Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.
Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

The UC Santa Cruz Academic Senate held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine when UCSC faculty can take furlough days. The meeting was called to discuss many of the concerns that prompted the UC-wide walkout of Sept. 24, such as furloughs, budgetary transparency and the ultimate direction of the University of California.

Progress was made in discussing both sides of the issue, but a vote will not take place until the next Academic Senate meeting on Oct. 28.

The most recent meeting came in the wake of controversy about whether faculty’s furlough days, or unpaid days off, should be taken on instructional days. If furlough days were to be taken on instructional days, the education of students may be jeopardized while the prices of tuition and fees continue to increase.

Some faculty argued that taking instructional days off is important to make budget cuts visible, and thereby prompt solutions.

Ten Senate faculty members called the emergency meeting as a place to discuss the urgent issues facing UCSC, and the UCs in general.

Sociology Professor Craig Reinarman, who serves on the Graduate Council — one of multiple faculty committees included in the Academic Senate — initiated the emergency meeting.

“Our request was prompted by the crisis, but also many of us had mixed feelings about the walkout on the first day,” Reinarman said. “We weren’t so sure that the best results would be achieved without any discussion or planning.”

Reinarman hoped that the meeting would be a place for faculty to share their thoughts and organize their positions on the changes at UC.

Environmental Studies Professor Brent Haddad serves as chair of the Planning and Budget Committee. He had yet to solidify his opinions about when furloughs should be taken at the beginning of the meeting.

“I still want to hear the arguments,” Haddad said.

The UCSC Academic Council is a legislative body of faculty that shares governance with the administration and usually meets once a month. Following the regents’ announcement in July of a furlough program, the Council unanimously voted that furloughs should affect instructional days, to show that budget cuts do have a negative impact on the University.

In August, Interim Provost and Executive Vice-President of Academic Affairs Lawrence H. Pitts countered in an open letter to faculty that furlough days should not fall on instructional days.

The walkout of Sept. 24 was in response to this issue, among others. Reinarman felt that because the walkout took place on a day that was already chaotic, many faculty had not yet had a chance to discuss the issues at hand.

Many who spoke at the Senate meeting felt that Pitts’ edict from the Office of the President violated the principle of shared governance. Under this principle, the Academic Senate usually oversees academic matters, and the administration governs finances and organization. Faculty members felt that since furloughs affect teaching and research, they should fall under the purview of the Senate.

In a student media interview on Oct. 19, UC President Mark Yudof said his biggest mistake during his term was not participating with faculty in discussions about when to take furlough days. He supported the Office of the President’s final decision, however, saying that taking days off instruction would hurt students.

After much debate and several amendments, the Senate passed the resolution on Wednesday, saying that they will determine when UCSC faculty can take furloughs. They also passed a resolution stating that UCSC faculty cannot be required to police or record when their colleagues take their furlough days, and cannot be required to use that information for any merit review.

Other issues brought up at the meeting included whether new and underpaid faculty and staff should be protected from cuts, whether the Senate should formally rebuke UC President Yudof, and whether certain furlough days should be designated as “reading days” for students.

Two additional resolutions were on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting but had to be put on hold. The first was a resolution asking for more fiscal transparency from the Office of the President. The second was a resolution that the UCSC administration should continue to bargain in good faith with the faculty union. They will be addressed at the next regular Senate meeting this coming Wednesday.

Alex De Arana-Lemich, who sits on the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid of the UCSC Student Academic Senate, had mixed views of when faculty should take days off.

“From an educational point of view, as a student, I disagree with [taking instructional days off], but from the staff’s point of view it’s understandable,” he said.

As far as the outcome of the resolutions, De Arana-Lemich was pensive.

“The meeting accomplished something,” he said. “But the effect of it remains to be seen.”