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Yudof Defends the Budget Cuts

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<strong>SCOTT ROEDER |</strong> Staff Photographer<br>President Mark Yudof faces questions from UC student media about lay-offs, furloughs and fee increases.
SCOTT ROEDER | Staff Photographer
President Mark Yudof faces questions from UC student media about lay-offs, furloughs and fee increases.

The student media of UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside and UC Irvine participated in a group interview with President Yudof on Sat. Oct. 3. Both Chancellor Drake and Yudof were available to answer questions regarding the financial crisis and the resulting cuts.

Yudof: I know this is a very tough time for students. We have substantial fee increases that we discussed in September and we are going to have a vote of the board in November at our meeting. This is the most difficult period in California since the Great Depression. This is a situation where we have foreclosures and 12 percent unemployment. Our budget was cut almost 20 percent in one year. In fact, the cuts happened so quickly that we had to issue commercial paper. Otherwise we would have had to cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of the 2008-2009 budget in three weeks, which was impossible.

We had to do a lot of things that I did not like. We have laid off 2,000 people. In the ‘08-‘09 school year, we laid off 1,000 and we are going to lay off 1,000 more this year. We have had furloughs for the faculty and staff, we had hiring freezes on faculty we are loaning the state money because they are giving us slow pay. They are not even giving us our state funding on time. They are delaying the payments due to us so we have to cover for it. The one good piece of news is that we had an avalanche of activity and that we were able to preserve the Cal Grants, which was my number one legislative priority. This is a very hard time and the way I view it, our situation is unfortunately a lose-lose for students. We either raise fees so that you can have reasonably sized classes and get access to the courses you need, or we watch this institution deteriorate.

We are running out of options. This is the story of my life; it has been downhill all the way. But from 1990-1991, in current dollars, we had $15,860 to spend on every student on our campus. That was 20 years ago.  Today under the budget that was just approved by the legislature and the governor in May, we have $7,730. We have half as much money to spend on students. This $800 million cut was just like icing on a bad cake.

That is the problem we face and you might wonder, “well who cares about that?” Well you should care because we are a great university with great quality educational programs. If we do not have enough people to provide student services and if the best professors begin to leave, we cannot maintain the physical plant and we cannot have modern laboratories. This means big, big trouble. This is the situation that we confront today.

We have what is called the Blue and Gold Program. It is this: if your family income is under $60,000 and if you have financial need, meaning that you do not have a $5 million trust-fund or something such as a 10,000-acre ranch, you can attend the University of California for free. You do not pay registration fee or the education fee. What’s more, you will get money toward your living expenses and this guarantees that you will never pay 10 cents. If the board adopts the fee proposals in November, this is still the case. This will help because $60,000 is about the average family income in this state. We are going to raise it significantly to protect more families in 2011.

In 2008 the fees were $7,100  and in 2009, they are almost $8,400. In 2010, they will be roughly $10,000. You can see that the families that are hit the hardest are the families that can afford it the most. The families above the $180,000 mark in income have their fees go from roughly $6500 to almost the full $10,000.

You have a university that enrolls 31 percent  of low-income kids and which is simultaneously one of the great research universities in the world. It would not take much to make this a mediocre place. All it takes is some key professors to leave. Remember, I’ve cut their salaries around 5 – 10 percent this year. And all it will take is your inability to get your degree in a timely fashion, or for the student services to fall. So to me, the challenge is to not accept mediocrity for the University of California. I am not going to do it. I hate raising fees. I think it is horrible that we are going to lay off 2,000 people. I think it is horrible that our faculty and staff are taking furloughs. But we are living in a very difficult time. If you did not have Mark Yudof and you had Mary Smith or John Jones, you would still have the same problem.

Q: Would you keep all campuses?

I envision keeping all the campuses. I thought it was outrageous when some faculty members advocated the shutdown of Merced. It just doesn’t save enough money and it does a disservice to the tens of thousands of students who attend those institutions.

Q: What would happen if we settled for less competitive candidates and retained competitive executives?

The first lie is that the executives have been giving raises. The Office of the President is getting paid 10 percent less. Second, if you didn’t have me, we wouldn’t be able to save enough money to balance this budget. Third, most of the people paid over $200,000 are physicians. Fourth, we’re not competitive. Our chancellors are 40 percent below market. Fifth, someone needs to run these operations. The fantasy is that you have overpaid executives and if you stopped them you wouldn’t have to raise fees or you wouldn’t have to have furloughs.

Q: In the NY Times interview when your salary was compared to the President of the United States, I understand that you were facetious but would you like to comment?

I had a zany interviewer and I gave her zany answers. Do you know how much your dermatologist is paid, or how much your surgeon is paid, or how much your internist is paid? They’re all paid more than the president of the United States. It’s a very different sort of job. Take a look at the president’s salary of Michigan, take a look at Virginia, and you decide if I’m overpaid.

Q: What did you mean when you said that being President of the UC is like being a manager of a cemetery?

It was a joke.

Q: Can you explain it?

Sometimes I feel like I’m telling people what to do and they aren’t listening. The powers of a president are very indirect. You can’t do anything without the support of the chancellors, the faculty and the students.

Q: Would you be willing to accept a lower salary, maybe as a gesture?

I cut my salary 10 percent.

Q: Lower than it is now as a gesture?

I’ll consider anything. I’ve already done two gestures. We actually took a pay cut before everybody else. I took another pay cut in September. How many gestures do you want?

Q: Where do you see the UC in 5 to 15 years?

I’m hoping to be able to come up with a plan to hold down fee increases so we’ll become more accessible. I want to maintain the number of low-income students, which makes us the school of opportunity. I’m hoping we’ll be more diverse. I’d like to be bigger. I see us as the preeminent public research university.

Q: Since you’re so optimistic about our future, do you see these increases as temporary or do you anticipate them to be relatively steady in the future?

It would be a thrill if the state would live up to its responsibility and allow us to reduce fees. Realistically, what I’m hoping to do is to slow the rate of increase beyond 2011.