Despite a few interruptions from protestors, the University of California Board of Regents completed its three-day meeting at UCSB yesterday, reviewing both professor salaries and Dept. of Energy laboratory policies.
During the meeting, UC Provost Wyatt R. Hume delivered statistics showing a 10 percent inequity between University salaries and those at private institutions. Following discussion on the item, the Regents chose to defer action on professor salaries until September. Protestors also spoke at the meeting to oppose the UC’s management of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories – two federal facilities involved with nuclear weapons research.
Though no action was taken regarding professor salaries, some Regents proposed that the 7 percent student fee increase supported by the board in March could offset some of the projected $46 million expense that a raise in salaries would require. Meanwhile, the UC’s 2007-08 budget awaits approval from the state legislature.
Regent Judith L. Hopkinson said that while she supported the salary raises, she was interested in evaluating data on how past budgetary allowances have affected the UC.
“The Regents want to know about previous increases and how they have been spent,” Hopkinson said. “I’d also like to understand the impact on our pension plan.”
The discussion came amidst fears from some Regents that the unresolved state budget included an item that would reduce the UC’s base budget adjustment from 4 to 3 percent. The base adjustment is an allotment from the state’s general funds typically reserved for salary increases as well as employee health and welfare benefits. Regent John Moores said that in light of this possible deficit and that the cost of professor salary increases was projected to increase to $60 million annually after the first year, the raises were questionable.
“It’s still not clear to me where this money will come from,” Moores said. “You’ve found money for one year… but how will we get through the hard times?”
The Regents then released a statement encouraging the state legislature not to cut the UC system’s budget as it would result in a $30 million reduction in funds.
The Regents also reviewed reports regarding the UC’s management of three federal Dept. of Energy laboratories that include LANL, LLNL and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. While the UC is the sole manager of LBNL, it co-manages LANL with Bechtel, BWX Technologies and Washington Group International as part of the Los Alamos National Security, LLC and receives $512 million for its contract. A similar LLC will manage LLNL in Oct. as part of the UC’s renewed contract with DOE.
In particular, the Regents examined possible courses of action in response to a recent $3 million fine issued to the UC by DOE for a security breach at LANL after authorities discovered classified documents on a subcontractor’s personal computer. In a report at the meeting, it was stated that if the University pays the fine, it will come from a contract reserve fund which currently maintains $20 million. The UC General Counsel is currently investigating the matter.
Earlier in the meeting, 16 concerned students as well as affiliates of Santa Barbara Antiwar, UCSB’s Associated Students DOE Labs Oversight Committee and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation rallied to express their disapproval of UC’s involvement in nuclear weapons research at LANL and LLNL, speaking during the public comment period while also causing a few minor interruptions during the board’s regular session.
During the meeting, about nine of the protestors stood up and turned their backs to the Regents. According to UCSB third year Elyse Bekins, the move was meant to symbolize the way the protestors feel the Regents ignore their entreaties to divest in nuclear weapons research.
“The Regents really aren’t receptive to anything we have to say,” Bekins said. “By standing backwards we were trying to express that they should at least be willing to hear our point of view and have a discussion about severing ties with nuclear weapons.”
UCSB Sociology Professor Thomas Scheff said he was embarrassed by the University’s involvement with the labs.
“I’ve been teaching here for 43 years and I find myself ashamed to be a part of the University at a time when the U.S. is involved in criminal activity,” Scheff said. “It’s a crime to provide weapons to people who are involved in criminal activity.”
A.S. DOE Oversight Committee members also spoke during the public comment period and informed the committee of their group’s formation at UCSB in April. The group expects to travel to New Mexico to inspect LANL in Oct.