Next Thursday is supposed to be the first day of school at several campuses of the University of California (UC). But hundreds of instructors are planning to cut class to protest budget cuts and furloughs at the cash-strapped public university.
The university faces a roughly $800 million shortfall in state funding over the next 2 years and administrators have responded with a number of cost-cutting measures, including tuition hikes and a furlough plan for faculty and staff members that amounts to a 4-10% pay cut, depending on pay grade. Last month, Lawrence Pitts, UC's interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs announced that furlough days would not occur on days when faculty are scheduled to teach, arguing that doing so would violate UC's "paramount teaching mission."
That angered many faculty, who had assumed they would have a say in when they took their furlough days and wanted to take some of them on teaching days to demonstrate to students, parents, and state legislators that budget cuts were having a direct impact on the quality of education at UC. On 31 August, faculty from several UC campuses began a petition urging a walkout on 24 September. In an open letter to their colleagues, the organizers accuse the UC administration of acting by "autocratic fiat" and call for a walkout to protest the management of the furlough plan. Nearly 800 faculty had signed the petition as of this morning, and according to the organizers' blog, several student organizations and labor unions have voiced support for the walkout.
Meanwhile, UC Regents meet in San Francisco today to consider a plan that would raise tuition by 30% by the fall of 2010.