News In Brief

UC Engages Energy Efficiency Program to Reduce Utility Costs

The University of California Regents’ committee on grounds and buildings authorized external financing allowing the UC to move forward with an energy efficiency program spanning over the next three years.

A partnership with California’s major utility companies, including Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E), Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, will provide around $178 million to help fund projects for 2009-11.

Initiating around 900 small projects to provide energy and cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the program is expected to cost an estimated $247.4 million. Projects planned across the UC campuses include lighting system upgrades, motor replacements, air conditioning and control upgrades.

The program is expected to reduce the university’s annual utility costs by $36 million; the university’s 2007-08 utility costs totaled $372 million.

Furthermore, the program will help the UC reach its sustainability goals and make a significant contribution to UC plans to reduce energy consumption to 10 percent below 2000 levels by 2014 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 100,000 metric tons per year.

Human Relations Commission to Honor UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative

The Orange County Human Relations Commission will honor UC Irvine’s Olive Tree Initiative at its awards banquet on May 7.

The OC Human Relations Commission focuses on providing programs in partnerships with schools, corporations, individuals, cities and foundations to eliminate prejudice, intolerance and discrimination. They recognize outstanding individuals in schools, communities and police departments for their contributions to human relations.

The Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) was formed in 2007 by a group of diverse UCI students aiming to better understand the situation in Palestine and Israel. Students of various religious backgrounds, including Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze were able to raise over $60,000 from community members and individuals to sponsor a tour of the Middle East. Their goal was to develop better relationships between organizations and students who found themselves on opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian issue and to help lessen the tension between them.

Since their trip, OTI has hosted various forums on campus as well as around the county for other students and community groups. This month, OTI plans to publish a journal commemorating their trip. The students have also planned a summit for April 24-25 to share their project model with other UC student leaders. OTI students will receive the Community Leader Award for their ongoing efforts.

UC Implements Further Cuts Due to Further Drop in State Revenue

In the face of an ongoing budget crisis that seems to be worsening, the University of California has discussed and set into place additional cost-saving initiatives.

While February’s adopted California state budget implemented a permanent $115 million in cuts for the UC system, stretching the deficit to nearly $450 million over two years, a report issued late March suggests further shortfalls. The Legislative Analyst’s Office reports that revenues coming into the state are now projected to fall short another $8 billion.

UC President Mark Yudof recently completed budget consultations with chancellors and fiscal teams from each campus. Campuses will be curtailing faculty recruitment by 50 percent or more, reducing staff hiring, consolidating or eliminating excessive programs and limiting spending on unnecessary costs, such as travel.

UC officials have also further limited senior level pay and the payouts of bonuses and incentive pay that were adopted in January.

Yudof has also proposed another $12 million in reductions for the UC Office of the President (UCOP), bringing total UCOP reductions to $67 million.

Furthermore, Yudof told regents that UC staff is now being asked to develop a framework of policies and procedures that would implement either temporary leave of absence or temporary or permanent salary reductions. Although no decisions have been made on the matter, Yudof said his goal was to ensure that the framework would be in place if a situation to employ them arose.

The regents have also endorsed Proposition 1A on the upcoming May 19 ballot, a statewide measure that would regulate the level of annual spending and increase the amount of funding held in reserves to guard against the ups and downs of state spending.

Although the state budget assumed a 9.3 percent increase in mandatory system-wide fees, the board of regents will not set student fees until their May 2009 meeting. Regardless, the UC continues to pursue aggressive financial aid programs. In fact, the maximum value of Federal Pell Grants will actually increase by $619, providing an estimated $33 million in new funding for UC students.

UCI Alum Establishes $100,000 Endowment

While each year the UC Irvine Alumni Association (UCIAA) awards around $80,000 to UCI students through scholarships and programs, the association announced March 26 that board member Dennis Nguyen, class of 1994, established a $100,000 endowment for a first-year graduate student studying Chinese language and literature at UCI.

The Dennis Nguyen Graduate Chinese Literature Fellowship will be awarded to outstanding graduate students with financial need in the department of East Asian languages and literatures within the School of Humanities.