mail.

In response to reduced funding from the state, UC Berkeley has progressively slowed faculty hiring in the past few years - dropping from 100 searches a year before the economic crisis to 25 searches in 2008-09 to 10 searches in the last year, according to George Breslauer, UC Berkeley executive vice chancellor and provost.

The hiring slowdown - one of several strategies implemented to fill the $148 million budget gap the campus faced in the last fiscal year - occurred in order to scale back the professoriate from 1,500 to 1,400 members, saving more than $15 million in annual salaries and benefits and some $30 million to $40 million in one-time start-up expenditures, Breslauer said in an e-mail.

New Blood Needed to Keep UC Berkeley Academics 'Vibrant'

But with faculty separations this year exceeding 55 members and perhaps being as high as 65 or 70, Breslauer said the campus must begin hiring to prevent departments from shrinking and classes from being cut.

"We reaccelerated hiring because we were attaining the reduction in size that had been our goal in response to budget cuts. During the faculty-hiring slowdown, more faculty separated from the university than were hired - which was the strategy for reducing the total size," he said in an e-mail. "(Now) it is time to increase the rate of hiring so that we do not plummet below the 1,400 faculty level that was our target."

Fiona Doyle, chair of the UC Berkeley division of the Academic Senate, said hiring new faculty is essential for the campus to maintain its excellence.

"Unless the university keeps bringing in new scholars who have completed their education in the last few years, the campus will not be in touch with the most cutting-edge areas of scholarship," Doyle said. "(The faculty) appreciates junior colleagues. They have different views - a whole different perspective. Having fresh ideas and new blood is what keeps the university a very vibrant intellectual environment."

Cautiously 'Realistic' About Budget

While some UC campuses are planning to increase faculty hiring, other campuses like UC Santa Barbara have opted to take a more fiscally conservative route, waiting to see if the $371 million proposed in state budget plans for the UC becomes a reality when the state budget is approved.

"We're facing budget challenges statewide, systemwide," said Paul Desruisseaux, associate vice chancellor for public affairs at UC Santa Barbara. "We won't be making any commitments until we know the status of the state budget."

Uncertainty in the amount of funding the UC will receive once a state budget is approved is problematic for campuses in the budget planning process, said Patrick Lenz, UC vice president for budget.

"From a planning standpoint, it's incredibly troubling - it's hard for campuses to be clear about what funding assumptions are going to be made without an approved budget in place," Lenz said. "We'd like campuses to be optimistic about receiving funding, but we also want to be realistic about the fact that we may only get half that funding."

Facing an uncertain budget, UCLA is planning for the worst in their budgeting process by assuming a $200 million shortfall - the amount the campus will have to confront if the state does not restore money cut from the UC last year.

On the other hand, UC Berkeley has taken a more optimistic stance about the funding it will receive.

"We expect that, barring a calamitous outcome in the state budget, we will continue with our current plans," Breslauer said in an e-mail.


Contact Aaida Samad at [email protected]

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