Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef spoke in his final brownbag chat on Monday in the Silo’s cabernet room where conversation focused primarily on the university’s looming budget challenges and transition to a new chancellor in the upcoming school year.
Vanderhoef began his talk with a brief discussion about the origins and purpose of the chancellor’s quarterly brownbag chat.
“These brownbag chats began 20 years ago at a time when the university was facing a lot of budget troubles,” Vanderhoef said. “Back then there was no e-mail or Twitter … these chats were a way for people to ask questions and for the university to sort out the facts from rumors.“
Vanderhoef then turned his attention to the current budget situation, which he described as unique from the challenges the university has faced in the past.
“I think everybody in the room feels that this time is worse because this time the economic crisis is affecting the entire world,” he said.
Provost and executive vice chancellor Enrique Lavernia spoke about the specifics of the budget deficit and the university’s response to meet this challenge.
“The February budget left UC Davis in a shortfall of $39 million,” Lavernia said. “The university saved $20 million through a combination increase in student fees and decrease in hiring of faculty.“
Lavernia also discussed the potential effects of the May ballot initiatives, which voters decided on in yesterday’s special election.
“The best-case scenario will have UCD facing an additional $17.75 million shortfall,” he said. “However, if none of the ballot measures pass, then the university will likely face a $29.3 million deficit.“
Lavernia talked about some of the various ways that the university is addressing the upcoming shortfall, which includes the creation of the Budget Advisory Committee and five subcommittees which will aid in guiding budget planning.
“These committees will provide input from a variety of campus perspectives and will act as a source of new ideas to help in navigating these difficult times,” Lavernia said.
Despite the sobering budget news, Vanderhoef said he remains optimistic about the university’s ability to pull through the current budget troubles.
“When everything else goes to the wayside, there are certain things that people still care about and one of those is health,” he said. “UC Davis is expanding in this area and is doing a lot of important work in the environmental arena. The university is doing things that are of high value to people.“
Vanderhoef emphasized the need for the university to change its ways in order to meet the budget challenges, calling for a “reset” rather than “recovery” from the economic crisis.
“Yes, we will have to get used to living differently, but we will figure out how to best do this,” he said.
Vanderhoef also discussed the future of the university under the newly appointed chancellor Linda Katehi.
“Katehi comes with lots of credibility and administrative experience,” Vanderhoef said. “We are so lucky to have someone so good walk in here. … If anybody can do this job well, it is her.“
The brownbag chat ended with a short Q and A session during which UC Davis student Nicole Connell spoke briefly.
“I have sat and heard a lot about how the staff is a major priority for the university, but it is important to remember that students are a priority too,” said Connell, a senior human development major. “Students have ideas, but we often feel that people do not listen to us.“
Connell discussed some of the programs on campus that she said have been neglected by the university, which included the R4 recycling program and mental health services.
“It is important for [administrators] to put themselves in our shoes,” Connell said. “Students do not need a fancier Mondavi Center or the latest digital televisions in the ARC. … We want affordable education.“
Connell said that many students she has spoken with have expressed concern about budget cuts and the mismanagement of money and that she came to the brownbag chat out of this concern.
“I saw a sign for the brownbag chat and wanted to share a student perspective that I believe was lacking at the event,” she said. “I met Chancellor Vanderhoef at an event for Camp Adventure and he showed a genuine interest in what life is like being a student. I thought he might be okay with me going up to speak, so I went for it.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at email@example.com.