UC students, staff stage massive walkout - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

UC students, staff stage massive walkout

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Dozens of University of California San Diego students and faculty spent the first day of the fall semester taking part in a UC system-wide walkout and strike today to protest furloughs, layoffs and tuition hikes stemming from state budget cuts.

Protestors along Gilman Drive carried signs that read, "Yes we can take back our university" and "Layoff Yudof," referring to UC President Mark Yudof.

"I feel like I am paying more to have less in my department," student Brad Litwin told KFMB.

The University Professional & Technical Employees union organized the demonstrations, which begin on all 10 UC campuses at 7 a.m. -- the first day of the fall term.

"We're striking to take a stand for education," said UPTE President Jelger Kalmijn, a research associate at UCSD.

"Our unfair labor practice strike is about the illegal cuts Mark Yudof is making to the university," Kalmijn said.

"He is obligated to bargain with us, but instead he's taking unilateral and unwise actions," he said. "His furloughs and layoffs, proposed tuition hikes and lack of budget transparency threaten the public mission of our university."

The University of California Students Association endorsed today's work stoppage and rally. Likewise, more than 1,100 UC faculty members signed a petition to support the action, along with 1,400 graduate students statewide.

In July, the UC Board of Regents approved Yudof's plan to implement furloughs as one of several actions to address an $813 million cut in state funding.

School employees must take 11 to 26 unpaid days a year off work based on pay scale and classification. Higher-paid workers are generally required to take more furlough days than lower-paid workers.

The unpaid days amount to a 4 to 10 percent salary reduction for employees, according to the UC Office of the President.

In addition, about a quarter of the budget shortfall is being made up through a 9.3 percent student fee increase approved by the regents in May that brings the average undergraduate student's tuition to $7,788.

Yudof has proposed further tuition increases of 15 percent in the spring and next fall. A graduate-level increase of 15 percent is also on the table.

According to the President's Office, the fee increases will help cover UC retiree health and pension obligations and offset the loss of state support.

The regents are expected to vote on the proposals in November.

"The state's funding shortfall amounts to less than 3 percent of UC's budget," said Carol Buckmaster, a staff researcher at UCSD and member of UPTE. "Employees have presented carefully researched budget alternatives that preserve UC's mission of education and research, but Yudof refuses any real dialogue."

Several hundred workers at UC campuses have been terminated. At UC Riverside, where some 18,600 students are enrolled this semester, more than 100 full-time positions have been eliminated, dozens of classes have been canceled and plans for a new School of Public Policy have been tabled indefinitely.

The university is expected to cut its workforce by 15 percent over the next two years, primarily through attrition.

In July, Yudof said he understood cutbacks would be "painful" but that they were necessary because "the university (system) is facing a financial crisis unprecedented in the past quarter century."

"No plan is perfect, but we have worked hard to make it as fair as possible while preserving, to the extent possible, excellence and access to opportunity for students, researchers and patients," he said.

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