UC Berkeley faculty hold special meeting on campus deficit, academic realignment

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Audrey McNamara/Staff

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The Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate held a special meeting Tuesday on the campus’s financial deficit and the faculty’s role in progress with academic restructuring.

Faculty gathered in the campus’s Booth Auditorium after 40 senate members petitioned to hold an open discussion on efforts by the administration to academically realign the campus by reorganizing certain colleges and staffing structures — a decision that has elicited criticism from the campus community, including faculty and students.

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks opened the meeting with a statement on the campus’s larger financial problems. The budget deficit is $150 million this year, Dirks said at the meeting, and without immediate action, the deficit could grow by another $50 million by July 2017. Present efforts will reduce the deficit by $85 million by next year, he added.

Dirks said the administration has already begun to take action — such as the recent creation of the Office of Strategic Initiatives — and is well into the process of balancing the budget within the next five years.

“We know we have to do a great deal more,” Dirks said at the meeting.

The administration came under fire in February for considering the dissolution of the College of Chemistry — a plan that has since been abandoned — as a potential strategic initiative to remedy the campus’s growing deficit. Dirks also sent a memo to campus employees Wednesday announcing that administrative restructuring may lead to cutting staff by 500 positions.  

At Wednesday’s meeting, however, Dirks brought up his proposal of a faculty-led working group that would produce reports by January regarding the future of the campus’s academic structure.

In the nearly two-hour open comment period, about 25 faculty members spoke, many of whom criticized the administration’s lack of transparency in the academic realignment process. Many said they were frustrated that their input, as faculty, had not previously been considered in the process.

“Why are these things secret in a place that has the motto ‘Fiat Lux’?” said Louise Fortmann, a campus professor of environmental science, policy and management,  at the meeting.

Campus ESPM professor Carolyn Merchant, an organizer of the petition, called for a “revolution in cost reduction” through reducing not only administrative pay but positions, among other methods. She also called on the administration to “recreate itself as a lean, efficient, moral entity devoted to the public trust.”

Allen Goldstein, professor of ESPM and civil and environmental engineering, urged the administration to stop the process of academic realignment altogether. He called the process “a destructive force within our community” and said the Academic Senate should further discuss the campus’s initiatives to alleviate its financial straits.

Some speakers also called on the administration to seek out alternative sources of funding rather than cut costs through academic realignment.

“We can’t cut our way to prosperity,” said mechanical engineering professor Panayiotis Papadopoulos at the meeting.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof emphasized that the campus cannot adjust its structures and finances without the the input of faculty, students, staff and alumni, among others.

“Meetings like this are extremely important, and perspective of faculty have to be taken into account if we’re going to succeed in our efforts,” Mogulof said.

Contact Sareen Habeshian at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sareeenn.

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  • Curtis Jones

    Nothing has changed or will change. The coming layoffs will be the grunts that do the real work. God forbid we should can some bloated executive. CAL is a study in privileged left wing empire building. The academic senate can talk themselves blue. They are just a higher form of worker bee.

  • John

    I am skeptical of anything Dan Mogulof says.

  • Tony Daysog

    As a tax-payer and Cal alum,I ask Cal executive staff to find solutions from within,and to not go to Sacramento to ask for more money. If Cal can find the money to a build what amounts to a new football stadium for over a half-billion dollars, and if Cal can find the money to pay basketball and football coaches multi-million dollar salaries, Cal can use that same know-how to find money for the classroom. And please don’t give me the line that private funds pay for the stadium and coaches salaries because I don’t care; the point is that Cal manage to spend the effort to raise those funds for those inconsequential projects and,that being the case, Cal can do the same thing for things that really matter.

    • CalAlum99

      Our tax dollars go to a scarce ~14% funding of the UC system, don’t think that it’s a majority. Compared to other state-funded systems, it’s small.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Do they run off the Social Justice Warriors, or everybody else?

  • John Doe

    While top administrative salaries are WAY to high, they’re a drop in the bucket and cutting them will in no way deal with the deficit (although they should be cut). The inescapable problems are 1: Faculty pay is too high relative to their workload. Over the past ten years faculty expectations in terms of teaching and administrative service has decreased while salaries in many departments have skyrocketed. A 10-20% pay-cut for faculty (progressively implemented) would go a long way to solving the structural deficit. 2: Staff bloat is real and is, partially, a result of the aforementioned faculty load reductions. Faculty should have to do more of the staff work than they do. As it is they are underworked and overpaid. 3: Berkeley needs to stop trying to raise money like an SEC school—through sports—and needs to try raising money like an Ivy League—through alumni donations and contributions. That’s a long term transformation, but it requires the University investing FAR more in career services to a) Get students good jobs, and b) ensure that students feel like they owe their good jobs to THIS university.

    • davend

      Exactly.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      It’s not just a matter of top admin salaries. It’s also a matter of more and more admin/middle management jobs being created. The default solution to any budgetary problem is to hire more management people to deal with it. That’s so obviously self-defeating and stupid that further comment on it would be superfluous. The infograph here tells the whole sad story : http://ucbfa.org/2013/01/uc-management-bloat-updated/

      Operational Excellence was formed in 2010 based on Bain’s recommendations, with the goal of saving the campus $75 million. One of the main planks in the OE platform was the creation of Campus Shared Services, which (among other things) pulled support staff away from campus and put them in an office buliding 2 miles away, on Fourth Street (which the campus purchased for $29 million). Following the apparent inability of CSS’s managers to oversee their budget, a number of staff members were recently laid off from the unit.

      And now we have the Office of Strategic Initiatives, which so far seems to be duplicating the work of OE. I really don’t understand how this administration is thinking. They really seem to be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic at this point.

  • watcher

    Top administrators make millions. All for doing nothing extraordinary. The top needs to take a huge paycut. Maybe they can get other perks like chaeffeur or special parking, or complementary top dogs.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    The administration will continue to hold dog-and-pony shows like this to perpetuate the illusion that faculty, staff and students actually have a voice in this process.

    Professor Merchant is exactly right, but I am afraid her voice will go unheeded. Admin has already decided what it’s going to do, and the means of “realignment” will be overwhelmingly cosmetic–mark my words.