By Gillian Vickers
Campus News Reporter

For what was called an “open discussion,” very few topics were actually discussed.

In a whirlwind tour of UC Santa Cruz, Lynda Brewer and Bill Johansen, staff advisors to the Board of Regents, met with staff members to introduce themselves and explain their role in the UC system. The Staff Advisor to the Regents position was created by the Board of Regents in 2007 to increase communication between the board and UC staff.

“We allow a vehicle to communicate to the regents,” Johansen said. “We want to hear from you.”

Brewer and Johansen serve as staff advisors in addition to their positions within the University of California. At UC Irvine, Brewer is the assistant director of capital finance, while Johansen works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as senior business manager of the Life Sciences Division. Both Brewer and Johansen have many years of experience working with the Council of UC Staff Assemblies.

According to the event’s electronic invite on the UCSC website, the event was supposed to be an “open discussion … [which will give] plenty of opportunity for UCSC staff to ask questions or voice concerns.”

However, after the 45-minute presentation, when Brewer opened the floor to discussion, the small crowd of 13 staff members was hesitant to speak.

“What, are there no problems here?” Brewer asked jokingly. “Well, that’s great.”

Finally Claudia Parrish, a program coordinator for Services for Transfer and Re-Entry Students (STARS), brought up the issue on many staff members’ minds: their salaries.

“If you’re not getting an annual salary increase, you’re essentially getting a pay cut because of inflation,” Parrish said.

“Ten to 15 years ago [UC] used to be a really great place to work,” Parrish said later in an interview with City on a Hill Press (CHP). “And that’s not true anymore — because of wages.”

Brewer assured Parrish of her efforts to convince the Regents to prioritize staff salaries.

“I’m worried about getting nicknamed ‘the staff-salary lady,’” Brewer said. “But if [the regents] need to get hammered over the head with it, they need to get hammered over the head.”

Staff salaries and employee compensation, Brewer said, aren’t discussed enough.

“It’s like not talking about the elephant in the room,” she said.

Yet staff failed to discuss the biggest pachyderm of all: new UC President Mark Yudof’s $828,000 compensation package.

“I wanted to ask about [Yudof’s] salary, but I guess their lunch was more important,” one staff member told CHP on the condition of anonymity.

Staff advisors were escorted to their lunch five minutes before the scheduled end time of 1:15 p.m.

“I’m surprised there wasn’t more attendance,” said Judy Scarborough, a resource analyst for Academic Human Resources. “Last year this room was full.”

Scarborough attributed the low attendance to a lack of advertising. Despite the forum’s low attendance, many said that the staff advisor position was much-needed.

“Before [there was] no staff engagement with what’s going on with the regents,” said Eric Grabiel, chair of the Staff Advisory Board at UCSC.

Johansen explained that the regents unanimously approved the position in 2007 after the pilot program. “The regents didn’t know what they were missing until they saw it.”