Friday, March 28, 2014


Diligent readers of this blog may recall some text from our posting of the audio of the Regents meeting of March 20:

...(T)he meeting began with a public comment period.  A student spoke about "trigger warnings" at UC-Santa Barbara which have something to do with PTSD.  Really, I had no idea what this was about or what the Regents should do about it.  Hint: If you want to speak at Regents meetings, make it clear what you are talking about...

Thanks to an op ed in the LA Times, the mystery is solved.  But the incident on which it is based is rather bizarre:

Mireille Miller-Young, a feminist studies professor at UC Santa Barbara, has been charged with battery, vandalism and theft after she allegedly stole and destroyed the sign of an antiabortion protester on campus and then pushed and scratched the 16-year-old when she tried to grab her sign back.  It looks like an open-and-shut case. Miller-Young told a police officer who interviewed her after the incident that she had seized and torn up the sign, and there's a video posted on YouTube* that appears to record the March 4 altercation (warning: copious use of the "F-word"). The alleged victim, Thrin Short, told Fox News that Miller-Young had pushed her out of an elevator where Miller-Young and several UCSB students had taken the sign, and that she had suffered several scratches during the ensuing melee. Short had been among a group of about a dozen antiabortion protesters, most of them students at Thomas Aquinas College, a small Catholic institution in Santa Paula, who said they had gathered in UCSB's "free speech zone" on campus, where such activities are permitted, to hand out information to UCSB students...

Miller-Young's excuse for her deed (was) that she was "triggered" by images in the protesters' materials, which reportedly included graphic pictures of aborted fetuses. Here's what the officer said she told him:

"In essence, Miller-Young told me she felt 'triggered' by the images on the posters. Miller-Young stated that she had been walking through the Arbor to get back to South Hall. Miller-Young said she was approached by people who gave her literature about abortion. Miller-Young said that she found this literature and pictures disturbing. Miller-Young said that she found this material offensive because she teaches about women's 'reproductive rights' and is pregnant. She said an argument ensued about the graphic nature of these images. Miller-Young said that she [sic] situation became 'passionate' and that other students in the area were 'triggered' in a negative way by the imagery." ...

Fortunately, police and prosecutors in Santa Barbara County don't seem to be buying Miller-Young's "triggering" defense to committing what might be viewed as "triggering" trauma to someone else. And fortunately as well, UCSB administrators, while not especially sympathetic to antiabortion "crusaders," as they call them, did stand up for their free-speech rights. According to National Review, UCSB Vice Chancellor Michael Young wrote in an email:  

"[T]he principle of freedom of expression resides at the very foundation of our society and, most certainly, at the foundation of a world-class university such as UC Santa Barbara. Freedom and rights are not situational: we either have freedom of speech or we do not. We cannot pick and choose which views are allowed to be aired and who is allowed to speak."

Full op ed at

The trigger defense seems like the “Twinkie defense” which is associated with the 1978 murder of the mayor of San Francisco – although it wasn’t the essence of the defense in that case.  See

It still remains a mystery as to what the speaker at the Regents meeting wanted the Regents to do.  But it seems unlikely that UC-SB will adopt rules allowing "triggered" attacks on demonstrators.  

A report in the student newspaper on the incident is at:

*Actually, the video which is at is not very clear.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Napolitano Interview on Airtalk

UC prez Napolitano discussed UC matters including tuition and online higher ed on Larry Mantle's Airtalk program on KPCC yesterday.  You can hear the interview at the link below:

UCLA Angle on NLRB Ruling that College Athletes Can Unionize

You probably have read of a recent NLRB decision that college athletes (at Northwestern U) can unionized because they are de facto employees.

From the OC Register of Feb. 17:

The story of Ramogi Huma’s rise to the forefront of NCAA reform begins in 1995, with a few bags of groceries.
Ramogi Huma was a freshman linebacker at UCLA that fall, when $150 worth of groceries – left anonymously by an agent – earned All-American Donnie Edwards a one-game suspension from the NCAA, which alleged he’d received “an illegal benefit.” The decision enraged Huma, who said he lost 10 pounds over the course of the season without the means to pay for food past his three university-allotted meals.  During a team meeting before workouts that summer, Huma and his teammates were told that, if injured, they wouldn’t be covered under the university’s health insurance, since practices were voluntary...

Full story at 

If you haven't read about the NLRB decision, here is the story from Inside Higher Ed:

The End

We noted yesterday that state senator Yee, not a friend of UC particularly on the pension, is in deep you-know-what after his arrest.  He is termed out of the senate and his candidacy for Secretary of State has undoubtedly come to an abrupt end.  And what an end!  

Yesterday, all we knew was that he was arrested.  Subsequent stories provide the amazing background.

State Sen. Leland Yee arrested on corruption charges in FBI sting:
Yee's official website as of this morning.

FBI: California Sen. Leland Yee took bribes, trafficked guns

Unsealed Yee affidavit:

In any event, this looks like The End:

PS: Below are the comments from Yee fan/flacks received on our 2010 post showing Yee’s webpage which just contained PhD until corrected, as shown below.  (We are switching soon to a new format where the old comments may not appear in the new system’s archiving so we are reproducing them below.)  Maybe these anonymous commentators would like to rethink their enthusiasm? 
Yee's website back in 2010 which provoked the comments below.
Anonymous said...
Why are you misrepresenting Senator Yee's website, even going so far as to make up a fake screenshot? His website doesn't say "Ph.D." It says "Senator Leland Yee, Ph.D." which is how his name is listed in the Senate roster just like Ed Hernandez, OD in the Assembly. And we thank Senator Yee for leading the charge for much-needed transparency at UC. 

December 4, 2010 at 8:10 AM

cloudminder said...
what a sad,small,insensitive post

to people of faith

to people of color

just really offensive on many levels

race, religion, color

especially in this season

(and it seems a tinge of misogyny toward a black woman thrown in for good measure)

Yee earned his PhD - in fact the SCOTUS are considering a case related to Yee, Child Psychology and violent video games right now, so- that PhD-- it come [sic] in handy-- for some anyway.

And a doctored screen shot is just sketchy- don't you want to maintain credibility?-- some dolt with a PhD likely did that too.

So much for the focus on PhD...

also, [sic] Yee has launched an exploratory [sic] on running for mayor - not yet announced his candidacy - but we doubt the author is concerned with a small thing called facts-- which is too bad since this is supposed to be a blog run by faculty (YIKES!)...that's disappointing- too bad for the Bruins.

wasn't [sic] it Yudof himself who said we should not believe in "faith-based budgets"-- why, yes, it was...

what's [sic]good for the goose surely should be good for the gander- Fiat Lux -on the books, on everything. 

December 4, 2010 at 6:02 PM
California Policy Issues said...
Actually, as of 7 AM, 12/5/10, the image shown is EXACTLY what appears on Senator Yee's webpage. Just PhD, no name. 

December 5, 2010 at 7:03 AM 
cloudminder said...
California Policy Issues:

whether [sic] it is as of 7am or whatever:

normal [sic] users notify the webmaster (usually listed on the bottom of pages if you are new to the internet)-- they are the ones responsibly for making sure web pages display properly. It is likely a coding problem.

The disingenuous snark statement of "the only state senator who puts Ph.D. at the top of his official webpage." still was not necessary -- along with all the rest of the low social i.q. content of the post. 

December 5, 2010 at 11:32 AM
California Policy Issues said...
Lighten up. 

December 5, 2010 at 2:42 PM 
Adam said...
As the person responsible for Senator Yee's page, it never just said "Ph.D." in the headline. I have looked at the coding for the past several years and the only change in headline has been from "Senator Leland Y. Yee, Ph.D." to "Senator Leland Yee, Ph.D." In terms of the bill, fortunately most faculty members and organizations support the legislation as well as several student groups, tax organizations, open government advocates, newspapers, et al. 

December 6, 2010 at 9:18 AM
California Policy Issues said...
Now that you are calling me a liar - and somehow falsifying what in fact appeared on the webpage on Saturday and then Sunday when you raised the point - I am done with this dialog. Believe your eyes. What you see is what there was on Saturday and Sunday. No tricks. I simply went to the website, saw what you see with PhD in the left-hand upper corner, hit printScreen, save the image, and put it on the screen. WYSIWYG. If you are managing Yee's webpage, please do not blame me for your errors.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Listen to Regents Meeting of March 20

We continue our service of archiving Regents meetings since the Regents won't do it for more than one year.  Again we note that because of Regental policy, the only way to preserve the audio is to record the full meeting, hour by hour.  So we generally post the archived meeting with a lag.

In any event, the meeting began with a public comment period.  A student spoke about "trigger warnings" at UC-Santa Barbara which have something to do with PTSD.  Really, I had no idea what this was about or what the Regents should do about it.  Hint: If you want to speak at Regents meetings, make it clear what you are talking about.  There were also comments about the campus climate report and complaints that the general practice of having Regents meetings at UC-San Francisco makes it difficult for undergrads to attend.  There are no undergrads at UC-SF.

After public comments, a student rep spoke about the need for more state funding for UC, fossil fuel divestment, and a proposed oil tax for education.

Other highlights:
  • There was discussion about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on UC med centers and trends in rising costs outrunning revenues.
  • A problem discussed at a prior meeting about collecting money owed UC by the U.S. Dept. of Energy for the labs seems to have been resolved.
  • Various executive pay adjustments were approved.  There was also a report based on a survey of university presidents and chancellors indicating that UC pays less than other major institutions.
  • Notable faculty awards were announced.
  • All recommendations by Regental committees from March 19 were rubber stamped.

You can hear the audio at the link below:

Predatory Journals

A listserve I subscribe to featured some discussion of "predatory journals."  If you are like me, you get mass emailings inviting you to contribute to journals you never heard of, especially online journals.

Some of these journals are shams that live off submission fees and/or advertising.  You can find some discussion of this web phenomenon at:

End of Yee?

Normally, we don't blog about political scandals.  However, State Sen. Leland Yee has not been a friend of UC and has introduced bills that would have mucked around with the UC pension plan in unhelpful ways.  He is now termed out and running for Secretary of State.  Yee tried running for mayor of San Francisco not all that long ago and did very poorly.  The screenshot above is from:

We've had run-ins with Yee's flacks in the past.  See:

Anyway, to the senator, we say:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

UC Prez Interviewed on Various Topics

UC president Janet Napolitano was interviewed yesterday at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).  Some highlights:

She characterized her role as similar to the CEO.  Chancellors run the individual campuses and presumably take care of the academic side.  She deals with Sacramento, general administration, labor relations, etc.

There was reference to a forthcoming food initiative.  This initiative was also referenced at last week’s Regents meeting but exactly what will be entailed is still not clear.

Online ad was characterized as a “tool” rather than a silver bullet.  Properly done online courses are not cheap to do because of the need to have students interact with faculty or support staff.

Pensions and retiree health were characterized as major budget challenges.

With the state and federal governments stepping back from support for higher ed, public-private partnerships will become more important.  Private fundraising was included as an example.  There should be a kind of menu given to the state: if you do X, UC can do Y on tuition.

Tuition will not change in 2014-15.

Audio link below:

Alternative links to the audio are below:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3: (Ends)

Afterthoughts on the 3% Pay Raise

An email notice went out yesterday to all academic personnel (including faculty) at UCLA announcing a 3% pay general increase this coming July 1.  Two things to note before celebrating.  Pension contributions of employees in Tier 1 went up 1.5% last July 1 and will go up again by 1.5% this coming July 1.  1.5+1.5 = 3.  There is also the statement in the email that although Oakland "approved" the 3%, it did not pay for it so the money will come from UCLA.  It's not clear exactly what UCLA paying for it will mean.  But presumably, there will be less of something else.  New hires?  What?

In short, things are not always what they seem:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Updates on AFSCME hospital contract

We noted in our last post yesterday that UC had come to an agreement with AFSCME covering hospital workers.  A strike that was scheduled today was called off.  Yesterday, little was known about the tentative contract and there was nothing on the AFSCME 3299 website.  Now there is:

One thing to note is the one-tier pension plan, a deviation from the two-tier approach covering faculty and other employees.  (Other AFSCME settlements have also obtained one-tier.)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Extra! AFSCME hospital strike at UC/UCLA averted

UC statement on tentative contract agreement with AFSCME

Dwaine Duckett, UC vice president for human resources, issued the following statement today (March 23) regarding contract negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME):

The University of California reached a tentative agreement this morning with AFSCME on a four-year contract for nearly 13,000 patient care technical employees who work at UC medical and student health centers. As a result, there will be no strike at our medical centers March 24-29 and AFSCME will present the tentative agreement to its membership for a vote. There was true compromise by both sides to reach this agreement. This ends nearly two years of very challenging negotiations and serves as a foundation for UC and AFSCME to build on going forward. The agreement also allows our medical centers and student health centers to continue to deliver the quality care our patients and students depend on without any interruptions.

Highlights of the four-year tentative agreement, which is subject to ratification by AFSCME members, include:
  • Wages: across-the-board and step increases totaling 24.5%, similar to what UC nurses agreed to, along with a ratification bonus
  • Health benefits: rate freezes for lower-salaried employees
  • Retirement benefits: The same pension formula as AFSCME service workers and UC nurses
  • Job security: Revised language on layoffs and contracting out to protect employee jobs.

Note: At the moment, nothing concerning the settlement is on the union's website.

Listen to the Regents: March 19, 2014 afternoon session

We continue our coverage of the most recent set of Regents meetings.  The Committee on Grounds and Buildings approved a seismic replacement of a Berkeley building.  Some of the discussion revolved around the change in financing of state-sponsored capital projects.  Because UC has a better credit rating than the state (even despite recent downgrades), UC now finances (borrows) for such projects and is reimbursed by the state, with a net interest cost saving.  On the other hand, as the UC debt increases, UC's credit rating may deteriorate.  Although concerns were expressed by Regents, in the end (of course) they approved the new building.

A new biological and physical science building was effectively approved.  In principle, the Regents approved only $4.5 million for preliminary work of a building to cost $112 million eventually.  But once preliminary work is approved, the full project inevitably follows.  It is apparent from the discussion that as long as a building is for science and tech, the Regents like it.

As an example, for UCLA the Regents approved an engineering building.  This one relies on $72.7 million in gifts, most of which has yet to be raised.  When Regents asked what happens if the money isn't forthcoming, Chancellor Block assured them that he was confident it would be raised.  No problemo, as a former governor once said in an earlier career.

The Committee on Compliance and Audit heard a report from a new auditor, KPMG.  There was a lengthy discussion with a new VP for IT about IT security and other issues.  He kept pointing to problems that resulted from the fact that each campus had its own systems.  Of course, if you are in the UC headquarters, there is a tendency to want more influence over what goes on at the campus level.  Since total control from on top is not feasible, the call was more for "collaboration" among the campuses rather than centralized control.

Finally, various internal audits were discussed.  There was supposed to be a closed session of the Committee following the open session.  But apparently it was canceled.

The audio is at the link below:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

And talking about tuition...

Our prior post on tuition brings to mind an article that appeared about a week ago in the Sacramento Bee:

The envelopes have begun arriving at the homes of high school seniors everywhere. The fat ones bring glee, relief, a giddy sense of achievement. The thin ones mean dejection and frequently, tears. At our house, the senior is waiting on 10 envelopes. Which college will open its arms and offer her a life-shaping, four-year embrace remains a mystery. But one thing is certain: None of the envelopes will come from the University of California...

UC fee increases have narrowed the tuition gap, and the generous merit and financial aid packages offered by many private colleges close that distance still further. If you don’t believe me, go online and check out the Net Price Calculator.  When you factor in the reality that graduating in four years is virtually mandatory at most privates – and definitely not a given at UC – it’s almost a wash. None of this is an indictment of the University of California, or a claim that one college path is superior to another. With its groundbreaking research and Nobel laureates, UC remains a powerhouse of higher education, and, as I noted, it’s sad the system held no allure for our daughters...

Full story at

Read more here:

Read more here:

LAO Releases Publication on UC Tuition

The Legislative Analyst's Office has released a publication which traces UC (and CSU) tuition history and policy.  You can find the LAO publication at:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Listen to the Regents: March 19, 2014 morning session

As promised, here is the audio of the Regents meeting of the morning of March 19.  We continued to provide indefinite archiving of these meetings since the Regents only "archive" for one year (for non-obvious reasons).

The meeting began with a public comment period.  Some speakers came from the usual anti-Napolitano crowd.  There was a an anti-fossil fuel speaker, warnings of a grad/TA strike in the spring, statements by AFSCME 3299 that there would be a hospital strike next week in part over demands by UC for additional layoff authority, and statements about the campus climate report discussed below (and in a prior recent entry).  See also:

After a demonstration, UC president Napolitano reported on various initiatives including one involving higher ed institutions in Mexico and another with the City of Oakland.  Various efficiency initiatives were mentioned.  Progress was reported in labor-management relations with unions other than 3299.  Agricultural research will from now on report directly to the UC president.  Finally mention was made of an initiative regarding "food security" without an explanation of what that initiative would entail.  Faculty rep Bill Jacobs noted that articles have been appearing saying that universities were unchanged since the 11th century when they were created.  He noted the silliness of such statements.  And he emphasized the research function including the large amount of contract and grant funds raised by faculty.  The emphasis, he said, cannot just be on undergrad costs.

The Committee on Educational Policy voted to change the level of fundraising in which the Regents would be involved from a trigger of $50 million to $250 million.  Much of the session was devoted to the newly unveiled campus climate report.  We have discussed this report in a recent blog entry.  The issue of low response rates was raised.  Responses by UC reps were not satisfactory.  There were statements that with bigger samples, you get smaller confidence intervals.  While that is true, the issue is response bias when you have a voluntary survey with low response rates. Note that the 27% response rate was below the target of the consultant of 30% (as was mentioned in passing) but that the response rate for individual questions was below 27% as some respondents did not answer all questions. This is a big problem with the survey - which apparently no one from UCOP wanted to discuss.  There was a request from the Regents to compare the proportions of the population with the proportions of respondents in the sample.  Such data are not available for some items, e.g., religion.  But they are available for such items as basic counts of undergrads.  So why were such available comparisons not in the basic UC and campus level reports?

The Committee on Finance discussed the UC budget.  It was noted that the Legislative Analyst wants to go back to a "workload" methodology which contradicts the governor's more-or-less block grant approach.  The Leg Analyst in fact would provide more money than the governor is offering but some would come from a tuition increase (so the state contribution would end up less than the governor's proposal).  That observation, plus a recent downgrade by Moody's of UC's debt ratings led to complaints by some Regents about the extended tuition freeze the governor wants.

A new telescope project was approved.  The Committee had some discussion of the Robinson-Edley report on handling student protests.  It was asked why this topic should come before the Finance Committee and the answer was a mysterious statement that the subject involved "law."  Finally, there was a discussion of a refinancing by UC of certain debt of Oakland Children's Hospital that merged with UC-SF.  Some Regents noted that when they approved the merger, there were assurances that there would be no added risk to UC.  Now it appeared that through the refinancing, in effect there was some risk and more debt at a time that UC debt ratings were being downgraded.  What often happens when Regents are unhappy is that they ultimately go along with whatever the proposal happens to be.  That was the scenario this time; ultimately they approved the refinancing.

Below is a link to the audio of the meeting:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Campus Climate: Anyone Want to Ask Judge Cunningham About It?

The long-awaited (and costly) campus climate report on UC (with segments for each campus) was unveiled yesterday with great fanfare in connection with yesterday's Regents meeting.  Readers of this blog will know that a) the report was commissioned as a response to various incidents involving race or ethnicity, b) the cost was rumored to be something like a million dollars, and c) the UCLA faculty welfare committee in particular warned that a very lengthy survey (93 questions!) with voluntary responses would produce low response rates with likely biases.  So what happened?  The response rates were low and despite producing long campus reports, there is no way of correcting for the biases that may be involved.

Below is a table of the response rates for UCLA and for UC as a whole:

Response Rates:   UCLA      UC
Undergrads         19%      21%
Grads              24       26
Union staff        12       27
Nonunion staff     35       47
Faculty            19       27
All                22       27
Reporting some
incidents          24%      24%
Note: There were slight discrepancies in rounding between the numbers on the table above and the detailed report.  The numbers above are from the executive summary.  It's not entirely clear who is in "faculty" but it likely includes non-ladder faculty.  One guesses that the high percentage for nonunion staff reflects administrators and managers who may have felt more pressure than others to respond.

You can read the survey results for UCLA at the link below.  In news reports, the 24% hostile incident number got the headlines.  And there were lots of cross tabs and pretty charts in the actual survey report.  But the problem remains.  Now in the world of politics when problems arise, commissioning a study is often part of the "solution."  That is what we seem to have here.  Was it worth a million bucks (if that was the cost) to defuse the problem?  And, of course, as readers of this blog will know, well after the survey was taken, Judge David Cunningham was arrested by the UCLA police in Westwood for driving while black last fall. He has filed a claim against the university for $10 million (the cost of ten surveys!). Despite all of the rhetoric coming from Murphy Hall about the just-released survey and its importance, no one has asked Judge Cunningham about his view of the local campus climate.

The UCLA edition of the report is at:

The LA Times write-up on the report is at:

The Daily Bruin write-up is at:

Note: As usual, we will eventually be providing an audio archive of the Regents meeting at which the survey was released.

Two Catch-Up Items: Pensions and Affirmative Action

Since we had a roughly one-month hiatus in blogging, here are two items that occurred during that period.

Pension Initiative

First, the pension initiative that San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed was fronting and would have swept in UC essentially is a goner.  It appears that the group backing it couldn't raise the needed campaign money so they instead filed a lawsuit saying the state attorney general's description was misleading.  The lawsuit essentially delayed matters so that the 2014 election was no longer an option.  (The initiative would have been postponed to 2016, effectively.)

Second, when the issue went to court, the decision went against Reed et al, so even if the initiative did appear in 2016, the wording of the description would remain.

Affirmative Action

Prop 209 of 1996 banned affirmative action in public university admissions based on race and ethnicity.  The proposition followed a more limited action by the UC Board of Regents.  After 209 was passed, the Regents repealed their version since it had become superfluous.  Prop 209 can be changed or repealed only by another ballot proposition. The legislature could put such a proposition on the ballot with a 2/3 vote which at one point Democrats had.  A proposition that would have repealed 209 passed the state senate.  However, it that point, pressure from the Asian community led to some rethinking by some Democratic senators and made it unlikely that the state assembly could muster the needed votes.  At the moment, therefore, the matter is in limbo or maybe just dead.

KCRW's "Which Way LA?" program last night dealt with the affirmative action issue.  The impact on UC was much discussed but CSU was barely mentioned.  Community colleges and transfers therefrom to UC (or CSU) were not mentioned at all. Note that since community colleges essentially admit everyone, affirmative action - active or banned - has no effect on their admissions.

You can hear the broadcast at the link below:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Listen to the Regents Meeting of Feb. 27

As blog readers are likely to know, the Regents are meeting today and tomorrow.  However, there was an interim meeting of Feb. 27 by the Committee on Investments.  A link to the audio of that meeting is below.  We preserve such audio because the Regents - for whatever reason - describe "archiving" their sessions as something that lasts for one year.  We note that under that policy, the Declaration of Independence would have been destroyed in 1777. 

In any event, the meeting began with a public comment period, mainly featuring students pushing fossil fuel divestment.  Editorial comment: The push to use the pension and other UC funds for political objectives has no potential end.  Moreover, once we move down that road, we might undermine ongoing attempts to get whatever funding for the pension that we can from the state.  Yes, it is always possible to find periods in which divesting from this or that might be advantageous.  But the opposite will also be true.  So even if in the long run it might turn out that divesting from something had no effect on returns, anytime there is a temporary loss, opponents of funding the pension will make a fuss.  Of course, individuals in their personal 403b and 457b savings accounts might be given the option of divesting from this or that.  But there are real dangers in making symbolic gestures with an underfunded pension plan.

There was some discussion about pension funding in this session.  Former Regent David Crane, a Schwarzenegger appointee who was never confirmed by the legislature, seems to be an advisor to the Committee and said he wanted to see routine data on the ratio of retirees to active employees and the pension as a percent of the UC budget.  Crane wasn't confirmed in part because of his pension views.  

Much of the meeting involved performance of the pension and other portfolios.  There was much defensiveness over a recent article that indicated that UC earnings were substandard and assertions that investment practices had been improved. 

A link to the audio is below:

Limited Blogging Resumption

I stopped blogging on Valentines Day.  There was a cryptic message on the blog saying daily blogging would cease.  For those curious, I developed a heart valve problem on that day that required immediate open heart surgery.  The recovery period will go on for awhile, but blogging will resume, perhaps at a slower page than before for some period.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Degradation of Faculty Welfare and Compensation

Colleen Lye and James Vernon (UC Berkeley Faculty Association)

UC faculty need to wake up to the systematic degradation of their pay and benefits.  In 2009, when the salary furlough temporarily cut faculty salaries between 6 and 10%, faculty were outraged.  Yet since then our compensation has been hit by a more serious, and seemingly permanent, double blow.

First, despite modest salary rises of 3% and 2% in October 2011 and July 2013, faculty take-home pay has been effectively cut as employee contributions to pension and healthcare have escalated.  Faculty now pay more for retirement and healthcare programs that offer less.  Secondly, faculty are no longer treated equally. Different groups of faculty are increasingly pitted against each other as - depending on our age or where we live or when we were hired - we receive different levels of retirement, health and other benefits.

Faculty salaries were already uncompetitive.  Even with the recently-announced 3% raise, they remain 10-15% below UC’s own comparator institutions ( and a further 10% behind those of the private 4 -- Stanford, Yale, Harvard and MIT--(

Back in 2009 strong benefits, in the form of pension and health care provisions, once allowed UC to excuse its uncompetitive salaries by reminding us of what it called our ‘total compensation package’ ( This is no longer true. Now, as continued austerity management grips University administrators, and campaigns are launched to divest public sector workers of their pensions and retiree healthcare, faculty are being stripped of these deferred (and other) benefits.

One reason faculty are largely unaware of the degradation of their benefits is that changes have been made incrementally and target different constituencies.  Gone are the days when all faculty and retirees were treated equally and received the same benefits.  And yet for all faculty these changes mean we are paying more and getting less.

Firstly, faculty are divided by a new two-tier pension system.  The old pension, the so-called 1976 tier, has seen a steady escalation of employee contributions from 0% in 2009 to 8% in 2014.  These raises alone mean that faculty take-home pay has deteriorated by as much as 3%.
The new pension introduced for those hired since 2013 has begun with a 7% employee contribution.  Despite paying more new faculty get less. The minimum retirement age has been raised from 50 to 55, the retirement age for maximum pension has been raised from 60 to 65, and the lump sum cash-out and subsidized survivor benefits have been eliminated.

Secondly, although there is as yet no legal evidence that retiree health benefits are less ‘vested’ (and thus unalterable except by legislation) than pensions, they have been progressively stripped.  And here again different groups of faculty are treated differently.
Since 2010 UC’s contribution to retiree health benefits has fallen from 100% to 70%, but this pales in comparison to the changes introduced in 2013 which have affected 50% of faculty and staff.  All new hires, together with those with fewer than 5 years of service, or those whose age plus service is fewer than 50 years, will now receive nothing from UC towards their healthcare if they retire before 55. Meanwhile contributions for those retiring after 56 will be on a sliding scale (depending on length of service) beginning at just 5%!

Worse still, in what is being considered a pilot program by the Regents, retirees no longer living in California have been removed from UC’s insurance plans. Instead they will be given a lump sum of $3,000 per annum to help defray costs not covered by Medicare.  This represents a significant shift of the risk and the responsibility for healthcare from UC on to retirees.  If it generates the projected $700 million savings of total liability as reported by UCOP’s CFO to the regents this year, it is likely soon to be coming to a group of retirees near you.

Thirdly, in the fall, the majority of faculty and staff were forced to change their healthcare plan in little over two months. We were promised that these had been negotiated to secure great savings for UC and lower insurance rates for all UC employees.  It quickly became clear that those lower monthly rates masked a huge turnover in eligible providers, geographically uneven coverage of service (across as well as between campuses), and considerably higher deductibles.  It is too soon to calculate how much more faculty are paying for their healthcare, but once again we are certainly paying more for less.

It is time for faculty to wise up to this systematic and universal downgrading of our salaries and benefits that also sets different groups of us on different tracks.  The contrast with the new contracts recently signed by CNA, UPTE and ACSFME is worth noting.  In addition to significantly improved salaries, these unions have been able to maintain a single-tier pension  (for an additional 1% contribution) and retain retiree health benefits.

So how will faculty respond? With a sigh of resignation? A determination to get an outside offer that would increase one's personal compensation package? Or will we seek better mechanisms that would permit faculty to negotiate all elements of our compensation rather than have it decreed, and diminished, from on high?

Friday, March 14, 2014

UC Health Insurance Problems? Share Your Story

UC professors Michael Meranze and Chris Newfield who blog at Remaking the University have been hearing some not-so-happy stories from faculty and staff about the new UC Care health insurance provision.  It seems that folks at campuses without a medical center have fewer options and often pay more out of pocket costs.  They've heard enough of these stories that they set up a page for you to add your own story.

If you have a story to tell, go to their Share Your UC Care Story page.  With more information about how changes impact faculty and staff, we can be more prepared for future benefit changes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How to respond to eroding pay and benefits?

In case you missed it, UC Berkeley Faculty Association co-chairs Coleen Lye and James Vernon have penned a sobering letter to their colleagues across the UC system.  It's time to wake up and take notice of the piecemeal erosion of our pay and benefits, they say.  More specifically:
  • Despite modest pay bumps in 2011 and 2013, increases in pension and health insurance payments mean our take home pay is going down.
  • The new two-tiered pension means faculty hired after 2013 get less generous retirement benefits for roughly the same cost as everyone else
  • Current retirees are now paying 30% of the cost of their health insurance and in future retirees will pay much more.
  • Changes to the health plans represents an additional erosion of benefits and as-yet unclear possible cost increases.
Meanwhile, Lye and Vernon point out that other groups of UC employees have been able to put a halt to similar changes.  For instance, unionized nurses and patient care workers negotiated contracts that maintain their single tier pension and retiree health benefits.

How UC faculty will respond to these developments is still an open question. Lye and Vernon ask "Will we seek better mechanisms that would permit faculty to negotiate all elements of our compensation rather than have it decreed — and diminished — from up high?"  Or grumble to ourselves while we scan the job boards looking for an outside offer?