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May 24, 2004

Acting Chancellor Chemers shares good news with staff

By Jennifer McNulty

Acting Chancellor Martin M. Chemers was greeted by enthusiastic applause during his spring brown-bag forum with staff when he announced that each campus employee will receive a $200 bonus (details).

Acting Chancellor Chemers updated staffers about the UCSC budget and took questions at the May 24 staff forum. Photo: Louise Donahue


Outgoing Staff Advisory Board chair Rachel Huff announced the election of new board members Ciel Benedetto, senior analyst in Equal Employment Office/Affirmative Action, and Scott Loosley, senior grounds supervisor in Physical Plant.

Applause erupted at least three more times during the 45-minute gathering, including when Chemers announced that parking rates will remain the same next year and that the UC Regents approved a onetime bonus leave program for staff. The action means employees may take two days off over winter break this year without using vacation time.

Terms of the bonus and leave program must be negotiated for represented employees, said Chemers, noting that it was “our intention to give (the bonus) to everyone.”

Responding to a question, Chemers again drew applause when he said he is “leaning toward” vying for the top job on campus.

“I’m automatically a candidate, because I’m the sitting chancellor,” Chemers told the crowd that packed Oakes 105. “I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to this campus, and I’ll make my final decision whether to seek the position when they draw up the short list. To be honest, I’m leaning toward it.”

The selection committee hopes to name the next chancellor by the end of August or early September, said Chemers. More information about the search process is available online at www.ucsc.edu/administration/chancellor_search.

Chemers struck the upbeat tone early as he updated employees on the agreement between the University of California and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that protects UC from further budget cuts this year and promises new funding beginning in 2005. The university’s 2004-05 budget will be flat, he said.

“It’s not a great deal, but it’s good for us, I think,” said Chemers, noting that the agreement gives UC some predictability and “stops the bleeding that’s been going on.”

Perhaps even more heartening was the outpouring of support for the university that flooded Sacramento, said Chemers.

“Just when the budget and the cuts to higher education were coming out, the citizens of California and the leadership of California just said, ‘Wait--this system of higher education is an essential feature in the success of this state,’” said Chemers, noting that he knew in 1968 when he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois that he wanted to come to UC. “I knew this was then--and is now--the best university in the world.”

At UCSC, the number of people losing jobs due to the budget crisis will be “well under 100, probably closer to 50,” said Chemers. Many more vacant positions are being lost, however, and Chemers acknowledged the impact those cuts will have on employees. “Everyone is working a lot harder,” he said. “We recognize that, and we appreciate it.”

Campus efforts to reorganize, become more efficient, and improve service are moving ahead. About 70 percent of the projects have wrapped up their work with outside consultants, noted Chemers, and the focus now is on the “big ones:” financial transactions and information technology groups. Both projects are at the point of drawing up organization charts and will begin hiring senior managers shortly, said Chemers, adding that all management positions will be staffed internally. “The talent we need is talent we already have,” he said.

Changes will be phased in gradually over two to three years, noted Chemers.

“Human beings have a limited capacity for uncertainty and change,” he said. “We’re going to try to keep the flux at a level that’s manageable so it doesn’t drive us all crazy.”

Commenting on a union demonstration and petition delivered to his office last week, Chemers voiced strong support for the workplace principles of advancement, fairness, and quality, which he described as “central values of our organization.”

“If you feel you are the victim of favoritism, I wish you’d do something about it,” he said. “I do not condone favoritism.”

Fielding questions from the audience, Chemers noted that senior managers will not receive the bonus, and the bonus will be pro-rated for part-time employees.

Asked how the governor can guarantee UC funding levels beyond his term of office, Chemers acknowledged the curious nature of politics and economics.

“All of these plans are predicated on economic projections that may or may not hold true. The important thing for us is that there will be no more cuts right now,” said Chemers, noting that UC leaders had been braced for additional cuts this month. “This will let us catch our breath for a couple of years.”

UCSC’s enrollment in coming years is uncertain, but Chemers predicted it will return to levels of “modest growth” of 200-300 students per year.

Following years of rapid growth under the leadership of former Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood, who helped build the campus’s public reputation and oversaw the introduction of many new programs and buildings on campus, Chemers said he thinks UCSC needs to consolidate its gains in the current economic climate and prepare to move forward as the economy improves.

In other news from campus officials:

• Work on the Physical Sciences Building, stalled by the bankruptcy of the mechanical contractor, is ramping back up, and campus officials hope the building will be ready for occupancy in January.

• The campus is drafting guidelines in accordance with the UC Regents
“green building” initiative, designed to mandate energy efficiency and the use of sustainable building materials.

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