Vice chancellor presents campus budget challenges to faculty

As part of a series of conversations between UC Berkeley faculty members and campus leaders, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton discussed the state of the campus budget and its challenges with the faculty Monday.

In his presentation, Wilton stressed the importance of looking at multiple ways to solve budget problems by finding new ways to increase revenue, altering the budgeting process and acknowledging that the campus cannot depend on fiscal contributions from the state.

The presentation was a part of “Conversations with the Faculty,” a series of events that allow for informal exchanges of ideas between members of the campus division of the Academic Senate and campus leaders, according to a Dec. 2 email to faculty members from Bob Jacobsen, chair of the senate.

“This is the first meeting of this kind that I have been to,” said Stanley Klein, professor of vision science and optometry. “I’m advocating to get more of this information out there to faculty.”

Student tuition increases combined with cuts in state funding have rendered tuition an increasingly important source of revenue for the campus, Wilton said. While tuition was the lowest source of funding for the campus in 2003-4, it is the second highest revenue source this year after federal funding. State funding provides the least revenue, comprising 11 percent of income for the campus this year.

The campus also faces the additional budget strain of mid-year trigger cuts totaling about $15 million. In a Nov. 4 interview with The Daily Californian Senior Editorial Board, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said when he and Wilton met with Gov. Jerry Brown Sept. 22, Brown “assured us (the cut) is coming.”

“Whilst higher education makes a lot of sense to invest in, the background from the state of California is not very promising,” Wilton said in his presentation Monday.

In order to combat the cuts and improve the university as a whole, Wilton suggested that each UC campus look at its strengths and weaknesses to form individual plans for dealing with decreased state aid.

“There’s no single thing you can do to solve the problem,” Wilton told the faculty. “You have to operate on many different fronts — we have to change, to adapt, to adopt new policies.”

Wilton said the current campus budgeting system — which determines 95 percent of budget allocations according to previous appropriations and makes only incremental changes to annual budgets — should change.

While the campus should still argue for increased state funding, it should also look into other ways of generating revenue because it cannot cut its way into sustainability, Wilton said. The campus is currently investigating a wide range of options, including “increasing online presence” and soliciting philanthropy for core campus initiatives, though none are set in stone, he added.

The presentation triggered a series of questions from faculty members regarding the feasibility for the campus to gather more philanthropic and corporate donations, increase enrollment and improve faculty compensation, among other issues.

In the future, Wilton is looking to set up a formal meeting with leaders from the senate, Jacobsen said.

“My job is to try to convey faculty opinions,” Jacobsen said. “It is important to get faculty input into a lot of these projects early.”

Betsy Vincent covers academics and administration.