University of California President Mark G. Yudof sat down for a talk with reporters from various UC student newspapers this Saturday to discuss the obstacles confronting the university.

Approximately 10 reporters from southern UC campuses joined Yudof and UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake in an informal question-and-answer session held at UCI. During the conference, Yudof discussed issues ranging from financial aid and worker compensation to his own salary.

Prior to Yudof’s arrival, a swarm of protesters confronted UC delegates but were unable to locate President Yudof, who was spirited to a press conference room in an undisclosed location for security reasons. After failing to give Yudof the greeting they planned, the protesters — a group of service workers and students — disbanded shortly after.

Aside from the service workers, Yudof said he realizes that faculty members are also upset about their pay cuts and restrictions on furlough days, but he doesn’t endorse faculty taking furloughs on educational days.

“I’m not one to criticize their first amendment right,” Yudof said. “[But] it’s not fair to students. How do you ask people to pay more for their education and have fewer teaching days? I felt that for the administration to enforce it was a mistake.”

In a preemptive nod to the protesting service workers, Yudof said that UC service workers have some of the best employment in the state because they received a four percent pay increase this year and have 97 percent of their health care costs paid by the University.

Meanwhile, Yudof likened the state’s financial downturn to the Great Depression, which he said is marked by foreclosures and a staggering 12 percent unemployment rate.

In order to alleviate the financial burden imposed on the UC by the state, Yudof said the University’s budget had to be cut by 20 percent last year.

“We’ve laid-off 2,000 people,” Yudof said. “We’ve had furloughs for the faculty and for the staff. We have hiring freezes on faculty. We are loaning the state money, in fact. … They’re not even giving us our state funding on time.”

In fact, Yudof said, the University has only half as much money as it did 20 years ago.

“In 1990-91, in current dollars — that means inflation adjusted — we had $15,860 to spend on every student on our campus,” Yudof said. “That was 20 years ago roughly. And today, under the budget that was just approved by the legislature and the governor in May, we have $7,730. This is our problem.”

Despite all the drawbacks, Yudof said the UC has managed to preserve Cal Grants and plans to significantly raise the maximum household income that is required for students to qualify for the Blue and Gold Program in 2011 to $60,000.

When asked about a New York Times interview that claimed his salary is almost twice as much as that of the president of the United States, Yudof countered with details of his own pay cut.

“I cut my salary by 10 percent,” Yudof said. “I already did my gesture. … Even before everyone else got a pay cut, the UC Office of the President had cuts in June and in September. How many gestures do you want?”

Moreover, Yudof said, the clamor for further administrative cuts is misguided. According to Yudof, the UC needs an additional $1 billion dollars in the short run and $2 billion a year in the next five years for the UC to remain stable.

“And if I cut out all the administrators?” Yudof said. “I mean, who would make oppressive decisions if I didn’t have a chancellor here? … If you didn’t have Mark Yudof and you had Mary Smith or John Jones, you still have the same problem.”