Napolitano discusses faculty compensation, tuition during webchat

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UC President Janet Napolitano addressed questions and concerns surrounding faculty compensation and benefits, tuition, campus climate and California higher education during her Tuesday webchat with UC faculty panelists.

The hour-long Google Hangout, which was open to the public and garnered about 90 live viewers, was Napolitano’s fourth webchat in an ongoing series of conversations that attempt to “foster an ongoing dialogue with the UC community,” according to UC spokesperson Brooke Converse in an email. Past webchats, the first of which occurred in January, featured student, staff and alumni panelists.

Ilhem Messaoudi, associate professor of biomedical sciences at UC Riverside, asked Napolitano about her plans to bring UC faculty salaries in “alignment with comparable institutions,” saying that salaries are currently below those of similar universities.

Napolitano replied by saying the university has to look at a whole “universe” of things in order to address the issue of faculty compensation. Yet, she plans to put investment in academic excellence, including academic faculty, into her proposal to the UC Board of Regents.

Kristofer Pister, UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, brought up concerns regarding the pressure to admit out-of-state students in order to help alleviate the university’s financial burdens — an issue that some California taxpayers view as problematic.

“You’re right to say there’s a red flag here,” Napolitano said. “This is California’s university.”

According to Pister, a potential way to admit more Californians to the university is to have applicants who were denied admission be considered within the out-of-state pool, if they are willing to pay the out-of-state tuition.

Napolitano, however, said that allowing California students that were denied admission to pay their way into the university with out-of-state tuition would give students from richer families greater access to the university, raising questions about socioeconomic inequity.

“There are other ways to handle the in-state, out-of-state issue,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano also responded to questions regarding the UC campus climate survey, which gauged how inclusive the learning, living and working environments of university-affiliated sites are for campus community members.

Addressing concerns about how the survey’s results were presented and framed as well the survey’s accessibility, she agreed that changes needed to be made. She emphasized that the university must foster an atmosphere of inclusion and safety — for example, by combating campus sexual assault.

On the issue of waning state funding for public universities, Napolitano stressed the importance of the university in California’s economy, saying that California “will not retain its economic advantages if this university does not thrive.”

She added that collaboration between the university and the state’s community colleges and other universities is crucial for the improvement of higher education.

“We are better off if we’re advocating together than if we’re advocating separately,” Napolitano said.

Jean Lee covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @missjeanlee.