UC budget cuts could hit undocumented students and lecturers the hardest

UC budget cuts could hit undocumented students and lecturers the hardest

Photo Credits: Jordan Knowles / Aggie File

Despite Napolitano, chancellors’ voluntary 10% pay cut, UC faces multiple budget challenges 

UC President Janet Napolitano and the 10 UC chancellors will be taking a voluntary 10% pay cut during the 2020–2021 UC fiscal year, which begins on July 1, Napolitano said in a May 18 press release. It’s the latest measure taken by the UC to mitigate losses from COVID-19 costs, estimated to be nearly $1.2 billion from mid-March to April. 

In anticipation of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revision of state budget plans, Napolitano authored a letter to the governor asking for leniency with regard to cuts to UC funding.

“UC is confronting many of the worst impacts of the virus all at once,” she wrote. “We are a health care system saving lives; a research enterprise seeking cures and a vaccine; an education system quickly transitioning to remote instruction; and an employer working hard to protect our workforce in the face of an economic downturn.”

Despite the letter, Newsom’s revised state budget, introduced on May 14, would institute a 10% decrease in state funding to the UC system if the federal government does not provide funds to restore them.

One of Newsom’s directives amid the potential decrease in UC funding is for the system to minimize the impact on programs and services for underrepresented students.

Despite this directive, a line item on the budget for UC Regents, however, would reduce funding for undocumented students’ campus services and financial aid by $500,000. While originally intended to be discussed at the Regents meeting in May, it was tabled until July. 

ASUCD External Affairs Vice President Maria Martinez, however, wrote a letter — with the aid of SPEAK — to the UC Regents to demonstrate student opposition to the line item before the item was tabled. Martinez plans to keep its momentum going until the budget cut is discussed.

There are 119 pages of signatures, from organizations and students within the UC to members of the general public, as of June 1.

“Our fight to protect undocumented students should not end at the Supreme Court,” Martinez said in her letter. “We must support all of our undocumented students by adequately funding their financial aid and programs that support them in their educational journey. Anything less would undermine the University’s mission to provide opportunities to undocumented students.” 

Martinez said one of the most frustrating things for her was the Regents listing a $400,000 expansion for the National Center for Free Speech.

“Of course I value free speech and civic engagement, but I don’t think they’re taking into consideration the students,” Martinez said. 

In the 2018–19 budget schedule for UC Davis, there were $59,000 unrestricted designated funds for “cultural programs” and $12,000 unrestricted general funds for disadvantaged students. 

UC Davis also spent $155 million on student services in 2018–19, compared to $186 million for institutional support, a category including employee benefits, environmental health, police and public relations. 

Before Martinez published her letter, Varsha Sarveshwar, president of the UC Student Association (UCSA), advocated for additional funds for undocumented student services in a letter addressed to Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-CA) and State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-CA). 

On behalf of the UCSA, Sarveshwar requested $2.5 million in ongoing funding for undocumented student programs and one-time funds of $7.5 million for emergency financial aid.

“Most undocumented student programs are expected to run out of the short-term funds the university had provided to them years ago, even as the COVID-19 pandemic drives demand for their services and as the Supreme Court DACA case decision looms,” Sarveshwar wrote. 

While Martinez herself is not undocumented, her parents are immigrants and many of her friends are part of the undocumented community. 

“Looking around me, a lot of my friends [who are undocumented] are about to get their education and go to school, but are really frustrated by the barriers they already face,” Martinez said. “My family didn’t get to go to college, but they could’ve with these programs.” 

Newsom’s proposal, however, has been met with pushback from the California legislature, which has instead proposed that funds be delayed — not cut — from the UC if no substitute federal aid arrives.

UC Davis relied on over $124 million of contracts and grants from the California state government — 14.77% of its contract and grant funds — in the 2018–19 fiscal year. 

Among the other changes announced in the press release were a systemwide freeze on salaries for policy-covered staff employees and salary scales for policy-covered, non-student academic appointees for the 2020–21 fiscal year.

Those changes come on the heels of an April 2 announcement from Napolitano and the UC chancellors that there would be no COVID-19 related career staff layoffs through the end of the 2019–20 UC fiscal year, which ends June 30. 

That promise, however, excluded lecturers.
UC Davis Provost Ralph Hexter said in an April 7 letter to UC Davis faculty that the university already faced a need to rebalance core funds by $100 million over the next five years. In planning faculty recruitment, he added that it was important for faculty to find “creative opportunities” to meet their needs moving forward.

“I encourage you to consider opportunities to include Lecturers with Potential for Security of Employment (LPSOEs) in your hiring plans where they may provide workload support for quality teaching and curricular development and instruction,” he wrote.

UC-Academic Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), which represents lecturers and librarians throughout UC, has been bargaining for a renewal of its contract since it ended on Jan. 31. When the announcement about no UC career-staff layoffs was made, UC-AFT members began advocating for lecturers to be included in that protection.

Only one UC campus — UC Berkeley — has made that provision for lecturers. 

UC-AFT’s Executive Board also wrote a letter to Napolitano on May 29, in response to the 10% pay cut she and other UC chancellors were taking. 

In it, the members of the board underscored that around 1,300 lecturers on short-term contracts may lose their job security if they are not reappointed by June 1 and that, given the $19,900 median salary of lecturers, pay cuts may drive folks out of academia altogether.

“If cuts are deemed necessary, they should not come at the expense of the UC’s existing workforce but should start with temporary cuts to UC’s highest salaries and be steeply progressive,” the board wrote.

Its members proposed that for one year, UC capped incomes at $250,000, which would, they said, save the university up to $900 million.

UC Berkeley lecturer and UC-AFT member Marianne Kaletzky, who was raised by her mom, a Philippine immigrant and single parent, said at a UC-AFT press conference on June 1 that though her mom, who worked as a secretary, wasn’t making that much, she would always send money back to her family in the Philippines. 

“That impressed upon me the need to support my family and community,” she said.

Kaletzky said that by being unwilling to offer job stability and living wages, the UC was losing diversity.

“What I hear from a lot of lecturers and PhD candidates from historically marginalized backgrounds is how hard it is to stay in positions like that knowing the kinds of responsibility one has — to one’s family, community, being financially solvent oneself,” she said. “UC is losing faculty and teachers from […] historically marginalized backgrounds, first-generation backgrounds, working-class backgrounds and backgrounds of color.” 

Though Martinez isn’t sure what impact her letter to the Regents will have on the budget, she said she hopes the Regents recognize the statewide opposition toward the reduction of undocumented student funds.

“Behind the budget and numbers are people,” she said. “UC expresses a commitment to support undocumented students. If they make this budget cut, then they need to revise their values.” 

Written by: Janelle Marie Salanga campus@theaggie.org