Talk of the Town

Town-hall meetings swept the campus last week, featuring UC Irvine Chancellor Drake addressing questions and concerns about the proposed UC budget cuts. Open meetings of faculty, staff and students took place on Monday morning and afternoon, and Tuesday evening.

A focal point of the meetings addressed the coming referendum to extend certain tax levels that would maintain the UC cut at $500 million. If the referendum does not pass, the UC funding would take a hit of an additional $500 million, plunging funding by a total of $1 billion.

“The referendum is critical,” Drake said. “If it doesn’t change, and I mean this in the most serious way, it’s an actual game-changer for the UC institution.”

The bill is currently in its development and approval stages, but once it hits the ballot in June, Drake urges students to vote and spread awareness to the greater community. Although Drake said that the UC system rarely endorses ballot initiatives, he claimed it would endorse this one.

“Yes we are being hit disproportionably to the rest of the state,” said Meredith Michaels, UCI Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget.

Drake emphasized that the approach to this round of cuts would be different from approaches to past budget cuts in some ways. Although final solutions are not solidified, there was one significant difference for faculty members.

“A furlough program like last time is not on our list of solutions,” Drake said.

During the Q&A session on Tuesday afternoon, faculty raised the issue of potential salary reductions instead of furloughs. Drake responded that the furloughs were difficult and complicated to distribute evenly and fairly last time around, and were “not a good usage of time.”

These cuts, like prior ones, will be subject to an open and transparent active process with faculty, staff and student input. Drake stated that, in light of budgetary cuts, the priority would be to protect the educational experiences that affect the future and the quality of patient care to the greatest extent possible. Then, UCI would do its best to protect the people who make that possible.

“Everything is on the table,” Drake said repeatedly.

Drake encouraged students and staff to continue writing letters to the capital, claiming that hand-writers did not go unnoticed by the legislature, whereas e-mails were akin to “confetti.” Legislators in Sacramento thanked Drake personally for hand-written letters they had read from UCI students. Drake called the letter-writing campaign a success.

“Generally, you as students are creative and thoughtful people,” Drake said. “We were successful with advocacy in the past, we will continue to try to be successful with advocacy in the future.”

Drake reminded the UC community, “The cuts are made by legislators and the legislature, not by the Regents É the more people realize we’re in this together the better.”

The importance of advocating the importance of the UC in California’s economy was also a focal point in the meeting, with Drake calling the investment in the UC an investment in future solutions. Drake said that the UC creates jobs, educates the population, and fuels innovation like no other public schools system in the country.

“If we tried to trade our system with [any other state], they would say yes in an instant,” Drake said.

Drake invited feedback from faculty, staff and students, and said that suggestions about the cuts should be sent to myfeedback@uci.edu.

Administration plans to be creative and resourceful in finding ways to cut spending. Drake posited using solutions such as a new flight finder to save an estimated $1 million on travel.

Drake noted that despite budget cuts, some positives are continuing for UCI. University giving has improved 92 million this year compared to last.

Additionally, UCI continues to be more selective in its admissions process. This last year UCI received just under 40,000 applications, and in the last 5years the average G.P.A. for incoming UCI students rose from 3.72 to 4.0.

David Gao contributed to this article.