What’s college without protests? Thousands of UCLA students and faculty members plan to take part in a system wide University of California walkout and strike today to protest furloughs, layoffs and tuition hikes stemming from state budget cuts.
The University Professional & Technical Employees union is leading the demonstrations, which were planned at all 10 UC campuses starting at 7 a.m. -- on the first day of the fall term.
At UCLA, about 75-80 protesters were walking picket lines early this morning at several campus locations, said Lynn Kessler, a UCLA researcher.
“Things are going great,” Kessler said. “We're stopping deliveries at the loading docks.”
A formal demonstration is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at UCLA at Charles Young Drive and Westwood Boulevard, followed by a noon rally near Ackerman Union.
“We're striking to take a stand for education,” UPTE President Jelger Kalmijn, a research associate at UC San Diego, said earlier.
“Our unfair labor practice strike is about the illegal cuts (UC President) Mark Yudof is making to the university,” Kalmijn said.
“He is obligated to bargain with us, but instead he's taking unilateral and unwise actions. His furloughs and layoffs, proposed tuition hikes and lack of budget transparency threaten the public mission of our university.”
The University of California Students Association, the representative body for students in the UC system, has endorsed today's work stoppage and rally. Likewise, more than 1,100 UC faculty members have signed a petition in support of the action, along with 1,400 graduate students systemwide.
In July, the UC Board of Regents approved Yudof's plan to implement systemwide furloughs as one of several actions to address an $813 million cut in state general fund support.
The furlough schedule varies from 11 to 26 days a year based on pay scale and classification. Higher-paid workers are generally required to take more furlough days than those on the lower rungs of the income ladder.
The unpaid days amount to a 4 to 10 percent salary reduction for employees, according to the UC Office of the President.
Roughly a quarter of the budget shortfall is being made up through student fee increases approved by the regents in May. The 9.3 percent tuition hikes bring the average undergraduate student's tuition this year to $7,788.
Yudof has proposed further increases of 15 percent in the spring and next fall. A graduate-level increase of 15 percent is also on the table. The regents are expected to vote on the proposals in November.
“The state's funding shortfall amounts to less than 3 percent of UC's budget,” said Carol Buckmaster, a staff researcher at UCSD and member of UPTE. “Employees have presented carefully researched budget alternatives that preserve UC's mission of education and research, but Yudof refuses any real dialogue.”
Several hundred workers at UC campuses have been terminated. At UC Riverside, where some 18,600 students are enrolled this semester, more than 100 full-time positions have been eliminated, dozens of classes have been canceled and plans for a new School of Public Policy have been tabled indefinitely.
The university is expected to shave its workforce by 15 percent in the next two years, primarily through attrition.
In July, Yudof said he understood cutbacks would be “painful” but that they were necessary because “the university (system) is facing a financial crisis unprecedented in the past quarter century.”
“No plan is perfect, but we have worked hard to make it as fair as possible while preserving, to the extent possible, excellence and access to opportunity for students, researchers and patients,” he said.
An 18-page report by the UC Office of the President said additional student fee increases will help generate the revenue required to meet UC retiree health and pension obligations and offset the loss of state support.