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May 30, 2005

Chancellor Denton says staff issues are high priority

By Jennifer McNulty

Staff issues, including salaries, recruitment, workload, and reclassification procedures, are among Chancellor Denice D. Denton's highest priorities, she announced during the spring brown-bag forum with staff.

Photo: Chancellor Denton

Chancellor Denton outlined some of her plans and took questions on everything from parking to Tent Uity at her spring forum.

Photo: Louise Donahue

"Clearly, there's been way too much cutting of staff during the last four, five, six years, and it's not a sustainable situation," Denton told a crowd of about 250 people.

For the first time in several years, the governor's proposed budget includes funding for 3 percent increases in staff salaries.

Although salaries for represented employees must be negotiated, Denton said she would like staff salaries to "be competitive with the market."

In addition, Denton said she has done some "homework" since her first staff forum in March and learned that UC Berkeley, UCSF, and UCLA adopted higher staff salary structures in the early 1980s. "Obviously we're not a lower cost-of-living city than those three cities anymore," she said.

Denton will undertake a two-pronged effort to see "what we can do as a campus without going through [the UC Office of the President in] Oakland" while also seeing what can be done systemwide to guarantee equity in staff salary levels among the campuses and identify resources for staff salaries.

"It's really clear to me that there's a tremendous level of frustration and anger over the salary structure--of staff and faculty," said Denton.

While staff issues took center stage during the forum, Denton also outlined her other top priorities for the coming year:

• Enhancing academic excellence and diversity;

• Identifying new opportunities for academic programs, such as professional schools;

• Enhancing the national and international reputation of UCSC;

• Implementing plans for the campus that have been developed in recent years.

Accomplishing those goals will require a balancing act between resources and priorities, said Denton, who expressed appreciation for the success of the Cornerstone Campaign, which surpassed the $50 million fundraising goal by raising $65 million.

Alternative to formal inauguration

Denton also announced her decision to forgo a traditional, formal inauguration in favor of a period of scholarly symposia and fundraising activities that will culminate with the annual Scholarships Benefit Dinner on November 5.

"Instead of spending money and staff time on ceremony, we'll be investing in our campus's academic priorities and our students," she said.

Responding to a question about Tent University, Denton provided context for the decisions that were made by detailing several incidents in the weeks prior to the student encampment that involved a "level of physical aggression and violence that hadn't been seen before on the Santa Cruz campus."

A student intern required surgery for serious injuries suffered during the career fair, at which students protested the presence of military recruiters on campus, said Denton. In addition, staff members were knocked over during dining-hall gatherings that preceded the recent AFSCME strike, and rocks were thrown through the living-room windows of a provost's home and the tires of the provost's family's vehicles were slashed, she added.

This "different environment" informed decisions made by staff, administrators, and Academic Senate leadership as they developed strategies for the Tent University protest, said Denton, adding that Tent University participants chose to resist arrest. "This wasn't civil disobedience," she said.

"It was not the typical month at UC Santa Cruz, and an Academic Senate panel of students, staff, and faculty will review Tent University in the context of the arc of events," said Denton. "People were acting in good faith, people were making good decisions. We did the best we could in a difficult situation."

Responding to a question about recent strikes, Denton said she has met with local labor leaders to better understand the issues "so I can be a more effective advocate in Oakland." Denton, who took office February 14, said there are several other chancellors who would like to "increase the effectiveness of bargaining sessions."

"I'd like to be able to avoid having strikes," she said.

Campus to charge for bus passes

As always at staff forums, parking and transportation were hot topics. Rates for A, B, and R parking permits will not increase during the next fiscal year, according to Wes Scott, director of Transportation and Parking Services. Rates will increase 5 percent for participants in campus carpool and vanpool programs, and a $2/month charge for bus passes will be implemented, said Scott. In addition, parking enforcement will be extended until 8:30 p.m.; evening parking permits will be available for $2/night for those who don't already have parking permits.

Some programs, including the carpool, vanpool, and bus-pass programs, have been heavily subsidized in the past, and the changes are designed to "spread it out a little bit," Scott said.

The campus is negotiating with Metro to provide regular service to 2300 Delaware and Long Marine Laboratory, said Scott, who responded to a question about the shortage of parking on campus by noting that it will only get worse as infill construction continues and buildings go up on the level sites in the core of campus. Most of the parking planned for the future will be on the periphery of campus, he added.

Regarding the campuswide diversity initiative, Denton is launching quantitative and qualitative studies with an eye toward implementation beginning this fall. Diversity is central to excellence, she said, adding that her own definition of diversity encompasses gender, ethnicity, race, class, physical ability, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender, and nation of origin.

One of the first tasks of the Committee on Affirmative Action and Diversity will be to identify a campus definition of diversity, she noted.

"What we have to do is create an environment that really does embrace difference," she said. "I'm not hearing that we've achieved that environment."

Denton endorsed the Academic Senate's imminent "request for proposals" regarding the development of professional schools and other academic endeavors, perhaps involving external partners and Silicon Valley links. David Kliger, interim campus provost and executive vice chancellor, will work with the five divisions to implement their academic plans, and he will examine student-staff ratios this summer to assess staff workload levels. Vice Chancellor Tom Vani will head a task force assigned to streamline staff human resource processes, including recruitment and retention.

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