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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Regents approve retiree plan, future recommendations

All UC employees will be paying higher premiums for their post-retirement health plans – a change among several others approved by the UC Board of Regents at a special meeting Dec. 13.

By a 14-3 vote, the board agreed to gradually reduce the amount the university pays for retiree health care from 89 percent to 70 percent by 2018. The board also officially endorsed the UC Commission on the Future’s final report, released on Dec. 6.

In the new pension plan, employees hired after July 1, 2013 will have to work until age 65 in order to retire with the same level of benefits that current employees receive at age 60.

“You can come up with less expensive plans, but I thought this plan was fairest to faculty and staff and had the most consensus,” said UC President Mark Yudof at the meeting.

Lower-paid employees, such as groundskeepers and custodial workers, said their work is too physically taxing to continue until age 65.

“I’m in my mid-40s, and I think I can make it to 60,” said Kathryn Lybarger, a gardener at UC Berkeley. “But when you add five years to that, it’s not something people like me can do.”

The new plan is subject to collective bargaining for those represented by a union – roughly 42 percent of UC employees. Yudof said he’d consider the physical nature of certain jobs during negotiations.

Regents Bonnie Reiss, Eddie Island and Charlene Zettel voted against the plan. Reiss said the plan was too generous and unsustainable.

The board also endorsed a series of recommendations by the UC Commission on the Future, including creating pathways to graduate in three years, further exploring online courses and increasing non-resident undergraduate enrollment.

“We’re hopeful that these changes will move us along in addressing some of these financial challenges while upholding our principles,” said Russell Gould, chair of the board, at the meeting.

The UC Student Association – the official voice of UC students – denounced the commission’s recommendations. In a press release, Doug Wagoner, a UCSA Board Member and student at UC Santa Barbara, called the recommendations unsustainable and myopic.

The Council of UC Faculty Associations expressed similar views.

“Online education, apart from its notorious drop-out and failure rates, is designed to impart information, not to create reflective and articulate students,” said Wendy Brown, co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, in a press release.

Brown added that the three-year degree path will likely discourage students from double-majoring and compress breadth and major requirements.

The commission’s report also contains emergency recommendations like curtailing enrollment, cutting staff positions and reducing financial aid. While the commission did not endorse these actions, Yudof acknowledged they could be necessary in the future.

“These are steps that really no one wants to take,” he said.

JANELLE BITKER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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