UC system aims to mitigate layoffs through pandemic relief funds

President Drake
Wikimedia/Creative Commons
The UC system will create a pandemic relief fund to reduce layoffs and retain jobs amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to UC Office of the President spokesperson Stett Holbrook, the UC system is California’s third-largest employer. (Photo by Wikimedia under CC BY-SA 4.0.)

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UC President Michael Drake announced Monday that each UC campus will create a pandemic relief fund to minimize layoffs related to COVID-19.

The funds will use savings from reduced operation costs, according to UC Office of the President spokesperson Stett Holbrook. Although the UC system has sustained more than $2 billion in pandemic-related losses since March, the policy aims to preserve low-paying jobs.

“As the state’s third-largest employer, UC is committed to supporting our dedicated employees during these trying times,” Holbrook said in an email. “We are grateful for the hard work of staff across the system who support the University and our mission of public service, which is now more important and impactful than ever.”

UC Berkeley will continue conferring on the best course of action and will share its decision with the community sometime next week, according to a Berkeley News press release.

In addition to this policy, the UC system previously enforced a hiring freeze and prevented salary increases in May for all nonrepresented employees to further mitigate the financial effects of the pandemic, according to Holbrook. UC leaders have also undertaken pay reductions for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year, Holbrook added in the email.

UC Berkeley senior Kaitlin Griffith said in an email that the pay reductions are promising, but she has difficulty fully believing in “the administration’s grandiose announcements.”

According to Griffith, who is a member of the UC Berkeley Physics 111 lab committee, the physics department’s emergency funds may be at risk due to COVID-19 budget deficits. She added in the email that she worries GSI and other positions paid for by the department could be impacted if UC Berkeley uses any department funds for the pandemic relief fund.

“Unfortunately, due to the recent COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) protests/strikes taken on several UC campuses, it is clear that the University system is already struggling to meet the needs of many of its lecturers and graduate student instructors,” Griffith said in the email. “When faculty positions are lessened or omitted, students do suffer.”

The COLA protests, which occurred on the UC Berkeley campus earlier this year, involved graduate students from multiple UC campuses demanding an increase in wages due to high costs of living.

According to Griffith, she hopes the COVID-19 pandemic will spur the creation of a task force aimed at improving the UC financial system for everyone.

“I really believe that doing a full ‘re-vamp’ or transparency initiative regarding finances would be extremely valuable for this particular crisis, but also in general,” Griffith said in the email. “If we take a breath from ‘business as usual’, and really investigate where money is coming and going, we may be able to tighten our collective belts and do what is best for our community.”

Contact Anishi Patel at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anishipatel.