UC Board of Regents discusses faculty wages, sustainability

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Caroline Lobel/Staff
At its Thursday meeting, the UC Board of Regents debated chancellor salaries and administrative leaves due to COVID-19. 

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UC Berkeley faculty and staff reported dissatisfaction with wages at the UC Board of Regents meeting Thursday amid debate for salary increases for chancellors and COVID-19 administrative leaves.

A national survey in spring 2021 revealed lower-than-national-average satisfaction with wages for faculty and staff across the UC system, according to Council of UC Staff Assemblies chair Crystal Petrini. She noted university faculty and staff retention has steadily declined since 2017.

“Forty-three percent of respondents responded that they were seriously considering leaving the UC,” Petrini said at the meeting. “When asked why, salaries, career advancement and work-life balance were noted as the overarching reasons.”

Petrini noted the university struggles to retain staff and fill vacant positions and alleged that those who leave feel undervalued or under-respected. She added that losing talented educators can hinder the quality of university services and place a burden on the remaining staff.

Kirsten Willer, program coordinator at UC Berkeley Labor Center, said current wages do not reflect inflation and the high cost of living in the Bay Area, hindering her personal aspirations to start a family.

“Fantastic talent is driven away from the university due to the lack of pay,” Willer said at the meeting.

President of UC Graduate Professional Council Gwen Chodur said attracting and retaining lead professionals bears a cost.

Chodur spoke in favor of a wage raise for UC chancellors as compensation for the extra work resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From a philosophical standpoint, I believe that people should be paid what they’re worth,” Chodur said at the meeting. “If we as a system want to continue to attract top talent, we need to recognize that there are price tags associated with attracting and retaining that talent.”

UC Berkeley information technology contractor Dan Russell noted the importance of paid administrative leave in light of COVID-19. New faculty and staff hired after October 2021 did not receive the same leave benefits as more tenured employees, Russell alleged.

UC Health Executive Vice President Carrie Byington said she expects cases of the omicron variant to peak next week. She commended UC Berkeley’s efforts to provide rapid testing for students and noted that high vaccination rates and isolation practices across all campuses have controlled the number of positive cases thus far.

The regents also discussed sustainability efforts during the joint session of the Academic and Student Affairs and the Finance and Capital Strategies committees. UC Office of the President Associate Vice President of Energy and Sustainability David Phillips gave a presentation highlighting the university’s progress on its goals and the environmental impact on social justice.

“Just as the global pandemic has shined a spotlight on structural inequities and health care outcomes, it’s become increasingly clear that climate change is a public health and social justice issue,” Phillips said at the meeting.

Some of the university’s goals include long-term plans for emission reductions, climate neutrality, expanded use of clean electricity, sustainable food sourcing, water conservation and more.

Among other campuses making their own efforts toward these goals, UC Berkeley has hired five faculty members specifically to further its mission toward environmental justice and climate equity.

Contact Lily Button and Molly Cochran at [email protected].