First came the dreaded furlough program. Then came fewer graduate student instructors due to a lack of funding, continued competitive offers from big-budget private schools and the layoffs of colleagues and friends, all while salaries for many UC faculty and staff members remained well below market rate.
And yet across UC Berkeley and the entire UC, many professors and staff members have chosen to stay. For this, we commend them and believe that the UC merit program announced last Wednesday is a step in the right direction.
However, we also hope that the university sees the bigger picture. It is not only the level of pay that keeps these professors, supervisors, financial analysts and others from fleeing to Harvard, Stanford or other private prestigious universities, but also the caliber of the school’s research, students and educational atmosphere.
Under this merit plan, faculty and non-union staff members will be eligible to receive raises based on performance evaluations. The raises — set at 3 percent of overall base pay — will be a much-needed reprieve, especially for non-represented staff who have not received pay increases for four years and who have had to take pay-cuts during the furlough program.
Through all the hurt that the university has experienced — with the slashing of $650 million in state funding this year alone, the elimination of phones from many campus departments two years ago, the dwindling budgets of academic units — faculty and staff members have certainly shouldered a good share of the impacts. In discussions of budget cuts, the fear of loss in scholarly quality repeatedly surfaces. But the campus maintains high rankings because our outstanding instructors and role models stick around.
This new plan demonstrates that the UC acknowledges the need to retain these academics, shows that those at the top value academic excellence and suggests the UC is aware of the ramifications of potential brain drain.
At the same time, the UC needs to pursue more than just fiscal incentives. We realize that money is tight, but we hope that the UC will seek to support other programs that make employees want to stay — the space for innovative and thorough research, students eager to learn and grow and a community that lives and breathes academic excellence.