Furlough Plan by UC Met with Mix of Support and Opposition


University of California professors and staff would have to take between 11 and 26 furlough days a year according to a new proposal announced Friday by UC President Mark Yudof.  These unpaid days would amount to a 4 to 10 percent pay cut per year.

Professors would not be allowed to skip classes as part of their furlough days, but students will still feel an impact with the furloughs, staff layoffs, and program reductions.


In a video, UC President Mark Yudof laid out his plan:

Some of the primary themes are that the staff and faculty would get additional time off as a result of the program. There’s flexibility on when that time is to be taken, and the holidays will not go unpaid. We’re spreading out the reductions over the year so they do not congregate at one point of the year or the other. It’s pretty even over the 12 months. I’m recommending that we protect the pension benefits at the level of the pre-furlough salaries.

There’s a graduated approach, which many of you recommended. That is, at the lower salary levels only 4 percent will be taken; at the higher salary levels, it will be about 10 percent. There will be added flexibility for the medical centers and for the hospitals and in some cases, for different employee groups. I’ve tried to take all of your concerns to heart although obviously there was a diversity of views, and I could not accede to all of them.

I’ve called it a hybrid, flexible furlough approach. It’s a hybrid in the sense that the deduction will be made each month, regardless of whether the furloughs are taken that month, but by the end of the year, each person will be expected to have taken the requisite number of furlough days.

There are seven graduated tiers. The bottom tier is 11 furlough days for those below $40,000 or roughly a 4 percent pay cut. For those making over $240,000 a year, there will be 26 furlough days, or roughly a 10 percent pay cut. For senior management, the number of furlough days will be limited to 10.

I have, as I said, indicated strongly to the board that we should protect the pension benefits, and I’m very hopeful, at least for this coming year, that that will occur. We’re a very complex institution – it’s not been easy to come up with a plan. We do many different things from treating patients to running hospitals to running auxiliary enterprises to the more traditional academic pursuits of undergraduate and graduate education. And we’ve tried to provide some flexibility in all of that.

We did not consider straight pay cuts because it appears clear that neither faculty nor staff favored that. They preferred that there be some reduction in the work effort. But some special elements to the plan – we have different tables for the faculty on nine month and 12 month salaries.

The furloughs are progressive, with the number of days and proportion of cuts increasing with salary.  This represents a major change from the earlier proposal that had but two salary groups and was controversial.  Still the proposal is being met with criticism and opposition.


UC President Mark Yudof in a letter to faculty Friday wrote:

“The principle of shared sacrifice is central to how we will deal with our budget challenges. Given the depth of the funding shortfall, every member of the UC community is being called on to shoulder some of the burden.”

He continued:

“But make no mistake, these fee increases and systemwide spending cuts carry serious implications for UC, and we need to look at how we are going to maintain UC’s quality and continue to fulfill our promise to the people of California in light of this new reality.”

“No way are we going to be able to look every student in the eyes and say the University of California is just the way it was yesterday,” Yudof said in a teleconference from his Oakland office. He said his plan seeks to be fair while trying to “preserve the university’s ability to deliver high-quality education, research and patient care.”

In video comments he went further:

This is very painful, and there’s no single silver bullet. You need a multiple approach to deal with what is essentially a 20 percent reduction in state funding in a single year. It’s probably little comfort to anyone out there, but it is true that the state government’s going through that. There’s a two-day a month mandatory furlough; municipalities are going through it, private corporations – so, we’re not alone and I hope people understand that.

After many years of teaching constitutional law, I’m firmly of the opinion that there’s no perfect justice out there. There are no perfect choices. We deal with an imperfect world and we do the best that we can. And we tried as best we could to be fair, to be responsive to what we’re hearing from faculty and staff and I hope if you’re not totally enthusiastic about all the responses that we’ve made, you’ll at least understand that these were very difficult choices, and I think it’s very important that we stand together on this.

By having the savings in the form of furloughs, rather than paycuts, it does several things.  First, it gives actual time off which can allow savings in the form of transportation and child care.  Second, it protects pensions. 

However, the plan remains controversial.  The plan requires union approval and two of the unions appear to be balking at the proposal.  Lakeesha Harrison, president of AFSCME Local 3299 which represents service and patient-care workers suggested that before asking lower-wage employees for givebacks, the UC should first cut high executive pay and benefits.  She was quoted in the LA Times as saying that she “”no interest in talking about furloughing us or cutting us. We are saying no.”

Kathryn Lybarger from UC Berkeley told the Daily Californian:

“There are so many other places in the UC budget that can be tapped to cover the shortfall before working families are hurt, before students are hurt.”

Kevin Scott a UC Davis research associate and member of UPTE agrees that the instead of the furloughing of workers, UC should cut back administrator pay and scale back on building projects.

“Many people who work for the university are underpaid as it is,” he said.

UC Spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez said cutting executive pay would do little to close the University’s budget deficit.

“Compensation for senior management is less than 1 percent of our overall payroll.  Even if you eliminated that entirely, you would not be able to resolve the problem.”

The Sacramento Bee reported that faculty was more favorable towards the plan.

However, Professor George Lakoff, a prestigious professor at of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley sent out a letter over the weekend in strong opposition to the plan.

In a letter to the UC Board of Regents he wrote:

“The university has an overall $19 billion budget. The salary cuts for faculty and staff of $195 million represents about one percent of the overall budget.”

He continued:

“President Yudof has said, “There’s no way we’ll be able to look students in the eye and say this will be the same university.” He’s right. The University of California has reached a tipping point… 

UC has more Nobel laureates than any other university. Cuts in faculty and staff salaries will lead many of our most distinguished faculty to accept competing offers. With them will go their grants, which will deepen the crisis and lead to a cycle of ever more cuts and departures. The result will be a third-rate university system.  When too much is cut, you cannot attract and rebuild a great faculty.”

The thing we face according to Professor Lakoff is “tyranny of the minority.”

“Right now a minority one-third plus one in the legislature determines our revenues and budget.  This a tyranny of the minority, and that tyranny threatens one of the world’s great institutions, the institution that you are guardians of.

You have a moral obligation to protect this institution from the tyranny of the minority.

Through your access to the press, to business interests, and especially to the hundreds of thousands of UC alumni throughout the state, you have a power you can and should exercise: the power of information, and behind it, the moral authority of majority rule, that is, the authority of democracy itself.”

Does Professor Lakoff represent the minority view?  His letter is circulating faculty circles at the moment trying to gather signatures.  On the other hand, the University did a tremendous job of altering their initial plan based on surveys which showed the furlough plan the least controversial of the proposed cuts.  The furlough enables employees to at least gain time off in exchange for their paycut, it preserves pensions, and the graduated approach addresses a key concern about inequity.  Still one cannot help but look at the pay laid out to top executive such as President Mark Yudof ($800,000+) and Chancellor Linda Katehi ($400,000+) without at least shaking one’s head at the folly.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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13 thoughts on “Furlough Plan by UC Met with Mix of Support and Opposition”

  1. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Still one cannot help but look at the pay laid out to top executive such as President Mark Yudof ($800,000+) and Chancellor Linda Katehi ($400,000+) without at least shaking one’s head at the folly.[/i]

    That depends on who “one” is. One of the hidden questions here is, do you actually want to chop from the top, or do you want to aim a few notches down from the top and hit the decision-makers? If the former, there is a different folly to consider first, that the journalists this month haven’t thought to cover.

    The two highest-paid UC employees are Jeff Tedford, last-year compensation $2.3 million, and Ben Howland, last-year compensation $2 million. They are paid by athletic departments that may very well be subsidized as a whole by UC — most university athletic departments are subsidized. So it is not true that Tedford and Howland are paid by some kind of separate money that has nothing to do with the rest of UC.

    I posit that what Yudof does is at least half as valuable as what Tedford does. I posit that what Katehi will do is at least half as valuable as what Howland does. I’m not even going to put them above Tedford and Howland, because I know that some people see them as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’ll settle for half.

    Which means that unless Katehi gets a very large raise or Howland gets a very large pay cut, anyone who singles out Katehi’s salary is blowing smoke.

    And yeah, I know that there was the argument about value over replacement. Well, Katehi is the replacement player — unlike Howland, her pay is less than the market median.

  2. My View

    Excuse me, but I have no problem getting rid of Tedford and Howland. Athletics does not pay for itself, or bring money into the University. It brings money into the specific athletic programs these two represent (Howland and Tedford), and drain the University of money that could be spent on other things. For instance, UCD spent a huge chunk of money on a new stadium it did not “need”.

    I assume Yudof is going to take a 26% paycut? Boohoo! The reason he is having trouble w the buy-in from unions is bc of his obscene salary, and the continued building on campus. Now I am sure the argument that will be used to justify the new winery and convention center is that 1) facilities money comes from a different pot of money (where have I heard that argument before!?!); 2) private donations/bonds/already allocated funding is paying for the construction. So my question is: Are the operating expenses of the new winery and convention center going to be paid for through private donations/bonds/already allocated funding? Somehow I doubt it.

    I think furloughs is only a partial answer, but should not be the only one. If Yudof wants union support, then he needs to cut back on some of the obscene spending that is going on within the UC system – and Yudof himself should take a symbolic 50% paycut. Katehi should just not come, bc of her tarnished reputation. When Yudof sits fat, dumb and happy with his disgustingly overreaching salary and perks, he does not speak from a position of morality in asking for shared sacrifice.

  3. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]What do furloughs really mean for professors, many of whom regularly who bring piles of work home?[/i]

    It means that we will have to do just as much work as before, and get things done with less staff support. They may reduce instruction, but probably less than they will reduce temporary teaching budgets. Hiring is also all but frozen; exiting faculty aren’t being replaced. In the face of these furloughs, it’s a bad time to recruit anyway.

    I get the feeling that the system will look like it’s treading water in the short term, but recruitment and retention could get hit pretty hard for years to come. I’m told that some of the faculty candidates this year rejected UC Davis and specifically cited the furloughs.

    But I don’t blame Yudof, and I don’t think that George Lakoff does either. The furloughs are bad, but insolvency would be worse. Lakoff’s point is that the legislature has gone crazy. He’s right about that.

  4. Greg Kuperberg

    Another remark about the union reaction to the furlough plan: Both AFSCME and UPTE responded by asking the university to do what it has already decided to do. Lakeesha Harrison said that they should cut executive compensation. They did: management is on the same progressive furlough scale as the rest of the payroll. Meanwhile UPTE wants the university to halt construction projects. Well, when they were ordered to halt construction projects in January, they did exactly that.

    Meanwhile AFT laid this bombshell: “UC-AFT is not convinced that the University faces a fiscal emergency.” They point out that the university gets a lot of money from many other operations, e.g., hospitals. This union, at least, is not asking the university to do something that it is already doing. It would be…interesting…if UC used hospital bills to pay for calculus. Revenue sharing is an obvious idea and I see no evidence that Yudof is against it. But it’s not as simple as AFT suggests.

    Maybe UPTE has in mind something similar, that UC should divert construction bond funds to pay lab electricians. That too would be interesting…but would it be legal?

    I do not begrudge the bargaining power of AMFSCME, UPTE, or AFT. These are not well-paid people. The labor laws are what they are and we should live with what they can negotiate. Unfortunately, they have an incentive to blow smoke with press releases.

  5. linkletter

    Those at the top need those big salaries as a salve to the wounds they suffer as they cut those below them.

    As Randy Newman said” Oh its lonely at the top.”

  6. David M. Greenwald

    Is the new chancellor from Illinois taking a 10% cut in pay? A “furlough?” I think she should take a cut. She should have never been paid the outrageously high salary to begin with.

  7. My Understanding

    “Meanwhile UPTE wants the university to halt construction projects. Well, when they were ordered to halt construction projects in January, they did exactly that.”

    My understanding was that not all construction was halted. For instance, the excuse used to continue some projects was that money has already been allocated for it through bonds, student fees, or private donations. However, I’ll bet my bottom dollar operating expenses for those same construction projects, e.g. winery, convention center, are not being paid via bonds, or private donations!

  8. Alisande

    How can the University system justify paying top folks twice as much or the same salary as the President of the United States? Some of those folks get paid housing and other perks on top of those inflated salaries.

  9. Homeless in Woodland

    From a tactical stand point this is a stupid way of dealing with this crisis. Quit playing defensively.
    You should NOT be furloughing U.C. employees. Reduce there pay and require a full work week and encourage EVERYONE to work harder and produce more. Simply furloughing employees is in no way going to stop the hemorrhaging.
    We should not be increasing student fees if anything we should be decreasing student fees.
    The only way we are ever going to bounce back from this mess is to become aggressive in combating this financial debacle.
    If they don’t like it fire the village idots…

  10. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]How can the University system justify paying top folks twice as much or the same salary as the President of the United States?[/i]

    Because that’s not really what the President gets paid. Presidents these days can be paid tens of millions of dollars by various interests after they leave office. The government salary doesn’t even matter. You could charge Obama or Bush or Clinton rent instead of paying them their official salaries and they would still get rich. Bill Clinton has made $50 million from speaking engagements alone since he left office.

    We don’t want a UC Davis chancellor who works for a few years and then gets paid ten times as much by outside interests. We want a chancellor who actually works for the university. That’s why we have to pay the market rate for chancellors.

    Which as it happens is much less than the market rate for certain other people who haven’t been ambushed with complaints about their salaries. Athletic coaches in particular.

  11. earoberts

    “Which as it happens is much less than the market rate for certain other people who haven’t been ambushed with complaints about their salaries. Athletic coaches in particular.”

    I’m all for getting rid of the athletic coaches being paid millions, and have said so repeatedly.

  12. earoberts

    On KTVU Oakland news website: “Critics point to a 2008 UCLA faculty association study that found the number of UC senior administration positions almost doubled in the past ten years, while faculty positions rose just 25 percent and faculty wages stagnated.”

    A student commented his fees in UC system have increased by 20% over last three years.

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