Thousands rally at UC Berkeley over funding cuts, fee increases

State schools, community colleges join in protests over budget shortfalls

Thousands of University of California students, faculty and staff gathered in Berkeley Thursday for one of many rallies held statewide to protest how the system's Board of Regents has dealt with reductions in state funding.

A noontime rally brought more than 5,000 people to UC Berkeley's Upper Sproul Plaza, according to Tanya Smith, president of the Berkeley chapter of the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communication Workers of America union Local 9119.

Among other protests in the state, hundreds of people also gathered at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, where state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, criticized how the UC system was being run.

The rallies were a response to recent moves by the UC Board of Regents, which approved a plan in July to institute employee furloughs along with other cuts and fee hikes. UC President Mark Yudof also announced this month a plan to increase student fees by another $2,514 over the next year.

Lisa Kermish, vice president of the entire UPTE-CWA Local 9119, said the Berkeley rally was the biggest she has seen in decades.

"What was incredible to me, and I use this word sparingly, was the solidarity of the students, the staff and faculty," Kermish said. "It's been a long time since we've had a real coming together for a common purpose. It was a pretty amazing gathering."

Smith said representatives from several unions spoke at the rally, which included people from the California State University and community college systems.

In a teleconference with reporters Thursday, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau defended the decisions made by the Board of Regents. He blamed bad economic conditions for the cutbacks and fee increases, and said the furloughs have helped to save hundreds of jobs.


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Posted by Georgia
a resident of Amador Estates
on Sep 25, 2009 at 2:59 am

The issue of cutbacks is no longer new to us; there had been a lot of group of companies that made use of this as recession falter. Insufficiency of fund lead to a cost cutting thus, some of the government project had been paralyzed. At some point in time school need to cost cut but should not affect the quality education. It is worth to have an easy to loan to impart to them how significant excellent education is. I have nothing against cost cut provided it won’t affect the education. In spite of so much economic trouble education shouldn’t be put at stake.

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2009 at 9:42 am

The furlough programs are said to save jobs, and they probably do, but it does not improve the quality of life so-to-speak for anyone but the bean counters. I can say from experience that furloughs only impose additional work for less pay on the people forced to participate in such programs. For example, one person I know well works at a company that has mandatory time off each month. The employees salary is reduced accordingly. Yet they still have the same amount of work in that their normal 40-50 hours of work in crammed into a shorter work week. The upshot is that on the days they do go to work, they have much longer days, sometimes several hours longer(12+).

As for furloughs at a university, everyone suffers. Enrollments are restricted, classes and being cut and fees are being raised. At some state schools, faculty are being told to cut a certain number of work days out of their schedule, yet they are being asked not to take more than 10% time off from their contact hours. That means a significant reduction in other aspects of the course such as grading papers. Most faculty I know would find it difficult to reduce non-teaching hours and still maintain the same standards of education. So it becomes a choice between following the furlough requirements and letting the quality of education suffer, or saying to !bleep! with it and just accepting less money for more work (elimination of certain courses means existing ones are more crowded). It's a complete joke.

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Posted by Furloughed
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2009 at 9:55 am

Anonymous has described the situation at the universities quite well. In addition to the enforced furlough days, there was an incentive program at the UCs that encouraged people to leave, not all of them nearing retirement age. A fairly significant number of staff took this option, when faced with the pay cuts that were coming. So now there are far fewer staff, the same amount of work, and forced furlough days, with the staff remaining having to pick up all of the work from those who departed and still try to fulfill the universities' mission statements of serving the students and providing the framework and support for a quality education. At the same time as this crunch/crisis is unfolding, the regents quietly voted for pay raises for some top administrators, and this is in large part what yesterday's protest was about.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Sep 25, 2009 at 10:40 am

We have many challenges, the economy might never come back to where we were a few years ago.

We have to re-think every aspect of our educational process, because it might be years before the money is available as we have known it. Our funding might never return to the levels that we want it to be.

We might have to cut a few perks and retirement plans that our Administrators have. The funding (money) might not be here.

If someone gets their feelings hurt, they can try the private job market.

We need Leadership more than ever !! I do not see it coming from Sacramento or Washinton.

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2009 at 11:41 am

Leadership certainly won't come from Sacramento, not with what they are smoking up there. Washington is even worse, but I will refrain from ranting about that.

If we want to see things improve, it is more likely that we can do it by getting involved on a local level in some way.

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Posted by Oh well
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2009 at 11:44 am

I know people whose children have gotten rejected from the UC system. These were good students, but from what I have been told, the UC system only serves a very small portion of students coming out of high school. They reserve space for transfers from community colleges, which is good.

However, they also reserve space for out of state and out of the country students.

So I don't feel sorry for this state of affairs at UC. Knowing so many people whose children had to go out of state for College, I don't see how we can feel sorry for what is going on at universities (UC) California students may never get to go to.

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Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Oh well, "Knowing so many people whose children had to go out of state for College, I don't see how we can feel sorry for what is going on at universities (UC) California students may never get to go to"

No one had to go out of state for college, they elected to do so. And going to an out of state school may have been a better choice than going to a less prestigous school in California.

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Posted by m
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2009 at 1:54 pm

All over the country "Ivory Towers" are becoming dethroned. I want to sit and do "nothing" for a lot of prestige and benefits, while taking advantage of students. One recent quote from a professor ... "Oh, charge whatever you want for your book, the students will pay no matter what, if not them directly, then their parents". Great!!! Now the staff has to answer to a lot of bad mojo ... finally!!!!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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