Dear Campus Community:
The budget announced by Governor Schwarzenegger in January was hopeful for the University of California in many respects. However, ensuring the state's reinvestment in the University of California will require a concerted advocacy effort. We have been urging all members of our campus community, alumni, and friends to protest the state's disinvestment from public higher education and call for the reinstatement of funding to the University of California. A number of lobbying events and marches in Sacramento this spring are being organized to convey this important message to our legislators. We are writing to inform you about the campus's participation in and support of some of these events and our position with regard to some key issues.
On March 1st, the University of California Students Association (UCSA) is sponsoring a student-led series of meetings and a rally in Sacramento. We endorse our students' initiative to protest the state's disinvestment from public higher education, and demand for reinstatement of state support. To facilitate transportation to and from Sacramento of our students who want to attend the march, we will fund the rental of two buses, using non-state funds.
Demanding that the State of California reinvest in public higher education is a goal that we share with our students. However, we want to make clear that we cannot endorse demands for "no fees" and "no layoffs."
Student fees, besides providing essential operating funds, are also a redistributive mechanism for subsidizing the living costs of low-income students. Fees from all students contribute significantly to financial aid and help ensure access for our low-income students, by helping support their living costs. With no fees, the net cost of attending Berkeley would be unaffordable for as many as one-third of our students. Underrepresented minority students would be disproportionately impacted by this loss of financial aid, so a "no fees" policy would severely compromise the diversity of our campus. The Chancellor has made this argument in an op-ed called "Zero Fees, Zero Low-Income Students?" which appeared this morning in the Sacramento Bee as "Viewpoints: 'Zero Fees' could hurt neediest students. How should students respond to fee hikes?" It can be viewed at: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/story/2541867.html
With respect to "no lay-offs", while it pains us to resort to lay-offs, these actions have been unfortunately necessitated by the drastic cuts in state funding that supports staff salaries and benefits.
Another set of events is being planned for March 4th and organized by a coalition of labor leaders and others as a national day of action and strike in defense of public higher education. Rallies are planned in the Bay Area, throughout the state, and in the capital. The campus is not planning any official events on this day.
We urge faculty to be flexible about providing make-up opportunities to students who miss classes or examinations that may have been scheduled on either March 1st or March 4th. Faculty who wish to participate in advocacy activities but who have teaching obligations on those days are expected to arrange for alternate coverage of their class.
Staff wishing to participate in these events should arrange in advance with their supervisors for time off through furlough or vacation. Supervisors are encouraged to grant such requests provided that the work needs of their unit can be met.
President Yudof, university administrators and some Regents will be in Sacramento on March 1st to visit legislative leaders with student leaders, although at the request of UCSA, the administration will not take a role in the public rally. Chancellor Birgeneau will travel to Sacramento with our campus student leadership on March 10th to advocate for UC funding and for issues that are specific to UC Berkeley. Other UC chancellors have similar plans.
Finally, the leaders of the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community Colleges are planning to lobby jointly in Sacramento on April 27th for state reinvestment of public higher education funding. We will keep you informed of this event as plans develop.
Further information about the University's advocacy activities is available on the Cal Advocacy website: http://www.ucforcalifornia.org/cal/state/main/?state=CA
Robert J. Birgeneau
George W. Breslauer
Executive Vice-Chancellor & Provost