Spending on faculty could be pared down

    State spending on faculty may be cut by 5 percent if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals for the fiscal year are approved by the state legislature. The governor’s administration intends to increase the student-faculty ratio to 20.7-to-1 from the current 19.7-to-1. This potential cut has raised concerns for faculty recruitment and retention, with faculty compensation at UCSD already lagging behind that of other public universities in the nation.

    However, the effects of such a cut are undetermined as of yet, and the proposal itself is subject to change.

    “”What comes out of the legislature months from now could be very different from what the governor has proposed,”” said Margaret F. Pryatel, assistant vice chancellor of resource management. “”Whatever the outcome of those discussions, there will be a great deal of internal discussion and consultation to determine the best way to address what has been proposed.””

    If the proposal stands, the $35 million cut in spending on faculty will likely be an undesignated one, allowing campuses the discretion to make the cuts in a manner that would least impair any instructional programs.

    “”Right now, we are not sure of how we will implement the cut. The UC Office of the President will most likely give us flexibility so that we will know how to handle this on a campus-by-campus basis,”” Pryatel said. “”It takes a while to make these decisions, and as of now, we just have to slow spending so as to minimize any damage to programs when we do get the final budget.””

    To reach the objective of the governor’s suggested increase in student-faculty ratio, the university may have to discontinue recruiting for open positions currently available.

    “”We have been busy recruiting for these open positions, and it is possible that they will remain unfilled due to the cut,”” Pryatel said. “”We are uncertain if we will have to lay off faculty.””

    Cost-of-living wage adjustments will again be denied to faculty this year, for the second year in a row.

    “”There will be no cost-of-living wage increases this year; there was none last year either,”” Pryatel said. “”There is just no money provided by the state.””

    However, faculty will be granted merit increases, which usually come in a three-year cycle for faculty ‹ in that only one-third is funded every year.

    Pryatel worries about the message that the budget cut sends to people the university is trying to recruit, as well as to professors at the university.

    “”It is very expensive to recruit new faculty,”” Pryatel said. “”Salary not only comes as a factor, but they must consider the whole recruitment package. It will be hard to compete for good professors with [the university] cutting positions and no salary increases.””

    Charles Chamberlain, a professor in the literature department, shares Pryatel’s concern that professors may leave the university in search of better salaries and compensations.

    “”I think we get paid well as it is,”” Chamberlain said. “”My only worry is that [the university] won’t be able to pay some hot-shot professors ‹ and I hate to say it, but there are some on this campus ‹ the salary that they want. As a result, they may be tempted to look elsewhere.””

    Peter Ebenfelt, a mathematics professor, is concerned by the university’s ability to compete against other educational institutions if some professors transfer because of better offers.

    “”One of the major concerns is how the wages at this university keep falling behind those of other institutions, which may move some professors to turn to a university that can offer a better salary,”” Ebenfelt said. “”Any cuts are always unfortunate, but it all depends on how they are implemented in detail, and even now we’re not sure of how these cuts will go.””

    There is only a small amount of revenue, so any cuts that may be implemented will be based on existing funds, according to Pryatel.

    “”There is no money for new space, no money in the budget for all the other expenses that come with building new edifices, such as custodial and utilities,”” Pryatel said. “”There is also no additional money considering inflation and price increases.””

    The university’s response to the determined budget will be discussed in more detail at the UC Board of Regents meeting on Jan. 14 and Jan. 15.

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