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First, let me say that we cannot accept the proposed budget without a fight. The University of California is asking for some flexibility in implementing the cuts, for a reduction in the proposed cut if it becomes feasible during the budget process or for some benefit to UC in the tax-extension proposal in addition to avoiding deeper cuts. Leaders at the Office of the President and at all campuses are lobbying hard to mitigate the effects of this budget proposal. At UC Irvine, we are committed to preserving the excellence of the educational experience.

That said, the facts are straightforward: The state of California faces an unprecedented $25.5 billion deficit. Governor Brown proposes to address fully this deficit over 18 months, half through cuts and half through revenue. In the governor’s plan, voters would be asked at a special election in June to extend current tax rates that are scheduled to sunset on June 30. Putting the measure(s) on the ballot requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature.

The governor proposes slashing $500 million from the UC system in 2011-12. State budget cuts could be even deeper if proposed tax extensions fail. The UC budget gap is really closer to $1 billion, when factoring in unfunded cost increases for things such as health benefits, utilities, recruitment and retention of faculty and UC contributions to the retirement system.

These cuts come on top of many previous reductions over the years and will do serious harm to the University of California. Under the proposed 2011-12 budget, the contribution of students through their tuition will surpass the state’s funding contribution for the first time.  In just 20 years, state support for per-student educational costs at UC has fallen 57 percent, adjusting for inflation. The budget proposal takes UC back to a level of state funding equivalent (adjusting for inflation) to 1998-99, when the UC system served 73,000 fewer students than the 235,000 enrolled today.

At UC Irvine, we could be facing a cut of more than $50 million. We are excellent at efficiently managing our resources, but efficiencies alone will not close this budget gap. We are at the point where continued cuts threaten access to the university.

To quote from the Public Policy Institute of California, “California’s education system is not keeping up with the changing demands of the state’s economy and soon, California will face a shortage of skilled workers. By 2025, California could have a shortfall of one million college graduates. Shortchanging higher education for quick budget fixes could seriously shortchange California’s economic future.”

We must strongly communicate our message. Write a personal letter to your legislator. Elected officials tell us that they put much more stock in a letter that someone has taken the time to handwrite than in the hundreds of e-mails they get each day. Let them know that investment in the University of California is an investment in the future of California.

Meredith Michaels
Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget
Richard Lynch
Associate Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget

The UCI ROTC cadets would like to personally express their gratitude to several key UCI faculty members in assisting us with the on-going ROTC initiative. As Cadets, we study leadership in the ROTC program and we are grateful to have observed firsthand how administration and ASUCI leaders work on a daily basis.

With the bleak financial outlook within the UC, our university’s leadership has taken the initiative to be supportive and open instead of blocking constructive discourse. We would specifically like to thank Chancellor Drake, Dean Jenness of social ecology, Dean Salinger of undergraduate education, Dean Bennett of biological sciences and ASUCI President Sitara Nayudu for their strong leadership style.

The ROTC initiative provides interested students with a full-tuition scholarship and monthly stipends. This support is invaluable during the turbulent financial crisis by alleviating some strain for those considering a professional career after graduation.

Additionally, ROTC provides UCI another student venue: “cadet life,” such as the more commonly known “Greek life,” and adds diversity to UCI’s academic curriculum by making available to all students military history and military s cience courses.

Without the administration’s active participation with the student cadets, the ROTC initiative would not move forward. In this manner, UC Irvine leads by example, something that even the elite Ivy League universities cannot claim. We are therefore proud to uphold President Obama’s ROTC mandate from his recent State of the Union address to “[leave] behind the divisive battles of the past É [move] forward as one nation.”

Hopefully by the end of this academic year, UCI will produce its first official class of morally and ethically distinguished UC Irvine military graduates.

Very Respectfully,
Christian M. Peralta
U.S. Army ROTC
Cadet Beach Battalion Commander
University of California, Irvine
California State University, Long Beach

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