Chancellor Town Hall Meeting

During his quarterly town hall meeting on June 5, Chancellor White presented an overview of the current state of UCR, investments toward UC institutions and accompanying initiatives in the area of social reform. Chancellor White opened his meeting, which took place in the University Theater, by recognizing faculty achievements and the graduating class of 2012, consisting of over 5,000 undergraduates. The chancellor maintained a solemn tone in regards to UCR’s future financial prospects, but kept some measure of positivity during updates on the UCR School of Medicine, UC Path, and the Task Force on Speech and Assembly.

If Jerry Brown’s November budget does not pass, the worst-case scenarios would lead to a 20 percent tuition mid-year increase of $250 million in addition to an expected 6 percent tuition hike for the upcoming term. “People have gone beyond believing that we haven’t enough money…to realizing that the core strength of California is shattered and we have to fight back as a university,” stated Chancellor White, who stressed the need for continued political action in support of higher education, due to immense reductions in academic resources, programs and staff.

UCR currently ranks 29th in the country in terms of future earning potential, according to the 2011-2012 Payscale report on salary potential. During the meeting, Chancellor White stressed the value of higher education, stating that college graduates have increased their lifetime earning potential by more than a million dollars by obtaining a bachelor’s degree, while also recognizing a 15 percent rise in undergraduates for fall 2012.

The chancellor also referred to notable individuals such as Professor of Creative Writing Juan Felipe Herrera who earned the title of California Poet Laureate, and Professor Chandra Varma, who remain one of the few individuals to obtain the 2012 Bardeen Prize twice in the field of physics.

Initial investments for the UCR School of Medicine were presented along with an outline in terms of accreditation and approval of funds. The medical school had been denied preliminary accreditation in 2011 due to the lack of sufficient financial support from the state. Despite the shriveled state funding, size reduction of the medical school has allowed the university to garner 100 million dollars over the next 10 years through UCOP with investments from affiliated hospitals, Riverside County and community sponsorship. Backed by a $30 million line of credit for additional resources, the medical school is predicted to receive nationally-recognized accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) and staff recruitment will be initiated during fall of 2012. If accreditation is approved, the fall class of 2013 will be able to compete for state funds, which will create sustainable training and pipeline programs.

The Task Force on Speech and Assembly meeting held on June 4, and conducted by Chancellor White, brought forth the need to create a “syllabus model of education.” The main documents covered during the meeting were the UC Davis Reynoso report, the Robinson/Edley report and various statements from other UC campuses in the instances of protest. The Reynoso report dealt with the freedom of speech within the First Amendment and responses to protesters’ behaviors. Also, the Robinson/Edley report offered suggestions to managing protests in an unplanned scenario, while encompassing a possible application for protest guidelines throughout the UC system. White focused on the themes of transparency and accountability, while expressing that no new policies would be implemented without widespread dialogue throughout the campus and the community.

As part of the UC’s “Working Smarter” Initiative, Chancellor White continued to outline UC Path, a payroll center which will process financial transactions related to payroll, benefits, leave management and workforce administration for all UC institutions. The newly implemented payroll system will create 600 knowledge-sector jobs in Riverside and increase UCR’s yearly economic impact on the state, which currently totals $1.4 billion. Current staff recruitment will begin fall 2012, yet expected integration of the 10 UC campuses and five medical centers will begin in July 2013.

Chancellor White spoke of future prospects for the School of Public Policy, in which a “closing window” threatens to delay further progress. Previous approval had been obtained by the Board of Regents back in 2008, yet plans were halted due to the economic crisis in California, which resulted from the housing market crash, falling employment and decline in GDP growth. Once established, an additional 180 professional graduate students are expected to enroll in the School of Public Policy. Further initiatives for the UC Global Health Initiative in conjunction with UC Berkeley and UC Merced have established the One Health Center and Global Poverty and Practice, in which the chancellor has illustrated as an “academic intersection among a lot of related moving parts.”

The chancellor referred to a New York Times article in which he was quoted and emphasized the detrimental nature in which budget cuts have had upon the reputational value of each UC campus. “We’ve absorbed a $50 million budget cut last year, part of the $750 million in state funds that came across the system and that cut is on top of those mandatory costs…so there’s a lot of investment in people on top of the cuts,” stated Chancellor White. If the temporary tax increase fails to pass in November, the UC will face further cuts in state funding causing what Chancellor White referred to as “irreparable harm” to UCR.

“Here on our campus we already have the lowest ratio of management personnel to teaching faculty among any of the 10 campuses and we have the second lowest ratio of professional support staff to faculty and to student headcount,” stated White. An accumulation of over 3,000 students within the last three years, 30 percent increases for both lower division and upper division class sizes, along with the loss of 29 faculty members has created an unsustainable model, driving many to early retirement or alternative forms of employment. “Back in 2008-09, a basic physics class had about 100 students. Today it has almost 600 students; it’s hardly a place for a lot of opportunity for discourse,” said White.

An expected 6 percent tuition increase has been automatically calculated for the upcoming year, if a state buyout does not occur. The 2012-13 UC Budget has been predicted to have a $97 million dollar shortfall, leading to additional programmatic cutbacks, delays in faculty employment, and reduction in classes offered. “If this trigger cut hits us, then we’re looking at a 20 percent tuition increase mid-year in order to partially compensate to the massive loss of funds to the university,” stated Chancellor White in reference to an additional $250 million mid-year reduction if the November tax initiative fails to pass. First-year learning communities will be at risk next year due to the costly nature of maintaining the program and advising has dwindled down to just one per 750 undeclared students.

In a long-term funding approach, a return of $300 million a year is expected within the next five years with the assumption of extensive control of mandatory costs, refinancing lease revenue bond debt and returning investments to the state general funds. Chancellor White called to attention the lack of political will among political actors to make the necessary changes for the greater good. A discussion arose over the question: “Is education a private benefit or public good? To me it’s both and, given that context, we are fighting for our life in public education today.” Chancellor White spoke of the previous efforts to contact legislators in support of higher education in which over 4,000 emails caused the servers to go offline in Governor Brown’s office. In retrospect, further calls to action have halted further cuts in sparing a crippled UC system.

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