One of the most consistent messages from UC administrators since the budget crisis intensified has been the concept of “shared pain.“
It‘s a good idea – students, faculty, administrators, even union members should all have to bear some of the burden of budget cuts. But it‘s an idea that can be taken too far, as it unquestionably has been with the furloughs that are being forced on Unitrans.
While the vast majority of its employees are students, Unitrans employs nine full-time, career staff members. These employees have been told that they are required to participate in the university‘s furlough program.
This requirement is misguided and harmful to the people who depend on the service Unitrans provides.
The UC furlough program was designed to help close the university‘s budget gap by freeing up funding from UC employees. But forcing furloughs on Unitrans employees does absolutely nothing toward this end.
This is because Unitrans is a completely self-sustaining unit. Its budget is not part of the university‘s budget, and it does not receive UC funding. Instead, it gets money directly from students as part of their ASUCD fees and additional funding from local and federal government agencies.
The furloughs will require Unitrans to take $48,000 out of its budget. Presumably this money will be redirected to Unitrans reserves, but the university has not clarified where it will ultimately go.
Here‘s the net effect of forced furloughs on Unitrans employees: Students pay the same $42 annual fee to ASUCD, other agencies contribute the same funding, and the result is less service as the money saved is sent unnecessarily to a reserve bank account.
Where‘s the sense in that?
The ideal solution would be for Unitrans to be exempt from the furloughs. In fact, Unitrans General Manager Geoff Straw applied for an exemption, but university officials denied his request.
If UC administrators are not willing to grant the exemption, here‘s another solution: Unitrans should take the money it‘s “saving“ through the furlough program and use it to hire and train more student employees to fill in for furloughed employees.
This would create new student employment opportunities as other units and departments cut student jobs left and right. More importantly, however, it would prevent service cuts that would unnecessarily burden students and others in the Davis community who rely on Unitrans.