As the reality of the $813 million system-wide budget deficit sets in, every University of California campus is facing the difficult question of just how to spread the financial pain.
While the other universities have begun to offer a taste of where cuts will hit students – UC Berkeley will shorten library hours, UCLA will reduce classes by 10 percent and UC Irvine has eliminated five sports teams, for just three small examples – UCSB’s plans remain vague. Although Chancellor Henry T. Yang discussed the effects of last year’s $16 million reduction at the recent UC Regents meeting, concrete details have yet to be released on just how the campus will shoulder this year’s staggering $45 million cut.
Yang noted that the reduction will prove painful across campus, but he said that budgetary logistics are still up in the air.
“The specific effects of the cuts will not be known until later this summer after department budget reduction plans have been completed and reviewed and decisions have been made,” Yang said. “But the effects will be felt in every department and program.”
In general terms, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young said that the university will look drastically different for current and future students.
“Classes will be bigger, they’ll have a harder time getting into classes, there will be fewer sections and fewer labs,” Young said. “There are some resources that are traditionally offered that will simply not be offered anymore. The cuts are just too large. We cannot sustain all those cuts while still maintaining the levels of programs and services offered in the past.”
Despite a lack of specifics, a glance at how UCSB dealt with just a $16 million deficit from the past year offers insight into what kind of toll a $45 million cut will have on the university. For example, last year’s financial maneuverings saw the workforce reduced by 235 full-time equivalent positions, the UCSB Extension program hacked in half and the budget for student services significantly reduced.
At the Regents meeting, Yang did note that the university has is planning and has already undergone several money-saving ventures in addition to cuts, including the sale of an off-campus building and the implementation of new energy projects.
Despite the budgetary uncertainty, one thing is definite for the coming year: UC employees will be working fewer days and earning less money.
Approved by the UC Regents at the recent meeting and set for implementation on Sept. 1, the furlough plan calls for UC faculty and staff to take off 11 to 26 unpaid days per year. Pay cuts range from 4 to 10 percent, and workers making more money would receive larger salary reductions and more days off.
Yang said the deficit is hitting faculty and staff hard, leaving leadership positions compromised and faculty searches at a standstill.
“Workforce reduction has spread through all levels, from service workers to senior administrators,” Yang said. “For example, we have five vice chancellor positions on our campus. One is currently vacant and one soon will be. To save money, we will not fill either of these two positions at this time.”
According to David Marshall, Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science, the cuts will prove disadvantageous to academics and will ultimately devalue students’ tuition dollars.
“To be perfectly honest, there will be a decline in quality [of education] because we can’t offer as much instruction to students,” Marshall said. “I think that quality suffers if you have a lecture course without a section or if you have more students in a class.”
To further exacerbate the issue, Marshall said UCSB is welcoming an unprecedented amount of new freshman this fall.
“We made an effort to accept fewer students here, and we ended up with more,” Marshall said. “So we have hundreds of students on campus that we’re not getting any workload money for from the state. We’re worried about it. It will affect different majors in different ways.”
Despite the rash addition to the deficit, Marshall said campus authorities are doing the best they can to accommodate students.
“The system is reeling from the magnitude and the quickness of the cuts,” Marshall said. “We’ve had cuts before, but they’ve always been smaller over a longer period of time. Every campus is trying to deal with this in a difficult environment. At UCSB, the consistent message has been that cuts should cause minimal disruption to student curriculum in core areas.”