Campus leaders address ‘painful’ budget cuts, other changes at staff forum

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The Berkeley Staff Assembly hosted a live-streamed forum Tuesday in which campus leaders informed staff members of impending budget cuts and staff retirements.
The forum featured a panel composed of the campus vice chancellor of administration and finance, John Wilton; vice chancellor for undergraduate education, Cathy Koshland; and assistant vice chancellor of human resources, Jeannine Raymond. The main issue the panel discussed was the campus’s current budget deficit.

“This is the third year in a row of running the campus at a deficit,” Wilton said at the forum, adding that this deficit is forcing UC Berkeley to deplete its savings. “And that’s an intentional decision we’ve made to avoid cuts.”

According to Wilton, however, the administration cannot continue its current fiscal policy indefinitely, given that over the last 10 years, costs have increased by about 1 percent more than revenue has annually. Wilton stressed that the cuts aren’t expected to cause layoffs.

“It’s not a crisis,” Wilton said at the forum. “It’s painful, but it’s a moderate adjustment in our budget, and it’s unavoidable.”

A partial solution to the deficit problem is the Operational Excellence Program, a multiproject initiative that hopes, among other things, to reduce administrative costs. Wilton said UC Berkeley has already recouped double its $60 million investment in Operational Excellence projects.

Beyond financial concerns, the panel also discussed staff hiring and retention. According to Raymond, UC Berkeley will be hit by a “wave of retirees” over the next three to five years, during which time 20 to 30 percent of campus staff are expected to retire.

“The wave is already here. The tsunami has hit the beach,” Raymond said at the event. “We are going to witness a generational shift at Berkeley.”

Raymond added that hiring and retaining staff is more difficult at UC Berkeley than at private universities, because UC President Janet Napolitano’s recommendations to raise staff salaries are not accompanied by appropriations to fund those raises.

“The reality is, we can’t compete with the private sector on salaries, but we have amazing professional development and a strong mission to serve the public good,” Raymond said at the forum. “If salary is your motivator, the UC system may not be the place for you.”

After the panelists had concluded speaking, they briefly responded to staff concerns about the budget adjustments and the standardization of technological infrastructures.
According to campus spokesperson Carole Love, the forum was live-streamed to accommodate the “overwhelming” demand from staff interested in hearing directly from leadership.

“The purpose is to have an open, two-way conversation with staff,” Love said in an email. “This event was a welcome opportunity to do that and we hope to do more of them in the future.”

Contact Logan Goldberg at [email protected].