Administration, members of faculty meet to discuss growing campus budget problems

Zach Ryan/Staff

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Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ fielded questions from concerned faculty members in an Academic Senate forum Monday, where they discussed the state of the campus’s $150 million annual budget deficit.

During the forum, faculty members criticized campus administration for its recent financial strategies. One of the forum’s goals was to promote dialogue between campus administration and the faculty about UC Berkeley’s financial and structural problems, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

(The budget) is a very important issue for the campus, and it seems like early in the semester, having a kind of update about what progress has been made, what are the challenges going ahead ... seemed very important to do,” said the moderator and chair of the Academic Senate Robert Powell.

Christ cited cuts in state funding, among other factors, as a cause for the campus’s growing deficit. She added that enrollment control, self-supporting degree programs, increased land utilization, entrepreneurship and fundraising have the greatest potential to increase campus revenue in the future.

She said the campus aims to reduce its deficit by $40 million by June 2017 and $56 million by 2018, in accordance with standards set by the UC Office of the President. She added that the campus had already met its June 2017 finance goal through staff reductions and pressuring departments to re-examine their budgets.

Several faculty members expressed concerns about how money is being allocated to various departments and about the lack of funding for academics in proportion to athletics.

In response to complaints about high spending by the Intercollegiate Athletics, Dirks announced the commission of a new task force, co-chaired by Powell, to assess the athletic department’s financial situation and make recommendations by January 2017.

Professor of public policy Michael O’Hare questioned the honesty of the IA, saying that, according to his calculations, its deficit should be about $30 million rather than the $20 million it claimed. Rosemarie Rae, the campus’s chief financial officer, acknowledged that the $20 million did not factor in annual maintenance costs.

“It’s been an abstract promise that things will be better with athletics,” O’Hare said. “I reserve judgment. I’ve been disappointed on that score, on the idea that athletics is going to be held to reasonably responsible financial management.”

Bob Jacobsen, dean of undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley, commended the thoroughness of Christ’s presentation but noted that the forum highlighted the need for faculty members and administration to “engage in more depth.”

Dirks said the senate would need more time to address the questions raised.

“Was this adequate enough? No,” Dirks said. “What we need is a town hall meeting now where we can really use some charts and figures and tables and begin to really drill down some of the questions that were raised.”

Contact Ashley Wong and Katherine Yen at [email protected].