I have appreciated your remarkable efforts over the past seven months to manage what has been an unprecedented period in the University of California's history: a global pandemic led us to shift to primarily remote learning and campus operations, and our medical centers have been at the forefront of California's pandemic response. Through it all, the UC community has shown courage, compassion, and a fervent commitment to public service.
COVID-19 also resulted in significant economic challenges for our state and nation, which have inevitably affected our institution. I write today to tell you about another measure we are contemplating to address our budget shortfall while preserving as many jobs as possible and protecting our lowest-paid employees. No final decisions have been made, but I want our decision-making process to be as informed as possible.
As you may know, every campus and the UC Office of the President observe a certain number of curtailment days per year around the winter holidays. In consultation with UC Chancellors, Academic Senate leaders, the Board of Regents, and other UC stakeholders, we are currently considering a new systemwide program to achieve additional operational and salary savings. This program would expand the existing curtailment periods or add new curtailment periods as needed to achieve a minimum of five curtailment days at every UC location in fiscal year 2020-21.
Again, no final decisions have been made. At this juncture, we are simply considering our options and seeking feedback from UC constituents to help shape our approach. As we undertake these discussions, we will be guided by several core principles:
- Measured cuts: we will only move forward with a curtailment expansion after implementing other prudent financial savings measures (you may recall former UC President Janet Napolitano implemented restrictions last spring and summer on hiring, business travel, and other spending);
- Protect as many jobs as possible: by taking measured steps early, we hope to preserve jobs, healthcare benefits, and pensions, and stave off the need for furloughs and temporary or permanent layoffs;
- Progressive approach: we will aim to ensure that our most vulnerable employees are the least impacted. Any cost-savings plan would be progressive and will have a larger impact on those with higher earnings;
- Minimal disruption: any plan we adopt will allow campuses to achieve material savings while providing flexibility to maintain essential campus and medical center services, such as UCPath and the UC Retirement Administration Service Center (RASC).
We know this is a challenging time for everyone, and that this news is difficult to receive. However, we must work collectively to ensure long-term financial stability for the University, its faculty and staff, and the people it serves.
Thank you for all you do to keep the University of California moving forward and to maintain our standards of excellence and service as we all confront unprecedented personal and professional challenges. We may face additional hardships in the future, but I know that the UC community is adaptable, resilient, and creative. And I know that we will get through this together.
Michael V. Drake, MD
President, University of California