A protester outside the meeting speaks to the media about impending furloughs and pay cuts. Photo by Jenny Cain.
A protester outside the meeting speaks to the media about impending furloughs and pay cuts. Photo by Jenny Cain.

As hundreds of people rallied outside a meeting of the Board of Regents of the University of California, held July 14-16 at the UCSF Mission Bay Community Center, a university worker inside, opposing the pay-cuts proposed at the meeting, publicly condemned the salary of UC President Mark Yudof.

“You’re making twice as much as the President of the United States,” the man said as he raised his voice and eyed Yudof, who simply shook his head from left to right. “Show me the books,” he began to chant in reference to the regents’ transparency in accounting.

Despite opposition from various groups and individuals, including regent and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, the board approved a plan that will require each member of the 180,000 UC workforce to take between 11-24 unpaid days, off depending on salary level.

If the plan is also approved by labor unions in contract with the university, top earners making over $240,000 could expect to see the largest salary reduction, while those making under $40,000 could expect to see the smallest. Overall, employees could see a 4-10 percent pay reduction for twelve months, starting Sept. 1 2009.

Senior management-level employees, however, would be limited to ten furlough days regardless of salary. And all positions funded by research grants would be excluded from furloughs.

“I disagree with the ‘open the books’ statement. You have our audited statements online,” Yudof replied to those hinting at a lack of precision and openness in the budget process.

The furlough plan came as Gov. Schwarzenegger attempts to close the $24 billion dollar deficit by reducing future expenses, including the expense of higher education. The University of California budget currently faces $813 million in cuts for the upcoming fiscal year. One quarter of that is meant to be absorbed by increased student fees. The furlough plan is supposed to offset another quarter of the $813 million. Administrative cost controls and cuts spread across all 10 UC campuses is supposed to offset the rest.

Yudof said that “the plan is fair,” but many opposed to the resulting pay-cuts induced by the impending furlough plan say that senior administration wages are too high and disproportional to other salaries.

But in a separate press conference, Yudof defended UC administrators’ salaries, saying that some senior executives are underpaid.

“The truth is, our faculty’s underpaid by 15 to 20 percent,” Yudof said. “Many of our staff are at market; some are as much as 10 percent below market. But the chancellors are 33 percent below market.”

At the meeting several chancellors, including UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal, expressed concern that the cuts might affect their ability to retain and recruit high-end professors.

“While I reluctantly support the need for pay reductions, these actions make our campus, our university and our state vulnerable to a rapid brain drain,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal also spoke about UCSC’s elimination of 55 faculty positions and 160 administrative positions. He explained that fewer teachers mean fewer courses available.

“For some students this means a longer time till graduation,” Blumenthal explained. “We understand at Santa Cruz that everyone must share in the pain and contribute to the solution but we will not compromise on UCSC’s mission to be a leading public research university.”

When Yudof introduced the furlough plan he dubbed it “flexible” as university employees will get to choose what days they take off. He also said that furloughs will have less impact than lay-offs.

Lt. Gov. Garamendi, the only regent who voted against implementing the plan, encouraged fellow regents and chancellors to look for new ways to generate revenue. He specifically pressed them to support AB 656, a proposed bill that would tax oil companies and generate an estimated $1 billion, all of which would be directed toward universities and colleges in California.

Regent Bonnie Reiss agreed with Garamendi that a tax on oil or gas was a possible solution.

“This is a revenue problem,” Reiss said. “We need to keep reminding elected leaders to support the public.”