Monday, November 30, 2009

UC Irvine libraries try to protect students' access from being limited further despite a 14 percent budget cut.

by Line Eichner Knudsen Elliott

It is early afternoon, and the Gateway Study Center across from the Langson Library is packed with students. A hum of computers, clicking keys, and crackling paper creates a din of concentrated studying, a bubble of quiet intensity that is shielded from the noisy campus life, which continues on the other side of the center’s tinted glass doors. Students lower their voices to a near-whisper if conversation is absolutely necessary, but most have their heads bent over the tasks before them. There are assignments to complete, papers to turn in, finals to prepare for, and yet, just a few weeks ago, the study area was closed until 6 p.m., and students were forced to take their homework elsewhere.

As budget cuts are implemented across the UC system, libraries are among the facilities cutting costs in order to continue services to students.

The UCI libraries, consisting of Jack Langson Library, the Science Library, and Grunigen Medical Library off campus, share one budget and decision making in this sphere affect all three, while the newly opened Law Library and the Media Art Center, specialized in their fields and open only to students in select programs, are run separately and on much smaller amounts of money. What all of them have in common is a decline in the services that are available to students.

According to Mitchell C. Brown, Research Librarian and Unit Head for the Reference Department at the Science Library, the library budget is allotted by the UCOP. In the past, the UCI libraries were given extra funds because the campus was considered a growth campus, a campus that continues to add students, but this year those extra funds were no longer available.
It is the first year the UCI libraries have experienced a permanent cut, which means limitations in terms of the amount of money they have received, but they also cannot expect that the money will be forthcoming next year.

According to Brown, cuts were about $4 million out of a budget of roughly $28 millions for the school year 2009-2010. The largest part of this money goes to salaries, about 35 percent, another 32 percent is allocated the materials budget and 12 percent go to operating costs.

“Personnel cost is always the most expensive part of any organization,” Brown said. “And it is really where your intellectual capital is. So with a $4 million cut we don’t want to get rid of people.”

So far the libraries have avoided actually firing any employees, but they have experienced a serious reduction in the number of student workers. The libraries used to be the largest employer of students on campus, but that is no longer the case.

The most obvious changes so far concern opening hours. Grunigen Medical Library has cut hours from 88 hours a week in March to 73 hours in November. Langson and the Science Library have cut hours from 99.5 hours a week in March to 65 in the beginning of this quarter, but they have recently raised that number to 77 hours a week through the week of finals.

“The hours were cut earlier on because we just didn’t have enough money,” Brown said. “The hours were extended for the Gateway, and that money came from the fact that we had one or two people who left the university entirely. Now we had money from salary savings, and the Gateway got extended. Going into the spring I think some of the hours are still going to be reduced. We are looking for money to be able to cover that, and I don’t think it’s going to change, but it could.”

Still, the cuts in hours are no doubt making it harder for those students who prefer the calm environment of a library to get their research and studying done. One library supervisor, who prefers not to give his name, observed that Langson recently saw a rise in students during the day when the Gateway Study Center was closed, but as these hours have been extended, things are back to normal.

Kelsey Wong, 20, Nursing Science, said: “The cutback of hours is the only thing I’ve noticed. I come here a lot. It is pretty much my main place to study. I heard they are not having the libraries open 24 hours for finals week this year, and that is going to suck… A lot! If I study at my apartment, my roommate will come in every ten minutes and interrupt so I don’t know how that’s going to work out.”

Though there does not seem to be many complaints among students about loss of other services in the library system, reductions in funds have necessitated additional cuts as well. For example, they have switched from being available in both electronic and print journals, to just electronic journals, but luckily the electronic sources seem to work for people. This way information may be accessed even if the building is not open. They have also had to place a hold on purchasing books.

Brown said: “We haven’t been buying as many books in the first part of this fiscal year, so that’s July through this month. We’ve been receiving books automatically, but we haven’t been purchasing as much as we have in previous years so we saved about 30% potential cost on that. We’re just waiting until the budget is balanced on our end before we do a bunch of purchasing.”

Another cost saving area has been cuts to certain databases after it was discovered that some of the information was available in several places. Some subscriptions, for example, are shared with all 10 UC campuses, but were also available as exclusively UCI resources. The libraries were thus, in this instance, able to reduce costs without actually losing services.

In this regard, the libraries are furthermore trying to understand how they can potentially share more things between all campuses within the UC system. However, it does not solve the overreaching problem.

“We’re hoping sharing will work for some materials,” Brown said, “but ultimately it comes to a point where you can’t necessarily share. Some things everybody needs.”
So far, the libraries have tried to avoid serious cuts by looking ahead and planning for cuts that seemed inevitable. According to Brown, the savings implemented this year are probably only about of what is needed, and a ten percent cut in the materials budget will most likely be needed.

“We are also looking at next years financial outlook,” Brown said. “It does not look that good either so we might actually have to do some cuts. We’re actually going to feel bad next year. But we are in the process right now of planning for that.”

He believes that the libraries will soon enter the much trickier process of eliminating areas that people really want to keep. Until now, the libraries have made cuts only to areas which could be covered up to some extent, but the focus has shifted to try to cover only what is needed right now.

“People,” he said, “must realize that they might not have everything that they would like in the future. We will have to deal with that when we get to it. Right now we have to try to build a system that will work regardless of what comes down the road.”

Another issue that the UCI libraries will soon have to deal with is how to make up for the hiring freeze. This year several library employees have left the staff permanently, and there are no one to replace them.

“We actually projected this out,” Brown said. “There is a point where we simply do not have enough people to do certain things and that’s going to be a problem. If we continue to lose people we may not be able to function.”

One such example is the print journal section on the second floor of the Langson Library. Keeping the journals in order takes about three hours a day, work that used to be done by student workers. Now it is up to regular staff to sort the journals, but several days in November, the job went undone because some of the staff was out sick and there simply were not resources to cover for it.

“If it’s something we cannot do on a regular basis, people are going to start to notice,” Brown said. “You might say, ‘Well it’s just a journal, how important could that be?’ But when you are looking for it and it’s something to do with your homework, that’s one of those areas – if you can’t find it - where you start running into problems.”

But while Langson, Science, and Grunigen are by far the biggest collections in the UCI system, there are much smaller programs trying to keep up with the budget cuts as well. At the Arts Media Center (AMC), Ross Whitney, Director of AMC, is getting by on a modest budget of just $17,000.

“We get our budget from the School of the Arts,” Whitney said. And it is not much at all. Santa Monica City College spends that much on acquisitions alone. So that is our entire budget for staff and acquisitions, and other little things like phones and utilities.”

Because of such limited funds, the AMC resources, which include CDs, DVDs, videos, instruments, computer and recording equipment, and expensive software, are only available to students in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.

According to Whitney, the biggest effect of the budget cuts is on equipment right now. This year the classes required new computers because the lab was filling up and some of the older ones did not support the most recent music software, and that money came out of the operating budget. This has never before been the case. And while a photocopier is really much higher on Whitney’s wish list, students come first.

“We’ve never had to buy computers before,” Whitney said. “Because we just don’t get an operating budget that can afford to purchase new computers every three years. But classes come first so we had to buy those computers. It is ridiculous that we had to buy them. It’s supposed to come out of the technology fund, always has, but obviously the budget cuts are real, there are less money, people are competing for it.”

The AMC has not escaped cuts in hours either, and just like the UC libraries, it is evening and weekend hours that are hit the hardest. Some weekends the AMC are not open at all.

An AMC student who wants to be known as GhostDogZ, 23, Studio Art, said: “The primary concern is scheduling conflicts. Considering we have classes to go to throughout the day, free time would be evening and nighttime. The fact that you cut an hour at night gives us less of a chance to work. So you have all this free time on your hands, but no access to the facilities you need.”

Student access is particularly important because it gives them access to more features and software than they would normally be able to afford, like Pro Tools, editing programs, and MuLab.

Part of AMC’s problem is that most of the things it needs are very expensive. When a voice lesson DVD went missing, Whitney did not have the $600 to replace it. The subscription for the $300-400 encyclopedias of world music has been discontinued. And Whitney decided to personally donate copies of Final Cut Pro and Shake.

Still, the most important thing for Whitney is being open for student access to computers and to materials. Because of the size of AMC’s collection materials, it only checks out to graduate students and faculty, but not to undergraduate students or the public. It is more of a research library, and as such, its services are pretty limited.

“That is not crucial for us as long as we are open for students access,” Whitney said. “I am still able to acquire things. Our dean was very sympathetic; he supports this facility because he uses it for his classes. So we’re hurting, but we’re surviving fine. We’ll be ok. It’s like living off of two meals a day instead of three.”

The Law Library, also located on the UCI campus, in is a similar situation to the AMC. Separate from the other libraries, the Law Library operate on a much smaller budget, and is open only to faculty and students in the law program. But unlike the AMC, which has been around since 1992, the Law Library opened on August 24th this year.

According to Sheila Fortman, Administrative Coordinator of the Law Library, the timing of the budget crisis does not favor the new library. Despite being one of the smallest law libraries in the nation, they are only able to expand their core collection at this time, and then only what is needed for the law school.

Staffing has also become an instant issue. The library cannot afford as many people as they would like to stay open, so hours have been cut before they were ever put in effect. Three students help out a total of 20 hours a week, during evenings and weekends, but even then, the Law Library is only just able to keep its doors open.

“It is hard because we are so new, we don’t really know yet what will happen,” Fortman said. “We would like to be open more hours and help more students and have more research librarians, but we just don’t have the staff for that.”

Next year the UCI libraries are expecting further cuts. It may get worse for them, but Brown is hopeful that that will not be the case. A lot of this year’s budget cuts were absorbed by areas that could get cut without greatly affecting any one program or group, but next year the libraries will not have not these areas to cut. They are depleted and cut down to their core.

So where will the money come from? Tough decisions will have to be made, decisions that, in Brown’s opinion, no one is likely to be particularly happy with. The hope is that it might be just a flat spot in funding levels that will get better at some point, but the reality is it could be bad for a while.

“You make a choice between two bad options,” he said, “and you try to do it without doing something that is devastating. So what we are trying to do is get to a point where things does not get any worse, at least it’s stable, and we’re able to protect the areas that people are using.”

For library hours go to:
For AMC hours go to:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

People power – a key driving force in the future of the UC

by Apphia Freeman

Student activism at UCI hit a new peak on November 24 when some 300 plus students gathered in front of the administration building on campus, protesting the budget cuts which have affected almost every facet of the university. The most recent blow came during the November 17-19 Regents meeting at UCLA, in which the vote on the 32% UC tuition hike passed. This was a major catalyst for the November 24 protest, which was probably one of the most energetic rallies the relatively quiet campus of UC Irvine has seen so far. This climax in student protesting was preceded by a number of stop and start efforts to prod students into action, beginning with the UC-wide walkout of September 24.

The walkout, on the first day of official instruction of the Fall 2009 quarter, had support from faculty, some of whom cancelled classes so students could participate. The scene at about 10am was still a pretty quiet one, with some union members out by the tables set up at the flagpoles, but with no major protesting yet. According to the New University, activity soon picked up, with people beginning to “congregate and march in a circle on Ring Road” near the flagpoles prior to the noon rally. Faculty, students, groundskeepers and union members joined in the picketing, and they gathered on the flagpole steps at noon to listen to numerous speakers – including graduate students, union representatives, and faculty – speak out against the cuts. The number of participants that day was a point of contention – the New University article reported about 500 people – which its writer termed a “guesstimate” of the total number of people throughout the length of the event. The OC Register reported that “comparatively few students” joined about “150 union workers and supporters” at the rally, which it generally portrayed as more “low-key,” with few protest signs and few participating professors. Whatever the number, the walkout was to kick-off a quarter of much increased activism on campus.

The teach-in on the budget cuts, held at UC Irvine on October 14, was one of the first motions to try to educate and mobilize the faculty and students of the campus. Organized by Defend UCI – a group made up of students, faculty, staff, and workers who are actively involved in protesting the fee hikes – the teach-in helped to educate the audience on major issues surrounding the budget crisis. The panel was made up of members of faculty – most of which were associate professors – and union representatives. Each of them contributed valuable perspectives on the crisis, based on their field of expertise, and gave pointers on how students, faculty and union members could fight to preserve the standards of the university. There was a lot of audience participation during the Q&A session, in which audience members brought up points for further explanation, or contributed their own viewpoints. Some representatives of political clubs on campus also used this opportunity to make their presence on campus known, and offered their services as organizations that could recruit and rally students to gain support for the cause. This was very much the stance of the Young Democrats Club, whose president was among the audience, and whose attitude was essentially “we’re willing, tell us what to do.”

Ultimately, the teach-in was a much-needed assessment of the situation and of what issues needed to be recognized before the real political strategizing can take place. Horacio Legras – an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Chair of the Spanish & Culture Department, member of Defend UCI, and one of the panel members at the teach-in – emphasized that “action needs to start from a collection of reliable information,” but that in the meantime, “inaction should not be justified.” He stated that “waging a strategic battle will require a comprehensive plan with demands that are backed by a vision.”

It has been well over a month since that first teach-in on October 14, and much has already transpired in terms of actions to educate and rally support for the fight against the budget cuts. Besides the various protests on campus – including the zombie-themed Halloween protest of October 29 organized by Defend UCI – there was also an action-packed 7th and 8th week, with three teach-ins in Week 7 and two more in Week 8. These teach-ins were organized by ASUCI’s Office of the Executive Vice President and the Office of the Student Regent, with the goal of educating the students, writing letters to the Regents, fostering activism, and preparing for the public comment time during Week 8’s Regents Meeting at UCLA.

A rally was also originally organized for Week 8 – on November 17 at 11:30am – at the UCI flagpoles. However, anyone arriving on site at the slated time would have been greeted by an empty turnaround at the flagpoles, save for two or three dispersed pedestrians – no picketers, and no angry yelling mob.

Emmeline Domingo – the Logistics and Press Secretary in the Office of the Student Regent, member of ASUCI, and a student activist involved in organizing the budget-related events of Week 7 and 8 – responded in an email regarding the lack of activity. She apologized for the lack of communication with regards to the rally, and stated that they had started calling it off the week before due to a change in strategy. In lieu of the rally, 12-15 members of Defend UCI – as well as a reporter from CBS – met at 11:45am and walked quietly over to the Administration building to deliver a signed petition to Chancellor Drake. The petition was drafted by Defend UCI, and they had gotten 1,200 signatures for it. Domingo recounts how they actually got up to his office, and the secretary’s response was, “I’ll tell my boss.” They even requested a meeting with the Chancellor, but were not promised anything. Domingo explained that advertising the action would have prevented them from even getting that far, because the police quickly block off the administration building once they catch wind of ensuing confrontation.

Such an action shows that there are many different ways in which faculty and students can make their opinions heard, and goes back to what Professor Legras had said at the teach-in – that “what we do is not inconsequential,” and that “we need to force an opening in order to influence some decisions.” Low-key actions may be just as effective as large, high-profile protests like the UC-wide walkout of 9/24.

Still, it is hard to deny the visual impact of the protests at the UC Regents Meeting, held at UCLA from November 17 – 19 to vote on the 32% tuition hike. These protests marked a climax in terms of the intensity of student activism. I sat down with Emmeline Domingo, who had participated in the protests, to get an insider’s perspective of what went down in response to this unprecedented fee increase.

She described a very promising first day of protests, where everyone was in total solidarity, with the goal to make as much noise as possible so the Regents meeting could not proceed. They went everywhere together so they could make maximum impact with the noise they generated. While the traditional chanting, picketing and protesting was going on, there were also 65 students who were allowed to go in the Regents meeting for public comment, where they had the opportunity, for a minute each, to tell the Regents how they felt, and how the fee increases were going to affect them.

Trouble started when some students’ times for public comment got cut off – 4 students never got the chance to speak – hence inciting the public in the meeting to start chanting and disrupting the meeting. Accused of being an unlawful assembly, 14 were arrested, and ultimately everyone in the room was sent out. When they came back down and told the protesting crowd what had happened, they got angry, and Domingo said that was when things “started getting ugly – people stepped closer to the barricades, and the police freaked out,” responding by pushing the barricades further out, and students got caught in between them. Domingo stated that “people got pushed and shoved by the police and tased.” Despite a number of other disruptions during the meeting, the Regents still ended up passing the fee increase with very little discussion. The vote was unanimous, with the exception of Student Regent Jesse Bernal’s.

John Bruning, a Sociology graduate student and one of those spearheading Defend UCI, participated in an event held that night on the 17th called Crisis Fest, which was basically a tent city, with people camping out in one of the quad areas on UCLA. He states that a lot of students came down from Berkeley & Davis also, camping out so they could be there early the next morning for the protests. There were some workshops and talks, and towards the end of it, around midnight, a group of about 30–50 students took over UCLA’s Campbell Hall at about 12:30am, as reported by the online UCLA Newsroom on November 19. They stayed until 7pm the next evening, according to Bruning. The group that was involved, he notes, was “pretty representative” of all the colleges, with 3 UCs, 2 Cal States, and 1 community college. Although it was a major action, they actually saw very little police intervention.

The second day of protests, Domingo recounts, began much the same way the first day began. Because they had seen the way the police handled the situation the day before, one of the chants was “Put the guns away.” Domingo observed that there was “more police, more backup... (and) a lot more students” as well. Because they were not able to stall the vote on the first day, people were angry. Domingo states that they “were ready for drastic measures – and this created factions.” In contrast to the unification of the first day, now “there were people who wanted to rush the building, people who wanted to march through the school to gather more support, and people who wanted to march into the city.”

Domingo expressed her frustration at the fact that although there were more people the second day, it was “harder for (them) to be a single movement.” She emphasizes that “there is only strength in numbers,” which with regards to the local resistance at UCI, implies the need to involve all levels in the university and the community. Domingo expressed the importance of getting faculty support – and not just from the ones who already advocate for the activist organizations – but from all faculty, by means as simple as offering extra credit to students who participate in the various actions and rallies.

It seems that a lot more could be done in terms of faculty solidarity and support. Professor Legras believes that unity among the departments is essential in making a case for the schools that are feeling the brunt of the budget cuts – needless to say, the Humanities. He stated that the history of the Humanities, not just at UCI but everywhere, has always been one of “big fragmentation.” He emphasized that the hiring of faculty for one department does not mean that another will suffer due to the lack of resources – and that it is “completely suicidal to think that the strength of my department depends on the weakness of yours.” On the contrary, he believes that the existence of any strong department in the Humanities actually improves the prospects of hiring strong faculty or graduate students for his own department, because “the most interesting graduate students and faculty always promote questions that go beyond the limits of their discipline, and you have to provide them with somebody to talk to outside yours.” He gives the example that with regards to attracting graduate students specializing in Latin America, they offer not only the 8-10 professors in that department, but 4 professors from the History department, 1 from Film & Media Studies, 3 from Chicano/Latino studies, and 12 from the Social Sciences – all of whom also specialize in Latin America. So in terms of making a case for the Humanities – to prevent the administration from further cutting back on the Humanities budget – faculty need to recognize that unity is essential in invigorating the department and in attracting the brightest minds. It should be in such solidarity that they can then collaborate to facilitate research and share resources.

On the other hand, solidarity in activism has really taken off on the students’ side. Domingo says that this may be the biggest student movement since the Berkeley 60s – which is significant in light of the fact that apathy is the biggest thing this generation has been known for. While protests were going on at UCLA, other campuses were also taking action – there was a rally at UCI, Berkeley had a 3-day strike, Santa Cruz occupied buildings like Kerr Hall, and Davis tried to but was prevented from doing so by police.

Bruning affirms the belief that we are at the forefront of a significant undergraduate and graduate student movement right now, both at UCI and statewide. He mentions two of the organizations that are most active within Defend UCI – the Radical Student Union, of which he is a member, and the Worker-Student Alliance, which has been very involved with AFSCME and campus workers. Both groups are a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. There are also a number of other groups, like the Black Student Union, which has been playing an increased role in the protests on campus, and who also sent people to UCLA to participate in the protests there.

This surge in student activism seems to be an indicator of a larger, nationwide trend of increased political participation among the younger generation. Bruning describes the solidarity actions that occurred at a number of campuses nationwide around the same time the UCLA protests were going on. One was the banner drops at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign to show solidarity with the UC – big banners that said “Chop from the top,” as reported in the online Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. He describes another action at NYU, in which – as affirmed by an article in the Washington Square News – 2 students got arrested. Bruning adds that the students there are pretty radical, and that activists at UCI have had “a fair amount of contact with them.” There have been 16 occupations in the past two months around the state, one of which was an action with about 60 students occupying the lobby of the UC Office of the President headquarters in Oakland, as reported in the UC Newsroom on the University of California website. There was also a library occupation at Fresno State, as reported in the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center online. Bruning describes it as “one thing after another; if one school’s not doing it another school is” – and that a lot of schools around the country “are seeing (the UCs) as kind of like the forefront of a new student movement in the country, so they’ve been trying to rally around us a little bit.” He attributes this wave of activism to the extent of what has happened with the UC in terms of state defunding.

When asked about which UC is the most radical, Bruning stated that “Berkeley has a turnout for protests, but in terms of raw action, it’s Santa Cruz.” Santa Cruz has had five occupations so far. As reported in the online Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area, they held Kresge Town Hall on November 18, and took over Kerr Hall – the main administration building – the next day, which the cops put an end to three days later on November 22. They were also the first UC to occupy buildings – the first day of instruction, during the walkout, they took over the Graduate Student Commons and held it for a week, as reported in UCSC’s student-run City on a Hill Press. Santa Cruz has also been very proactive in exporting their brand of activism. As revealed in the online Los Angeles Independent Media Center, they conducted a southern tour, visiting UCLA, CSU Fullerton, and UCI to talk to people about how to organize and rally. Bruning believes that the Campbell Hall occupation at UCLA was partially a result of that. They have also been very active at Davis, Berkeley and San Francisco State. There were even some from Santa Cruz in the Berkeley and Davis occupations that happened the week of the Regents meeting.

As for UCI, Bruning states that they have been trying “to step it up a little, because we have the reputation around the state of being an apathetic school.” And we have got off to a good start. Groups like Defend UCI, besides being organizers of the 9/24 walkout and the various other protests and teach-ins this quarter, are right now trying to regroup in light of the recent fee increase. They are trying to figure out where to go from this point, and what are other ways to support students and enhance their education.

Domingo, who works with ASUCI and the Office of the Student Regent, states that they have interns within their offices who deal specifically with media. These interns look for information that the media has put out that is contradictory to what is actually happening – because, as she explains, “journalists often don’t do enough reporting to get to the heart of the issue.” If they see an article with falsehoods, they email the newspaper companies pointing them out. There have not been any responses – but Domingo feels that they “still need to try.” The Student Regent interns also look up policy to try to find loopholes to get more funding or simply to analyze them to get a better idea of what they are up against.

Most importantly, though, they strategize ways to continue informing people to gather support. Some ways they use include posting information about the budget crisis on the Student Regent website. They even enlisted the help of students to write letters to the Regents, which they presented to them during the public comment time in UCLA. There was a total of 150 handwritten letters from UCI students that were presented to the Regents, and Domingo believes that UCI “probably had the most representatives out of all the schools at the public comment – at least 6.”

These efforts to rally support from students have definitely paid off. The protest of November 24 was arguably one of the biggest and most energetic to hit the UCI campus, and the most impressive thing is that it was initiated by students themselves. Bruning states that the idea for the protest came from a single undergraduate student, and that the word just started spreading. It was posted as an event on Facebook on Friday night or early Saturday, and it grew in two days from 500 people who RSVPed their attendance to over 2000 people.

The crowd started protesting in front of the administration building, which was already closed off to the public and had about 14 police officers standing guard, and they eventually started down Ring Road to gather more support, inciting students to “Walkout!” as they passed by instructional buildings. By the time they started heading back to the Administration building, the crowd had swelled to hundreds of students, high off each other’s energy, yelling in unison slogans like “They say cut back, we say fight back”, “No justice, no peace”, or the question-response rallying calls like “Whose university – Our university!” When they reached the administration building, they went right up to the barricades – behind which the police officers held their ground – chanting “We want Drake!” It was quite a spectacle, probably unlike anything UCI has ever seen. The protest led to the arrest of John Bruning himself – details can be found in his statement online at

Such protests may have more of an impact than what meets the eye. While Professor Legras did not expect the walkout of 9/24 to have the impact that it did, he now firmly believes in the efficacy of such protests. Most of the people at the walkout were from the Humanities department, who were protesting the impending staff layoffs. Legras states that there was going to be “originally 29 layoffs, but I think we’re looking at 8 or 9 layoffs now?” He believes this to be “a direct result of the walkout, and the walkout being reflected in the press and media.”

Even if the impacts of such protests are not immediately explicit, they will still likely affect future decision-making. All the media publicity these protests have been receiving has an impact on public opinion as well as on UC administration. Legras believes that the Regents are now “much more reluctant to approve another increase in student fees” after the one that already passed during the meeting at UCLA. He also stated his belief that the furlough program is “already dead,” and that he “(doesn’t) think they will continue the furloughs next year.” The impact of the protests may even reach as far as the legislature, “because faced with all this bad publicity, the legislature has not been as tough as they would be with the UC,” and that they may be “willing to compromise a little bit” in terms of how much of the UC budget they will cut. Legras believes the lesson here is that there is “some kind of informality in the whole process” of budgetary decision-making – and that the walkout of 9/24 “communicated to ABC much more effectively than anything else we have done or said.”

While no one expected that the protests at UCLA would prevent the Regents from passing the 32% fee increase, Domingo explains that they are still essential for stirring people out of apathy. One of the more immediate impacts she has seen as a result of these protests is that people are now “actively trying to find out” about these issues – and she emphasizes that “we have this momentum and we need to keep riding on it.”

As for whether or not student-led protests have ever influenced administrative decisions, Bruning brings up the example of the protests revolving around labor issues with campus unions and sweatshops – stating that students have had a number of significant successes around sweatshop organizing. They had the opportunity to meet with the UC President (Bob Dynes at the time) and were actually able to implement policy changes, as affirmed by a 14 May 2006 article in the Oakland Tribune.

It seems safe to say that the future of student activism on UCI looks like a bright one. As announced on the Defend UCI website on November 23, there is an occupation of Langson library planned for December 4 to 11. Students are planning to use studying as “a form of resistance” in protest of the reduced library operation hours, by forcing the library to stay open from the end of week 10 and all through finals week.

Domingo tells us that what we will be seeing in the months leading up to March are more teach-ins and more actions, in which she aims to invite representatives from different activist organizations to come together to strategize and figure out the best ways to continue this movement. She also revealed that there will be a march on Sacramento in March 2010, in which students will take their case directly to the state’s headquarters, to force them to “reconsider their priorities” and “reinvest in higher education.” She emphasizes the need within these next three months “to mobilize students and the communities to get support,” without which nothing they do will be effective.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuition Increase and Regents Protest at UC Irvine: November 24, 2009

Silver Gelatin Photos by Jason Davis
Nikon, Kodak TMAX

Unions in Action

By Saeideh Golji

Hundreds marched down the streets of LA on Nov. 19, 2009 holding banners and chanting slogans. The Regents had just made the decision for a 32% fee increase and outside protesters were speaking out, their faces filled with rage and their voices strong with numbers. Scattered throughout were posters and signs sending messages like 'No Fee Hikes' and 'A Democracy Needs Education for the Masses not the Elite'. One young woman had stripped down to her undergarments with a sign covering her front and back reading 'I Sold My Cloths To Pay Tuition'. Reporters and journalists followed along the protesters documenting the day as it happened and interviewing students. At the front, leading the direction of the rally, were four people holding up a green banner reading "CUT THE PERKS! NOT WHAT WORKS" followed by smaller font reading "AFSCME 3299". Students and workers had united in speaking up against the University's measures to cut coasts and save money.

The University is looking to save around $800 million dollars across all campuses to even out the budget. Measures have taken place resulting in the libraries having a total $4 million cut to work around, the library staff having to accept a furlough plan, and lecturers and campus workers seeing layoffs. A number of unions at UCI have been working together helping one another in their efforts to counter these cuts. These unions include UPTE, University Professional and Technical Employees; UC-AFT, the American Federation of Teachers, on the UCI campus they represent the librarians and lecturers; UAW 2865 representing readers, tutors, and TAs; and AFSCME 3299, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, on UCI campus they represent the service unit.

The most visible form of fighting back the unions have taken on has been protests and rallies. The first sight of protests on the UCI campus was in front of Aldrich Administration Building on Wednesday, July 15th 2009, when members of the unions UC-AFT, AFSCME, and UPTE demonstrated what was at that point just a threat of major cut backs. Once furloughs had been imposed members of UPTE held UC campus wide walkout on September 24, 2009, the first day of fall quarter, protesting what they claimed to be unfair negotiations.

Soon after in an interview with New York Times the UC President, Mark Yudof made a comment saying “being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening”. This sparked a zombie-protest organized by DefendUCI, a collision of students and the unions UPTE, AFSCME, and AFT. The union’s ultimate protests were at the regents meetings on November 18th and 19th. Members from all unions and students showed up in support for each other as a united front.

Aside from helping mobilize people and students with rallies and protests, the unions have been active behind the curtains, trying to ease the effects of the UC budget cuts. Two of these unions include: UC-AFT, AFSCME 3299.

Just last year, after years of fighting, negotiators for AFSCME 3299 managed to secure a contract for better living wages for their employees. The victory was short lived as budget cuts and layoffs instantly took back all the ground the negotiators gained. The first 12 individuals to be layoff on the UCI campus due to the budget cuts were groundskeepers, members of their union. Aside from fighting off 9 of those 12 layoff notices this union has been fighting for the 35 groundskeepers working side by side their employees for years but not yet considered university employees. As of Jan 1st all the members are seeing a decrease of work hours and a pay cut. Juan Vazquez, a union organizer for AFSCME 3299, claims that the University is "using the economic crisis as an excuse, we [AFSCME 3299] found that they're financially stable to weather the storm without having to make these cuts and yet they're still doing it". He mentioned UC Riverside has been the only campus to open their financial records, revealing millions of dollars spent on executive travel. AFSCME 3299 has offered an alternative budget plan that protects students and employees and redirects fund reductions to places that can afford them. This plan includes the following recommendations:

Reduce the top 2% of earners saving $220,000,000
Use short-term borrowing as a stop-gap saving $200,000,000
Utilize medical center profits saving $100,000,000
Restructure debt saving $75,000,000
Utilize unrestricted investments saving $50,000,000
Cut wasteful spending saving $40,000,000

The entire report can be downloaded here. This alternative budget plan has also been endorsed by UC-AFT. UC-AFT has also compiled a list of five demands of their own that ask for the UC administration to:
1) Stop the fee hikes. The report claims that “undergraduates are now subsidizing everyone else, and yet the administration continues to cut undergrad courses and programs”.
2) Overturn the cuts that have been made in regards to layoffs and pay cuts.
3) Look at more progressive solutions to fix the budget like “borrowing money from the medical centers and sharing profits between units and reducing administrative units”.
4) Keep a ‘transparent budget’.
5) And finally, treat all the unions with justice.
(Full report can be seen here)
Unfair “union busting and bargain in good faith” can be seen within the UC-AFT union. According to UC AFT Vice President Mitchell Brown, their union has taken a negotiation strategy, a strategy also mentioned by Juan Vazquez. Brown claimed that there have been "small victories, never a big success. We managed to come to agreements in the negotiation process with the Office of the President not to cut librarian positions, protecting staffing, but we had to accept the furlough plan". The furlough plan mandates that librarians take unpaid leave, adding up to 7-12% of their annual salary or about a month’s salary. AFT was not able to negotiate a similar solution for the lectures resulting in a total loss of 43 lecturers on the UCI campus. It seems to come down to accepting furloughs or resisting them, and my resisting furloughs members become subjected to temporary layoffs.

Although the Regents have made their decision, the unions have not lost hope. According to Audrey Brunier, a union organizer for UAW 2865, though sometimes with different tactics unions will continue their negotiations “to expand funding to higher education and to raise revenue from those who can afford it not students and workers”, and their common ground in protests and rallies to “stand together and stand firm, making some kind of impact that way”.

Defending UC's Clerical Workers: The Coalition of University Employees

By Soraya I. Sadeghpour

Coalition of University Employees (CUE) is a member-run union which, elected in November, 1997 by clerical employees throughout the UC system to represent them, is made up entirely of UC clerical employees. Their headquarters are in Berkeley, California, though there is a group or "local" at each UC campus. CUE's contract with UC gives them the same protection as most large unions; it requires UC to negotiate with unions regarding the fate of their represented employees during times of considerable change to the employees' work proposed by the University. This includes the recent Furlough/Salary Reduction Program, implemented for most UC employees beginning Sept. 1, which CUE did not agree to. The furlough issue is one of many friction points between the clerical workers and the UC administration during this time of strapped finances.

--Below is a summary of CUE's views regarding the recent furloughs across UC, the temporary layoffs that CUE members are now faced with, and the voluntary START Program (with which CUE feels many are being intimidated into signing up because of UC's alleged "direct dealing"). In add
ition, a section on CUE's bargaining efforts with the UC Office of the President illustrates its views that UC bargains unfairly with the union, while UC clerical workers face the possibility of their salaries, already far below the comparable market, sinking further downward.--

"Beginning Sept. 1, most UC employees will begin taking part in a one-year furlough program aimed at helping UC close an $813 million budget deficit...This approach of shared sacrifice means that every member of the University takes part in solving UC's budget problem."
- University of California, 8/28/09 on the Furlough Plan (UC Berkeley Human Resources website).

Linda Weinberger, a 30-year Langston Library employee at University of California, Irvine, is at work when her supervisor hands her a letter of 6 sentences signed by her employers that reads as follows: "I regret to inform you that your 100% position as [insert Position and Department here] is subject to temporary layoff effective [insert beginning and end date here]. This action is being taken in accordance with Article 13 of the Agreement between the University of California and CUE."

This last bit tends to confuse those who are not well-versed in this Agreement, as it refers to the action of physically notifying the employee, not the action of temporarily laying employees off. Specifically, Article 13, Section D, Subsection 1 states: "When the University selects particular members of the unit for layoff, it shall give individual notice to each employee of the effective date of the layoff and whether the layoff is temporary or indefinite."

As for the layoffs, CUE certainly does not agree they are even legal, since the union is still in a "status quo" bargaining period with UC on this issue; but the unclear wording of the letter certainly seems to imply CUE concedes to the layoffs. And Weinberger was one of Irvine's 1,300 CUE members to receive this news at the beginning of this month. She's been expecting it.

CUE held its monthly meeting, which always convenes on the first Thursday of every month, on Nov. 5 on the Fifth Floor of University Tower, in the central plaza across the street from UCI. "This is the first time we've had this many people in here!" Cynthia Norman, Vice President of the Irvine Local of CUE exclaimed upon seeing the variety of clerical workers sitting around the conference table, or standing and crowding up the doorway and the corners of the room.

These clerical workers, representing the libraries, the bookstore, the financial department of UCI and more, have to hear what the leaders of their union have to say about these temporary layoffs. It is an anxious time for many who will have to learn how to deal with a 4% cut, or more, to their paycheck for this fiscal year.

The meeting opens with myriad questions, all directed to Dianna Sahhar, the president of the Irvine Local. "Why does the notice say that the layoffs are in accordance with and agreement between UC and CUE?" asks one employee.

"Let me just say that we feel that it's direct dealings for Human Resources, your department or your supervisor to hand you this, and tell you that 'these are the days we're going to lay you off,'" explains Sahhar at the CUE meeting, "or even if you pick your dates, that's called direct dealing. They have to deal with the bargaining team, and we are at the table negotiating, so this is kind of like a side deal that they're doing. And it is illegal."

In fact, in an email she sent to all of the Irvine CUE members a couple of days earlier, she explained that CUE has already filed an Unfair Labor Practice document with the Public Employment Relations Board for review regarding this alleged "direct dealing" by UC, and that CUE members should send their layoff notices to the CUE office, so that the union can more effectively document this illegal action and subsequently "call department supervisors and ask them to stop this implementation."

This is the reason that one young bookstore employee hands a bulky envelope, full of copies of the 16 layoff notices from the bookstore, 16 proofs of service and a copy of Article 13 to Sahhar during the meeting. Completely halting the temporary layoffs, according to Sahhar, is "another battle," but at this point, CUE's bargaining representatives from each campus have been negotiating the effects of those layoffs since UC has not budged on its right to impose them, and CUE lawyers contend that if UC temporarily lays anyone off before CUE has finished bargaining the effects, the members will "most likely get [their] money back and have [their] accruals restored."

CUE has already succeeded in having many of the notices rescinded (UC takes them back) by accusations to supervisors of direct dealing, as CUE's contract with UC states that the union and the member should be noticed simultaneously, and the union claims it has not yet become informed in any direct manner besides from the members who have received them individually. "And they seemed to be premature, really, jumping the gun by doing this while we're still at the table," Sahhar says.

One employee's exasperation is heard from the back of the conference room: "Does anyone feel like this is just a lot of intimidation?" The entire room instantaneously confirms this feeling with a rush of head-noddings and indignant personal stories.

One bookstore employee explains that her department recommended taking her required eleven layoff days in two increments, one of 5 days, the other of 6. Another CUE member scoffs: "And, as it turns out, you wouldn't be eligible for unemployment!" Sahhar agrees: "They're saying they're doing it so it won't be such a burden on your paycheck, but in reality, it's so they don't have to pay unemployment." In fact, her email recommended that, if an employee decides to take all of their layoff days in one month, they contact the Employment Development Department on the first day of layoff to apply for unemployment benefits, which would be effective the following week.

More confusion ensues: One worker explains that her department is telling the employees that if they are laid off over a school holiday, they would not receive holiday pay. However, UC's Holiday Article No. 9, Section B4 states that "An eligible employee who is on approved leave without pay or temporary layoff, for a period of not more than 20 calendar days, including holidays, shall be eligible to receive pay for any holiday occurring during that time." All of the clerical workers' layoffs are "not more than 20 calendar days." Therefore, paid holidays are not part of the layoff days. CUE member Deborah Perkins received a layoff notice with dates beginning over this Thanksgiving break. A copy of the Holiday Article was not included with the layoff notices.

More indignation ensues: Norman cites a letter that she recently sent to California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, mentioning that "most of the CUE employees, when they get their cut, are going to get a $2 thousand cut after all the taxes. How are you going to pay your mortgage or your rent? And your gas and your phone and your food and your water? I put all of this in the email. I said, we're predominantly struggling women, and they're [UC is] losing $22 billion and still giving increases in salary off the backs of the lower-paid female employees?"

Indeed, all but one of the CUE employees participating in the meeting are women. "And predominantly," Dianna concurs, "women are lower-paid anyway. We're 25% below market already, and now, we're going to be 30% after these temporary layoffs." There is another wave of indignation in the room, as CUE members shake their heads and mutter; not one in this room feels the cheering prospect of a shared sacrifice.

START (Now!)
"As in the past, START is one way to help UC cope with budget cuts in an attempt to minimize the need for layoffs."
-Staff and Academic Reduction in Time Program description, UC Human Resources and Benefits site.

CUE bargainers have thus far succeeded in keeping their represented employees' full paycheck, yet many clerical employees have already voluntarily reduced their time and corresponding pay in exchange for a number of advantages through the Staff and Academic Reduction in Time Program (START). Those who join START are exempt from Furlough Plan participation "if their voluntary reduction is already equal to or exceeds the percent reduction for their respective pay band," states UC's Furlough Plan Guidlines.

"If you voluntarily reduce your salary with START it's almost like taking personal layoff," says one bookstore employee at the CUE meeting, who has recently received her temporary layoff notice. "But the issue for us was, our percentage with layoff was less than our minimum percentage with START. So you would have lost money if you did START, but you would have been keeping your retirement and vacation and sick [pay]. So you can decide which is worth it to you. Is that value in cash worth it, or is the retirement worth it?"

In fact, according to the most recent revisions of the START Program Guidelines from the UC Office of the President, an employee signs a contract with START in order to reduce their time "from a minimum reduction of 5 percent to a maximum reduction of 50 percent of full-time," which are made in increments of each pay period (monthly or bi-weekly). This warrants a certain advantage, though the minimum reduction is more than that of the temporary layoffs. An employee on START will accrue, month-by-month, vacation and sick leave credits (which become reduced by leave without pay, such as a temporary layoff), UC Retirement Plan service credit as well as UCRP retirement benefits

Sahhar is one of many CUE members who believe that "UC is trying to bully [CUE members], and a lot of people, into going on START, because of those accruals...Many people have gone on START because they're scared of their temporary layoffs, and that's another issue with us, because START is supposed to be voluntary. We're not supposed to sign it under duress of being laid off."

The fact that the employees have received their layoff notices so long before the actual dates that they take place (most don't begin until, at earliest, May 2010), also supports this theory; there remains much time for employees to decide to use START. Through this, not only would UC be collecting a high minimum of each employee's salary, but it would also mean that the employees are giving up their pay voluntarily, and UC would not need to bargain with the union on this issue.

However, Sahhar and CUE's lawyers hope to prove that many of these workers felt threatened by the layoffs and were encouraged by their departments to join START rather than signing it completely voluntarily, and thereby have UC reimburse those workers.

One such candidate is an employee who wishes to remain anonymous, and was the only employee in the CUE conference who had not received her temporary layoff notice. Though she seemed nervous throughout the meeting, and was a regular voice in the room when the topic rested on the START program, the reason that she had not received a notice remained a mystery to the rest of the group, until she mentioned her signing of the START contract as a off-hand remark. "One person has recently been placed in this personnel position [in my department]," she explained, in response to sympathetic disappointment from many for her decision, "and she was after me all week to get it done. So I feel it was under duress, because she knows that I have medical conditions and I need to get that taken care of. She was literally hounding me, she said 'don't forget, we don't know what's going to happen to your medical benefits or retirement,' and she knows that I'm looking forward to retirement."

This meets outrage from the rest of the group. Sahhar: "That's a lie! There's no break in your medical in layoff, see they did it to scare you!" Norman: "See they're pissed off because we're fighting what we know is illegal, and we have the attorneys all on it. They want the employees to go fight CUE, not them. So they got us all scared and nervous and frightened, so they'll [the employees will] try to attack CUE." In an email, Sahhar explained that CUE has received declarations from members regarding the layoffs and START, to be added to CUE's ULP charge filed with PERB in Oct., but that she does not know if they came from Irvine or another campus.

"In collective bargaining, generally speaking, one of the things you try to avoid are gratuitous comments of actions which offend people. Because ultimately your intentions are trying to work to an agreement that you can live with."
-CUE's economist Peter Donohue, KUCI Podcast, Sept. 28, 2009

In UC's description of the Furlough/Salary Reduction Plan, which was implemented on Sept. 1 2009 and will last through August 31, 2010, explains that it will reduce an employee's total yearly salary from 4%-10%, depending on the amount of that salary, and lay him or her off for a corresponding amount of days.

The savings from this, the document explains, is expected to cover one quarter of UC's budget gap, as student fee increases (a 32% raise approved by the UC Board of Regents on Nov. 19) will cover another quarter of the deficit and cuts in spending "on campus and in the Office of the President" will take care of the rest. "For union-represented employees," the public document explains, "implementation of the plan will be subject to collective bargaining agreements and all applicable laws."

CUE did not accept this plan. At the meeting, Sahhar shows disappointment in UC's way of dealing with this disagreement from the union: "now [UC negotiators are] saying 'oh the furlough is off the table,' you guys didn't pick it so you don't get to pick that plan anymore. So instead we're going to do temporary layoffs.' and their temporary layoffs look very similar to the furlough plan, but minus the accruals that would have remained at 100%."

Indeed, in a July 16, 2009 letter to all faculty and staff at UC Riverside, Chancellor Timothy P. White tells employees directly that if "a given union chooses not to [concur with the furlough plan], then we will be forced to institute additional layoffs within such bargaining units. In this regard, I strongly encourage union members to contact their union leadership immediately and voice their preference between layoffs vs. furloughs."

Also, an article published July 17, 2009, Associated Press quotes UC President Mark Yudof stating, "If we didn't have furloughs then I think it's very likely that we would have to consider laying off people." Even the guidelines of the Furlough Plan from UC state that "the University is prepared to discuss alternative proposals from the unions, so long as they yield the same or similar cash savings as the furlough plan adopted by the Regents."

This, CUE refers to as "bad faith bargaining," which the Legal Definitions section of US Legal, Inc.'s website defines as a failure by employers and/or unions involved to "use their best endeavours to agree to an effective bargaining process, meet and consider and respond to proposals made by each other, respect the role of the other's representative by not seeking to bargain directly with those for whom the representative acts" and an undermining of "the bargaining process or the authority of the other's representative."

This is the reason that the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), a union seemingly holding a very similar view to CUE of UC's bargaining style, filed an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with PERB in Sept. 2009, against the UC Regents. This charge reads:

"The University has announced an across-the-board 'salary reduction program' consisting of either furloughs or reductions in time or, for UPTE bargaining unit members, 'temporary layoffs' achieving the same result (the same salary savings and the same number of days off) as an equivalent furlough or reduction in time. UC informally sought to get UPTE to agree to such a paycut-in-exchange-for-days-off program [the Salary Reduction/Furlough Plan], but, when UPTE didn't agree, UC went ahead and unilaterally implemented its program anyway, without reaching impasse, much less exhausting post-impasse procedures."

It would seem that UC has simply changed the terminology of the Furlough/Salary Reduction plan, calling it "temporary layoffs" instead, so that the University then has the right to impose the same exact amount of pay cuts on unions which did not agree with the original plan.

As Sahhar explains at the CUE meeting:

"It's considered 'bad faith bargaining' because when you're bargaining, you're supposed to be bargaining for something better. But instead UC's saying 'you have this plan or this plan. Pick one. Take it or leave it.' That's not bargaining. That is UC dictating to us. So, that's where we are right now; UC wants to push us into what's called 'impasse.' They're trying to say that 'we cant negotiate any further, we've gone as far as we can, and we want to go into 'impasse' which means, when we negotiate again, we have to go into 'mediation.' And what mediation is, is UC sits in a room and we sit in a room, and we no longer sit at the table together, but the mediator goes back and forth from one room to the other, bringing proposals back and forth, to the two sides. During this time there's something called 'fact finding' and during that time UC has to give us all the information that we ask for. We have a whole bunch of requests for information out there right now that UC has not yet answered."

The Union UPTE is in a similar situation, as illustrated in their recent ULP charge against the Regents of UC. What follows is how UC seems to be treated all negotiating unions, including CUE:

"...the University urged UPTE to agree to place its members under the furlough plan. When UPTE did not promptly agree, the University began announcing, location by location that it would be unilaterally implementing a pre-impasse change, exacting precisely equivalent savings from UPTE members' paychecks (according to the graduated set of pay cuts by pay band described above), and providing precisely equivalent days off m exchange (again, according to the above salary bands), but that the pay cuts and time off would be imposed as 'temporary layoffs,' instead of 'furloughs.' The University explained this change in language as being necessary because the University believed that it had authority to impose unilaterally the former but not the latter."

"Furthermore, employees are being asked to negotiate the dates of their layoffs directly with management. As just one example among many, on September 18, 2009, UC Davis manager Robert Pattison told a group of assembled employees that they should talk with their managers directly about which days the layoffs should occur on. In the same meeting with employees, UC again reiterated that its conduct was legal because the parties' layoff article (now expired) permits temporary layoffs without bargaining."

"UC did not come even close to bargaining these decisions to impasse or agreement. Rather the Union's first notice of each decision was a notice presenting the decision as a "fait accomplit."

UPTE's demands to bargain were repeatedly rebuffed. Indeed, the University completely failed and refused to bargain regarding curtailment. With respect to temporary layoffs, the University did informally present the union with a furlough plan, but, when the union did not immediately agree to it, the University simply went ahead and imposed the near-identical temporary layoff plan, without bargaining and well before impasse."

As the right of the temporary layoffs to even take place is not an issue which UC will bargain over with unions, CUE has been hard at work negotiating the effects of such layoffs. On Nov. 13, in fact, Linda Weinberger, a 30-year Langston Library employee at UCI and relatively recent CUE member, traveled to Oakland to bargain with UC's Chief Negotiator Peter Chester and other UC representatives, along with one other CUE bargainer from each other campus.

"We were trying to make it as easy for UC as possible," she says, "and as a bargaining team, we decided to hold it up in the north, at the Office of the President, because then UC doesn't have to travel anywhere, they just have to walk down a flight of stairs to the bargaining room."

Of the actual issues at hand, at this bargaining session, Weinberger lists the following:

1) Stop at $13 million. "We are trying to make sure that UC does not take more than $13 million from CUE employees, which they told us is the amount they need. We have been trying for months to make sure that UC doesn't extend over that amount. So we are trying to adjust the figures of the temporary layoff days (and originally the furlough plan). That is in our proposal."

"What UC is proposing is that if you make $40,000 and below, you have 11 layoff days with a 4% salary reduction. If you make $40,001-50,000 you will get 13 layoff days at 5% salary reduction. Or, if you make $50,001 and above, you'll get 16 layoff days at a 6% salary reduction. They want this done over the course of a year, but instead of using figures to trigger the temporary layoffs, we're telling them that as soon as they hit their $13 million threshold, they must stop giving layoffs. So, while CUE's trying only let it go TO the $13 million, UC is always trying to sneak in higher percentages, and get more money from us. We don't know at this time how it's going to play out at this point."

2) Figure in START. "We also know that CUE members are on START, and we want them to figure in their START savings as part of the $13 million. [And therefore UC is only allowed to layoff as many more as get them to that amount]."

3) Freedom from START. "In the proposal, we also have a request to allow employees to go on and off START as they choose. If they are on START and they want to go into the layoff program, that has also been negotiated between CUE and UC."

4) Employees decide how to take the cut. "We're trying to give the employee the option, if they are laid off, whether they want to spread out the salary reduction over a 12 month period. So even though they are going to be laid off 11 days in a row, they would be able to take a portion of that amount out of each pay period over 12 months."

5) Unemployment benefits. "We're also saying that we want to give the employees the option of taking the temporary layoffs in one block of time, (regardless of how many days), and if that happens, you can file for unemployment starting from the first day you are laid off. They don't pay you the first week, that's the waiting period. Then, if you don't have another job elsewhere, you receive unemployment benefits, up to $450, depending on how much salary you make."

6) Curtailment-period layoff time. "If the employees choose so, they may take their layoff time over the curtailment period. That means, for example, the campus is closed between Dec. 18-21. Some of those days, UC says, they're already are going to be non-paying days. SO we want employees to have the option of choosing to take as many layoff days over campus closures. Or, if they don't want to do that, because they don't want their salaries to be reduced over December,...they can take temporary layoff days later on in the year."

7) No taking jobs. "We don't want the UC assigning the work of laid off workers to other workers. Because that would be unfair."

However, of the general negotiations, Weinberger says that "UC has been trying to circle back around to the Furlough-Reduction Plan, and to get the amount that they want. Whenever UC comes up with a new proposal, it's clear that they are trying to give us as little as they can, and get from us as much as they can."

A Bargaining Report from that meeting will be issued within a few days.

"[UC] They always 'don't know' and explain 'oh, I have to get back to you on that,' and we have to give them written requests for information whenever we want to know anything, and then we have to wait to get it back. And we've been waiting months. I mean we've been waiting three years from some information discrepancies from our last contract, and we still haven't received some of that information regarding the finances."
-Dianna Sahhar, President of Local 9/Irvine Campus Local of CUE.

Bargaining most effectively with UC, in fact, often requires some knowledge of facts, with facts to confirm those facts. But when CUE received notice from UC that $13 million was needed from the clerical unit, and CUE's economist, Peter Donohue, concluded that that was "way high," the University provided the union with no more than an excel spreadsheet to explain the amount, the first with incorrect or suspicious formulas, according to Sahhar, and the second with no formulas at all.

This was all a product of CUE's direct dealing with the UC Office of the President, Labor Relations, and with the Budget Office. "I don't quite understand why we have this half-billion-dollar talent up there, all over the place, when they tell us they can't provide us with HR [Human Resources] information, with budget information, all this stuff," Donohue says in an interview on KUCI podcast in Sept. of this year, "Which, when we talk to people who actually do the work, the people who manage, for example, the campus ledgers, they're telling us that that's available every day. They do a daily reconciliation of these things. Now, some place there's a disconnect."

Donohue, a Ph.D. economist from Portland, Oregon, also explains:

"...University administrators are the rudest and most disrespectful negotiators I've ever encountered. Now, not UC particularly, UCI I would say would be in the middle of the pack. And I've dealt with University systems from Washington to Oregon to here [UC] as well as at CSU, and, by comparison, University administrators seem to have the notion that they know, and you don't, and you should basically do what you're told. [Another more] practical problem of some import is that, in every single negotiation we [CUE] has had, University is disrespectful in a sense of the law, which requires that, under their legal duty to bargain, they also have a duty to provide information.

University is notorious for its unwillingness to provide information. Information that other employers, particularly employers right now who are in actual crises, have no difficulty and are completely willing to provide. I was doing County of San Francisco negotiations with one of the bigger unions in town, and we received everything we asked for.

By comparison, here, what we're told is, 'oh, our computer systems don't work really well, our data systems can't generate that info,' or we're given information which turns out to be just plain wrong! Over and over again. Now, that indifference to providing information, or accurate information, does not reflect well and it doesn't show respect towards employees. I think that's exactly the wrong path to take at a moment like this."

"The University’s goal is to maintain market-based competitive salaries for its employees. This means providing sufficient funds, through a combination of merits and COLAs [Cost of Living Adjustments], to maintain UC faculty salaries at the average of the salaries provided at the eight comparison institutions, and to provide salary increases for other employees that, on average, at least keep pace with inflation and the marketplace."
-UC's public statement, UCOP Budget Request for 2004-05 [Program Maintenance: Fixed Costs and Economic Factors]

The Union's expert on market comparisons Kathleen J Hurley and her associates released a special report for CUE entitled "Compensation at UC," examining compensation reports and information provided by UC as well as other public documents and resources comparing UC compensation to that of other employers.

This research concluded that, when compared to those of the CSU systems, UC blank assistants earn approximately 22.7 percent less. For example, large lags exist for Library Assistants at UC, who earn roughly 33.4 percent less than those comparable at CSU (Library assistants at CSULA were shown, as of 2004, to be paid 33.37% more than those at UCLA), and Irvine Dispatcher positions earn roughly 24.67 percent less than CSU. Further, this overall salary includes the worth of benefits, which, in the UCs, rate very well in the market in comparison to 17 select private organizations.

Considering the previous example, then, this ultimately means that a Library Assistant at UC is paid, on average, $805 less per month in wages, and will receive $563 less per month in retirement benefits at age 55 after 20 years of service. UC pay for clerical workers even lags behind those of several California community colleges, also listed in the report. It is no surprise that the majority of UC clerical workers leave after less than 5 years of service, according to the report. And the added reduced salaries, weather through the furloughs or temporary layoffs, would add additional lag to employees who are already fundamentally under-paid.

At the same time, CUE's economist Peter Donohue recently took his presentation, called "UC's Hidden Wealth," on a "road show" to several UC campuses, to convince onlookers that not only does UC have the financial resources to avoid this pay cuts, but that it also treated several UC executives, supposedly on the same day that the Regents voted for the furlough schedule on July 16, 2009. CUE member Katherine Renfro is quotes on CUE's website as stating that "We know the University has the resources. The Regents gave bonuses and raises to senior managers and executives on the same day they voted in the plan for furloughs, salary cuts, and layoffs. That money could be used to save the jobs of our fellow workers, lower student fees, and to uphold the mission of the University of California."

Norman, in a recent email to Senators Boxer and Feinstein, states that,

"UC is taking from the lower paid and increasing the higher paid. The lower paid are predominately women making [about] 35 percent below market salaries, [and] most of them are CUE. We are being threatened to take pay cuts when we are living from paycheck to paycheck, and most of the higher paid are making $500,000 to 1 million per year and live in mansions they do not have to pay [for]. Including other perks...Please advise and please help us. Many of us have families of single parent households and are facing evictions or will become homeless because we cannot pay our bills due to the cuts while this will not affect those with higher pay salaries those above $200,00/year and there are many of them. I do not understand how Congress Legislatures can allow this to happen to hard working lower paid women who are the heart of the University system."

These "perks" that Norman mentions, helping the wealthy become wealthier than perhaps is healthy for any person or family during the state of the world today, was confirmed July 16, 2009's "Report of Interim Actions," from the Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff. These pay raises, promotions and perks were summarized by the UPTE union in a press release from July 23, 2009:

"Several executives were appointed at salaries from 11% to 59% higher than their predecessors. The regents also voted to give 'administrative stipends' ranging from $24,000 to $58,625 to several employees, without any extra duties, and added several new highly paid executive positions."

This release goes on to list the specifics, the names mentioned, the increases in question for those executives, and several links to documents on the UC website for further investigation. These facts were printed in several California newspapers, mostly in early August, 2009.

So, did top executives really get raises? Technically, yes. What UC calls "a promotion" including higher pay with a "correspondingly" higher workload, CUE calls greed. Either way, one must ask oneself: Doesn't reduced staff and more students mean a higher workload, in terms of finances or time, for the remaining staff and students as well? There are no raises, perks or promotions among the lowest-paid groups (such as clericals), or among the very body that is the fundamental reason for the University existing in the first place. Is it fair?

Finding An Open Road to Higher Education

By Odalis Suarez

It was lunchtime. I parked my car like I always did and walked towards the entrance of the school with my notebook. Students looked at me with uncertainty. Was she a student? I walked into the building, casually greeted everyone I knew and proceeded to walk to the counseling office. I had an appointment, but it wasn’t for academic assistance because unlike the students I passed by that day, I had already found my path to higher education while they were still searching for theirs. That day I entered as an alumni of Crescenta Valley High School and as a reporter attempting to discover the obstacles high school seniors are facing as they apply to UC schools that are dealing with the budget cuts and fee increases.

With the recent budget cuts and the 32% student tuition increases (effective winter quarter of 2010), both students and faculty in high schools all over California are working harder than ever with one goal in mind: getting admission into college.

“Each counselor got 200 or more extra students so that’s a 50% increase” explained a Crescenta Valley High School counselor, “so that in itself is a lot of additional work just in terms of that many more students needing help and coming in and having questions and many more parents e-mailing and calling.”

CV is one of the many high schools in California that have been impacted by the budget cuts. The La Crescenta based high school is coping with their counselor shortages and managing a great deal of seniors needing college assistance. “I have 160 seniors this year as opposed to 100 seniors last year,” added the counselor.

Prospective students applying to schools such as UC Irvine are faced with a financial challenge. According to a letter written by UC President Mark Yudof, it states that “For the 2010-2011 academic year, additional fee increases” will occur as it will cost “$1,344 per year for resident undergraduates” and “$1,458 for nonresident undergraduates”.

Students are already struggling financially in high school as they are faced with payments that are necessary to apply to college. "[There are] a lot more students coming in for fee waivers for SAT’s, ACT’s, and college applications [this year],” stated the counselor.

In addition to the financial struggle that lies ahead for high school seniors, UC Irvine has raised the bar in student academics. According to the Office of Institutional Research Planning and Budget who has worked extensively on statistical research in regards to UC Irvine admissions, in 2006 the mean high school GPA of admitted high school seniors was 3.70. Two years later in 2008 the mean GPA has increased to 3.82, and now recent reports have been made that for 2009, the mean GPA of high school students admitted has further increased to a solid 4.0.

When this statistical fact was mentioned to the CV counselor, she emphasized concern for the students and their academic decisions:

"Students are getting more worried about [GPA]. It’s creating an atmosphere where students are making decisions based on GPA rather than what’s best for them or what their interests are or what they want to do in their future. So I think its making people focus on the wrong thing because they are very stressed about the eligibility. They are trying to do maybe more than they are comfortable with."

Questions were sent to the UCI admissions department in regards to these findings and any concerns made by students. However, after numerous attempts the department failed to respond to the written questions.

UC Irvine’s selectivity is further emphasized in another data set showing the number of high school students admitted and the percentage of selectivity. From 2006 to 2008 the number of high school seniors that applied to UC Irvine has consistently increased from 38,435 to 42,414 and yet the rate of high school students admitted has decreased from 23,167 to 20,670. This means that the percentage of selectivity in UC Irvine has decreased as well with 2008 being the all time lowest with a percentage of 48.7%. The lower the percentage of selectivity is, the more selective UC Irvine is becoming. This trend is still ongoing as students who applied for fall 2009 further increased with a total of 44,116 students. Only 18,676 students were offered admission, which provided a percentage of 42.3% selectivity. In my previous interview with Brent Yunek, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Services and acting Director of Admissions and Relations with Schools, he acknowledged that:

“If the trends continue the way they have I would expect a smaller percentage of the applicant pool admitted, but we still have many factors yet to be realized to know for sure. For instance, our enrollment target has not firmly been set for next year if something changes in that target that it would by any slip chance be allowed to grow, that could possibly change things in a different direction, so it’s a little early."

What are the expectations for students wanting to apply for fall quarter of 2010? According to Glendale Unified School District board member Greg Krikorian, students seem to be more eager this year to attain a higher education. “More students in general are striving to get a higher education, we are seeing more students going to the private, public, community colleges,” stated Krikorian. “I am seeing that there is a larger amount of students that aren’t being accepted to the system because there are too many applying because of the budget crisis.”

Attempting to find community concerns and any proposed legislation in regards to the budget crisis, numerous calls and e-mails were made to 69th Assemblyman Jose Solorio’s office. However, after providing their office questions, they failed to comment on any of them.

High school students may be interested in knowing that although seven out of the nine UC schools in fall 2009 had a selectivity or admittance rate under 70%, UC Merced and UC Riverside are the only two UC schools that had their rate above 70%. According to the University of California website, UC Merced had a selectivity rate of 77.8% and UC Riverside had a 78.3% selectivity rate. According to an April 2009 Los Angeles Times article that quotes Susan Wilbur, systems director of undergraduate admissions, it states:

…all students who were academically qualified for the university would find a UC spot, although not necessarily at campuses they preferred. About 10,000 eligible students who were rejected by all campuses to which they applied will be offered admission to Riverside and Merced this month…”

This does not necessarily mean that there is a greater chance of acceptance to these schools, but it does show that high school students still have available options if eager to apply within the UC system.

Thirsty for knowledge and determined to pursue their dreams, high school seniors are not the only group of students fighting for a spot within UC system. Tyler Parkinson, a second year student attending the University of Oregon is attempting to transfer out of state for the second time. “I applied to the University of San Diego, I got accepted and I ended up not going there because I wasn’t offered financial aid and my family didn’t want to take out a lot of loans especially since I don’t have to take any loans to go here (University of Oregon)” explained Parkinson.

Despite his previous setback, Parkinson is giving California another try. This time he’s asking UC Irvine for admission for fall quarter of 2010, knowing that getting accepted will be more of a challenge this year financially and academically.

“[My parent’s] concerns were the price because even though it’s more affordable than a private school, it’s still very expensive and actually just last week the price went up again which is like oh great! It’s even more of a long shot now than it was two weeks ago! Their other concern was the fact that because they have been hearing so much in the news about the budget cuts they weren’t sure if I would have trouble getting into my classes because there are less professors teaching” stated Parkinson.

A very motivated transfer student, Parkinson is persistent in applying despite the challenges that he might face if accepted to UC Irvine. He has emphasized that he will need to change his major from Business Administration to Economics, and in order to pay for his tuition will need to get an on campus job at the university. However, Parkinson has emphasized, “I’m not giving up regardless of the budget cuts and regardless in the spike of tuition because it’s something I want to do really badly and its been really important to me ever since college started.”

Even GUSD school board member Krikorian has been working rigorously with the school district to promote programs, seminars, and workshops that will fully educate students and parents in the application and financial aid process, especially during the budget crisis. “I can understand the anxiety among students and parents with the present crisis we’re in and we’re seeing more students getting more education [and] actually going into their masters programs. So they’re going out and getting more education, more degrees. I definitely do see the anxiety has risen,” stated Krikorian.

It’s a nail biting circumstance for students who are applying to UC Irvine for fall 2010. The determination to attain a higher education is inevitable, but this year is a critical year for students who are applying to schools facing budget cuts and fee increases such as UC Irvine. There is higher competitiveness, increased selectivity, and higher tuition costs. As everything goes up, the students admitted seems to be the only element that is going down. For high school students, the road to higher education this year is coarse and rough, but it’s a path that could eventually lead to a smoother journey.