Biting the hand that feeds you
When 300 highly esteemed members of the science community write to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts to the University of California budget, their distress resounds throughout all research and technology sectors in the US, including our own.
The letter, signed by UC faculty who are members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering or the Institute of Medicine, was also sent to members of the state Legislature and UC leadership. The cuts are severe: 19 percent down from 2007-08 levels in state support for UC, or an $800 million shortfall in the UC budget for fiscal 2009-10.
“Further cuts of the magnitude being contemplated in the latest round of budget proposals are likely to destroy UC’s status as the leading public university in the United States,” the letter said. “This would undermine prospects for economic recovery and damage California’s competitiveness for decades.”
As the reports unfold, this seems likely. To begin with, cuts such as these would have a grisly effect on enrollment. According to the Los Angeles Times, an additional student fee hike of 15 to 20 percent for this fall has already been proposed by California State Chancellor Charles Reed. Even more chilling is the predicted enrollment reduction of 32,000 that UC predicts for the following year.
And it gets worse. UC’s Board of Regents voted overwhelmingly to implement furlough days for most professors and staff that would reduce their pay between 4 and 10 percent for the year starting Sept.1.
One signatory, UC Santa Cruz astronomy professor Sandra Faber, said the cuts would undoubtedly affect science and technology in the state by draining UC’s science elite.
"It's this retention and hiring issue," Faber said. "Why would a person who is a world-class scientist want to come work for a UC and make 20 percent less? What we're looking at is not being competitive anymore."
Why, indeed? In this economic climate, most of us can feel for states forced to enact severe cost reductions, but in this case, the expense is too dear. The alarming fiscal condition of California notwithstanding, it’s foolhardy to cut the expenditures responsible for developing innovative technologies and creating new companies and jobs – the very lack of which contributed to the shortfall in the first place.
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