Dynes concludes system tour

The UC Office of the President will divert $12 million for academic preparation programs even if the state Legislature approves the governor’s proposal to cut funding for outreach, UC President Robert C. Dynes said at a Jan. 24 town hall meeting.

Speaking at the event, which concluded his systemwide inauguration tour that began soon after he took office in October 2003, Dynes said his fight for outreach funding was only a small part of the financial challenges the university faced in his first year on the job.

“I realized that I had to look at the future of the university — look 10 or 20 years up — but I also realized that I had to stop this bleeding, or else this university would become just another university,” he said, referring to a budget compact signed with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last spring that promised more state money after three years of budget cuts. “As I said to the governor, if the University of California becomes just another university, the state of California will become just another state. And that actually rang through to him.”

For Dynes, who first joined the university in 1991 as a UCSD physics professor after a private career, and then served as the campus’ chancellor prior to his move to the top position at the university, the tour concluded at the very place that launched his UC career.

“Coming back to San Diego is coming home for Bob,” Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said.

During a question-and-answer portion of the meeting, Earl Warren College Freshman Senator Matt Herrick asked Dynes what the university could do to increase minority enrollment in the aftermath of a voter-approved ban on affirmative action in the 1990s.

“The student population of the University of California really doesn’t look like the rest of California,” Herrick said. “If you walk around campus, you see a surprising lack of minorities.”

In response, Dynes said he hoped to use the university system to improve low-performing high schools, and described a 10-year plan to bring in more highly qualified math and science teachers.

“If you asked, I would like to use affirmative action, but it’s against the law,” he said. “I would put it back tomorrow. But what’s happened since Proposition 209 is that we’ve looked at other ways to increase diversity.”

During Dynes’ meeting with UCSD alumni later in the day, Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union held a candlelight vigil to appeal to the president in its ongoing contract negotiations with the university.

“President Dynes is the top decision-maker in the UC system — top enough to meet with Gov. Schwarzenegger,” said union organizer Jessica Lopez, referring to the compact. “He can, with the same wave of a pen, bring the contract dispute that we have to an end.”

Dynes personally spoke at the vigil after the alumni gathering, pledging to do his best to offer future raises to the workers, Lopez said.

At the town hall meeting, UCSD researcher and President of the University Professional and Technical Employees Local 9 Carolan Buckmaster also questioned Dynes about a third year of flat wages for university staff.

“No one can defend the tough times the state of California has gone through, but I am pleased that the governor has offered this compact so we can have raises for our staff,” Dynes said, pointing out that Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget promised to provide a 1.5-percent raise.

Reflecting on the year he spent touring the state and the university, Dynes said he realized the importance of his institution in the state.

“The thing that I came to be aware of is that we — you and I — have a hand in this incredible legacy,” he said. “Our job is to keep the University of California at the top of its game, because we have a responsibility to our state and our society. … It’s only that way that California can continue to be the only place in the world where we want to live.”