With the overwhelming decision of the UC regents May 15 to slap over 220,000 students with another 7 percent increase in systemwide fees, our officials have come up with two programs that not only address monetary shortage but also aim to boost the UC’s reputation.
The first of these two programs is the START program, or the Staff and Academic Reduction in Time, in which employees cut back their working hours voluntarily. However, with the economic uncertainty America is facing right now, I do not buy the idea that such a program would be of enormous help to our existing problem. From 2003 to 2006, the UC implemented a similar time reduction program that provided salary savings of $41.9 million.
But that was during active and prosperous economic years when money was not an issue for many workers. With the current threat of recession, I do not think that UC employees would be able to afford a voluntary time reduction. It is not right to ask our employees to work less hours in this period of financial difficulty to remedy the budget crisis, which is a product of our officials’ fiscal irresponsibility in the first place.
Furthermore, START is mainly intended for hourly-wage employees and those who are on the lower income bracket. How about our well-paid executives and higher administrative officials? Are they willing to give up some of their hefty salaries as well? If they do not want to sacrifice part of their earnings for the sake of our great university system, I do not comprehend why they expect our ordinary workers to earn less in this time of skyrocketing oil and food prices. I will definitely be supporting START if our six-figure salary officials will also participate in this program. Otherwise, they should not be asking our hard-working employees to give up some of their hours while they continue to receive their ridiculously huge paychecks.
The second program “UC The Way Forward,” on the other hand, is a more sensibly and fittingly created initiative that could bolster and reclaim the UC’s standing as the best public university system in the world. According to its website, “UC The Way Forward” is a public information campaign launched this spring to educate Californians about the UC’s extraordinary benefits and worth to their lives. Such a program aspires to create “personal connection” between the UC and the people through the promise of cultivating knowledge.
I think that by reminding the community about the UC’s fulfillment of its promise – creating millions of brilliant minds and forging a sustainable future through research – it would generate financial support from Californians who are determined to continue such a promise. With the efforts to deal with the budget quandary, this educational campaign would not only accentuate the search for funding, but could also rejuvenate the UC’s fading reputation as a leader in higher education by highlighting its past achievements and asserting its capabilities.
As the unstoppable 2008 higher education budget rolls this way, the ramifications are becoming more visible throughout the UC system: reduction of admission rate, departmental and research funds, closure of some facilities and suspension of some community and student-based services. The departure of Robert Dynes, whose presidency will leave a legacy of five tuition fee increases and financial controversies, and the arrival of Mark Yudof, a brilliant leader who publicly spoke against higher tuition fees, might produce some solutions that everyone is looking forward to.
But more than ever, we need to show to the world what California has become because of the University of California and demonstrate that a promising future lies ahead because of such a great institution. I urge everyone to help so that we can see a bright future.
REAGAN F. PARLAN welcomes your comments and suggestions at email@example.com.