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10,000 UC Berkeley Employees Face Pay Cuts in Latest Pandemic-Related Reductions

Some 10,000 UC Berkeley staffers can expect to see reductions in pay beginning in February to “confront the pandemic’s significant and persistent impacts on our finances,” according to a statement issued Tuesday from the university’s chancellor.

In her message to campus employees, Carol Christ said the university will implement a year-long program of furloughs starting Feb. 1, 2021, for non-unionized staff and faculty. Unionized staff time will also be reduced.

Christ said the cuts, which are organized in six tiers according to income levels, are meant to protect the lowest-income workers on campus.

“Consistent with our commitment to equity, employees earning less than $59,000 will be exempted, with progressive, graduated reductions up to a top rate of 3.84% for those earning more than $234,000,” Christ said in the statement.

The cuts are expected to generate roughly $27 million in savings for the school.

The university also recently froze faculty and non-union staff pay, setting aside some $10 million to minimize layoffs, particularly for low-income staff.

But Christ said even with those cuts, the university still faces a $200 million shortfall as a result of pandemic-related losses and additional costs. The school, she added, plans to take additional steps to fill that hole by digging further into its reserves and taking out more loans.

UC Berkeley’s equity-focused approach is in line with a recent message from University of California President Michael Drake urging the system’s 10 campuses to prioritize the protection of low-income workers.

“We’re discussing programs that we can use to try to find ways to meet our budgetary gap while doing all we can to protect our lowest-income workers. Those are often the most vulnerable in our population,” Drake told reporters last month.

In her letter, Christ also announced a set of longer-term financial strategies for the university. They include expanding remote learning capacity, finding ways to monetize the intellectual property created by its research efforts, increasing philanthropy and urging state legislators to restore public funding levels.

Three decades ago, she noted, the state provided half of UC Berkeley’s revenue; today, it covers roughly one-seventh of it.

“We are active and engaged in Sacramento,” Christ said in her letter. “We are making the case for reliable, consistent levels of state funding that are commensurate with the University’s contributions to the state’s economic, scientific, and cultural vitality.”

Wendy Brown, a UC Berkeley political science professor, said she thinks the cuts should be even more progressive, “protecting all salaries under $100,000 and cutting more deeply at the upper end, where only privilege, not survival is at stake. ”

Brown also urged the administration to siphon funding from additional programs and projects.

“Of course, other things should be on the chopping block, such as the scandalously expensive and exploitative Division 1 athletics program that is irrelevant to the university’s research and teaching mission,” she said. “Or the newly renovated and barely used football stadium, debt service for which sits on the entire university budget like a 2-ton boulder.”

Copyright 2020 KQED