The UC Board of Regents approved a fiscal emergency plan calling for furloughs at their recent meeting.

UC President Mark G. Yudof’s proposal, effective Sept. 1, 2009, will force UC educators and employees to take between 11 and 26 furlough days during the upcoming year based on a sliding scale of annual salary levels. In a letter addressed to UC staff members, Yudof said that the plan, although uncomfortable, would alleviate a significant portion of the systemwide $813 million budget deficit.

“As you know, the furlough plan is part of an overall strategy, built on a central principle of shared sacrifice, to address our fiscal challenges,” Yudof said. “The furlough plan is expected to solve roughly 25 percent of our budget problem.”

According to UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, the fiscal emergency plan combined with catastrophic budget cuts is of great concern. The University’s dire financial state could fundamentally alter the institution, Yang said.

“I am deeply concerned about the unprecedented sacrifices that members of our UCSB family are being asked to make,” Yang said in an e-mail. “With the magnitude and suddenness of this painful cut, our ability to fulfill our mission in teaching, research and public service, and to contribute as an innovator and economic engine for California, will no longer be the same as before.”

According to UC spokesperson Leslie Sepuka, employee hires will drop significantly. She also noted that retaining employees has been challenging systemwide.

“Each campus has an individual budget approach,” Sepuka said. “Specifically, most campuses are deferring at least 50 percent of planned faculty hires. Already, 724 campus staff members have been laid off systemwide, with more expected. In advance of these cuts, the UC Office of the President already had cut annual costs by $67 million and reduced payroll by one-third.”

In addition to adopting the fiscal emergency plan, Chairman Russell Gould and President Yudof revealed plans to create a Commission on the Future of UC, which would closely scrutinize each of the 10 campuses with a critical eye for their futures.

This committee, Gould said in a press release, would work to preserve the standards of excellence within the UC system, despite harsh financial realities.

“We need to act now to ensure that, through the state’s budget crisis and long-term pattern of disinvestment, we don’t sacrifice one shred of quality of this university system,” Gould said. “We can do this. We are the very same people who create knowledge and innovation, and we intend to apply the same ingenuity and determination to shaping the future of this university.”

UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said the Regents had the best interest of all students and employees of the University in mind when they decided how to cope with budget cuts.

To help ensure the UC’s bright history in the shadow of economic failure, Yang said a statewide collaboration is necessary.

“In the months ahead, we will be working closely with our faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters, as well as our representatives in Sacramento,” Yang said. “Together we will do everything we can to protect the quality and diversity of our teaching and research programs, as well as access and affordability for our students.”