Chancellors Relay to Regents Impact That Further Cuts to UC Will Have on Financial Situation, Faculty Retention

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SAN FRANCISCO - UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau was one of three UC chancellors to address the UC Board of Regents Wednesday on how further state budget cuts would not only threaten the future of their campus's financial sustainability but their ability to retain faculty and staff as well.

Birgeneau spoke about the negative impacts of recent state budget cuts, which have included reduced class offerings, increased class sizes and furloughs. He said at the meeting that Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed $500 million cut to the UC in the next state budget would be "devastating" to UC Berkeley.

Birgeneau added that when he began as chancellor at UC Berkeley in 2004, state funding and philanthropy were the top two funding sources for the campus. Now, he said, federal funding and student fees were the main source of revenue for the campus, which next year faces a $110 million deficit.

"You cannot take greatness for granted," Birgeneau said. "We must make responsible, wise decisions. $500 million in cuts cannot be accepted with resignation and we cannot accept that this is reality."

UC Regent Eddie Island said he sympathized with Birgeneau's wish to have the regents be more aggressive in refusing to accept Brown's budget proposal, saying that he would try to be "responsible and wise" when the regents meet with individual chancellors to discuss financial decisions for keeping campuses afloat during difficult economic times.

Birgeneau said in addition to UC Berkeley's dwindling state funding, there were roughly 100 campus faculty members that were currently being "aggressively recruited" by outside universities. He said because the university cannot necessarily compete with financial offers from other universities, should California legislators pass Brown's budget cuts, UC Berkeley could lose more faculty and staff.

Within the past month, two prominent UC Berkeley faculty members announced they would be leaving the campus at the end of the school year to accept other positions.

Former chemistry department chair Michael Marletta will become the next president of Scripps Research Institute in San Diego and Matthew Tirrell, chair of the department of bioengineering and professor of materials science and engineering and chemical engineering, accepted a position as the founding director of the University of Chicago's Institute for Molecular Engineering.

Marletta will begin his position at Scripps in January 2012, and Tirrell will begin at the University of Chicago July 1.

Birgeneau said the questions he hears most often in meetings with campus faculty and staff are about UC Berkeley's plan for financially sustainability in the future both in terms of research and general funding for campus programs.

"We must be able to convince faculty that five years from now we will still be a prominent, thriving university," he said at the meeting. "If the tax extensions fail and there is another cut to $500 million to (UC campuses), it would devastate our faculty and staff. We do not have a model in place to support those cuts."


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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