Board of Regents Meeting: 3/16/11
George R. Blumenthal
Board of Regents Meeting
March 16, 2011
Thank you for this opportunity to speak today. Much of the discussion about budget cuts can feel abstract. My goal today is to speak plainly about what three years of budget reductions have meant for UC Santa Cruz—and what the upcoming cuts will mean for our campus.
The painful truth is that we are at the point of compromising educational quality. We are jeopardizing our role as a leading research institution. And we are struggling to meet our basic public safety and fiduciary obligations. Our students, faculty, and staff are feeling the impact of these cuts.
I believe I was asked to speak today in part because UC Santa Cruz is a smaller, younger campus without a medical center. As such, we have fewer resources. We've had to be entrepreneurial in all our choices. We do have a proud track record of making the most of all our resources. It's gotten us where we are today. And I believe that our culture of strategic decision making will serve us well in these dire circumstances.
But let's be clear: UC Santa Cruz is already a research powerhouse. Our professors are… Aiding the recovery of stroke victims… Helping the blind to see… Pioneering the individualized treatment of cancer… Charting climate change in the Andes… Publishing award-winning fiction… Preparing students like two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dana Priest of the Washington Post.
Their accomplishments are evident in measures familiar to you all: In a recent comparison with AAU institutions, UC Santa Cruz ranks fourth for citations per research paper, behind only CalTech, MIT, and Princeton. And when compared to AAU schools without medical schools, UC Santa Cruz ranks ninth in federal research dollars per faculty member.
I remind you of these achievements to underscore what's at risk today. Like all our sister campuses, UC Santa Cruz aspires to even greater heights. And that is in jeopardy.
As you know, today's challenges follow three difficult years. At UC Santa Cruz, funding for our core functions has been permanently reduced by nearly 13 percent since 2008. That reflects state cuts as well as increased costs. Of course, you know what's happening with pension contributions and health care costs.
We have kept current with cuts—no budgeting tricks, no funny financing. We've worked closely with our Academic Senate, deans, and principal officers. Despite dwindling state support, we've attempted to create a multi-year budget framework to help campus leaders plan strategically.
So far, we’ve implemented our cuts differentially. We've protected our academic programs--at the expense of support units. And we’ve made strategic investments to secure our future. We have been conservative and prudent. The take-home message?
With this latest cut, our budget for our core functions will be 21 percent smaller than four years ago. All while we're serving more students, and managing a robust, externally funded research portfolio—whose growth has outpaced the national average.
I am proud that we've been recognized for our leadership in cost-cutting and efficiencies. We restructured information technology services. We centralized most business and human resource functions. We invested in decision-support systems—our "data warehouse" project—that consolidated information in ways that allow us to make more informed decisions. That project is a model throughout the country. We've also achieved cost savings through energy efficiency, water conservation, waste diversion, and the like.
But we don't look the same as we used to. We've ceased providing faculty and staff child care. We've cut spending on library collections. We are losing and delaying programs of value to faculty and students.
So, you see, we've already cut and streamlined and coordinated and optimized.
The story line is consistent: We've worked hard to ensure that our students can get the courses they need and can make timely progress toward graduation. But I fear that in so doing, we have masked just how tenuous our resource situation is. In the face of these new cuts, that mask will fall.
Let me speak plainly about impacts. First, we will not be able to make these new cuts strategically. We will have to cut everywhere. We have trimmed and trimmed. These reductions will cut right to the heart of our instruction and research missions. To date, we have reduced curricular offerings to the point that some gateway courses are offered only once a year.
In order to continue to offer some protection to our academic programs, here's what we are considering now:
Further cuts to funding for unfilled faculty positions. We've already "hollowed out" 80 FTE in the last three years. Now we face cutting 40 more. That would amount to 16 percent of our faculty positions. Sixteen percent of our faculty FTE could be on the budget books with no funding behind them. That means essentially no hiring. No replacing faculty who leave or retire. For some departments, there aren't enough faculty to carry the curriculum, and they are having to consider suspending degree programs.
We will also have to make further cuts to funding for teaching assistants. We've defunded 110 TAs to date. We now face cutting 120 more.
Students have felt these impacts—and it's going to get worse.
A mother called my office just last week to complain that her child, a senior, couldn't get in the lab she needs to graduate in June, and they can't afford another quarter. I expect we will get many more calls like that.
Staff have also been impacted: So far, 316 positions have been eliminated or reduced. We cut vacant positions where we could, but many people lost their jobs. Now we face the prospect of cutting another 150 jobs. . . . This is huge for a campus of our size that is already thinly resourced. Everyone is impacted by staff cuts—students, faculty, the staff who lose their jobs--and those staff who survive the cuts and then face an increased workload.
All of these cuts will have repercussions for years to come.
They will challenge our ability to meet our obligations. Given the magnitude of these cuts, we can't even exempt our public safety operations—fire, police, and environmental health and safety. The same applies to our internal audit and controller's offices. These cuts are making us vulnerable in many ways.
We recognize the value to the state of overcoming California's persistent budget issues once and for all. UC Santa Cruz is fulfilling our founders' promise. We offer an intimate, college-based undergraduate experience and all the opportunities of a major research university. We are providing access. Our student body is more diverse—more reflective of California--than ever. Forty-four percent of our frosh this year will be the first in their families to earn a four-year degree.
We know college transforms lives.
But access to quality public higher education is in jeopardy. Not just in California, but across the country.
The University of California is at a crossroads. Will we allow these cuts to degrade our quality and accessibility, thereby forsaking our history and giving up on our future?
Today, I ask you for three things to help us meet this challenge.
First, give the campuses as much flexibility as possible as we implement these cuts.
Second, do everything in your power to help the university secure multi-year budget stability. That will be critical for the campuses, especially the smaller ones.
And third, I ask you to keep all options on the table.
This is a defining moment for the university and for future generations of California students.