Davis Faculty Association

Archive for 2014

Our concern over the proposed redevelopment plans for Solano and Orchard Park

Dear DFA members,

The DFA Board is concerned about the demolition of Solano and Orchard Park Student-Family Housing and so has sent the letter (below) to Chancellor Katehi and Dean Gibeling. Also, students trying to save Solano and Orchard Parks have created a change.org petition that you can read and sign at:

http://www.change.org/petitions/university-of-california-davis-revoke-the-decision-to-terminate-orchard-and-solano-parks


Dear Chancellor Katehi and Dean Gibeling,

We are writing to express our concern over the proposed redevelopment plans for Solano and Orchard Park Student-Family Housing. These units are scheduled for demolition and will not be replaced with subsidized housing.

Current rents at Solano and Orchard Park are $900/month, but at the new, privately managed, development, unit cost this will increase to $1,400/month. Under this proposed change, ninety-five percent of a TA/GSR salary will go to rent. Not only is the rent increase enormous, but the number of units will be greatly reduced. (The Solano Park complex, slated for demolition in spring 2016, currently has no proposed replacement.) The destruction of affordable housing has the greatest impact on students the university should especially be striving to protect — those with families and those whose financial ability to pay for education is limited.

It is likely too this redevelopment plan will have an adverse impact on the ability of UC Davis to recruit a broad spectrum of graduate students, since students from under-represented backgrounds often have lesser monetary resources. This change will serious undermine the efforts that faculty and the university generally are making to bring a diverse set of graduate students to our campus.

We strongly urge you to preserve Solano and Orchard Parks as valuable, low-cost homes for our students.

Sincerely,
Davis Faculty Association Board

We hope UCD’s response to striking students more appropriate than UCSC’s this morning

The DFA board sent to following note to Chancellor Katehi earlier today:

Dear Chancellor Katehi,

This morning riot police were deployed at UC Santa Cruz in response to the student strike. The DFA would like to express its hope that UC Davis has more moderate and appropriate plans to address the concerns of its graduate students.

Best Regards
Davis Faculty Association Board

Richard Scalettar (chair) Physics
Susette Min Asian American Studies
N. Sukumar Civil and Enviro. Eng.
Margie Longo Chemical Eng. and Mat. Sci.
Ian Kennedy Mech. and Aero. Engineering
Daniel Cox Physics
Scott Shershow English
Julia Simon French and Italian
Joe Kiskis Physics

The Degradation of Faculty Welfare and Compensation

UC faculty need to wake up to the systematic degradation of their pay and benefits. In 2009, when the salary furlough temporarily cut faculty salaries between 6 and 10%, faculty were outraged. Yet since then our compensation has been hit by a more serious, and seemingly permanent, double blow.

First, despite modest salary rises of 3% and 2% in October 2011 and July 2013, faculty take-home pay has been effectively cut as employee contributions to pension and healthcare have escalated. Faculty now pay more for retirement and healthcare programs that offer less. Secondly, faculty are no longer treated equally. Different groups of faculty are increasingly pitted against each other as – depending on our age or where we live or when we were hired – we receive different levels of retirement, health and other benefits.

Faculty salaries were already uncompetitive. Even with the recently-announced 3% raise, they remain 10-15% below UC’s own comparator institutions and a further 10% behind those of the private 4 (Stanford, Yale, Harvard and MIT).

Back in 2009 strong benefits, in the form of pension and health care provisions, once allowed UC to excuse its uncompetitive salaries by reminding us of what it called our ‘total compensation package’.

This is no longer true. Now, as continued austerity management grips University administrators, and campaigns are launched to divest public sector workers of their pensions and retiree healthcare, faculty are being stripped of these deferred (and other) benefits.

One reason faculty are largely unaware of the degradation of their benefits is that changes have been made incrementally and target different constituencies. Gone are the days when all faculty and retirees were treated equally and received the same benefits. And yet for all faculty these changes mean we are paying more and getting less.

Firstly, faculty are divided by a new two-tier pension system. The old pension, the so-called 1976 tier, has seen a steady escalation of employee contributions from 0% in 2009 to 8% in 2014. These raises alone mean that faculty take-home pay has deteriorated by as much as 3%.

The new pension introduced for those hired since 2013 has begun with a 7% employee contribution. Despite paying more new faculty get less. The minimum retirement age has been raised from 50 to 55, the retirement age for maximum pension has been raised from 60 to 65, and the lump sum cash-out and subsidized survivor benefits have been eliminated.

Secondly, although there is as yet no legal evidence that retiree health benefits are less ‘vested’ (and thus unalterable except by legislation) than pensions, they have been progressively stripped. And here again different groups of faculty are treated differently.

Since 2010 UC’s contribution to retiree health benefits has fallen from 100% to 70%, but this pales in comparison to the changes introduced in 2013 which have affected 50% of faculty and staff. All new hires, together with those with fewer than 5 years of service, or those whose age plus service is fewer than 50 years, will now receive nothing from UC towards their healthcare if they retire before 55. Meanwhile contributions for those retiring after 56 will be on a sliding scale (depending on length of service) beginning at just 5%!

Worse still, in what is being considered a pilot program by the Regents, retirees no longer living in California have been removed from UC’s insurance plans. Instead they will be given a lump sum of $3,000 per annum to help defray costs not covered by Medicare. This represents a significant shift of the risk and the responsibility for healthcare from UC on to retirees. If it generates the projected $700 million savings of total liability as reported by UCOP’s CFO to the regents this year, it is likely soon to be coming to a group of retirees near you.

Thirdly, in the fall, the majority of faculty and staff were forced to change their healthcare plan in little over two months. We were promised that these had been negotiated to secure great savings for UC and lower insurance rates for all UC employees. It quickly became clear that those lower monthly rates masked a huge turnover in eligible providers, geographically uneven coverage of service (across as well as between campuses), and considerably higher deductibles. It is too soon to calculate how much more faculty are paying for their healthcare, but once again we are certainly paying more for less.

It is time for faculty to wise up to this systematic and universal downgrading of our salaries and benefits that also sets different groups of us on different tracks. The contrast with the new contracts recently signed by CNA, UPTE and ACSFME is worth noting. In addition to significantly improved salaries, these unions have been able to maintain a single-tier pension (for an additional 1% contribution) and retain retiree health benefits.

So how will faculty respond? With a sigh of resignation? A determination to get an outside offer that would increase one’s personal compensation package? Or will we seek better mechanisms that would permit faculty to negotiate all elements of our compensation rather than have it decreed, and diminished, from on high?

Money behind CA pension proposition also secret money behind PBS pension news series

John Arnold — the billionaire former Enron trader who has been the financial backing for a proposed California ballot proposition that would eliminate constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees, including UC employees, if it gathers enough signatures to make it to the November ballot — turns out to be the hidden money behind a new a new two-year PBS news series titled “Pension Peril.”

Full story is at:
http://pando.com/2014/02/12/the-wolf-of-sesame-street-revealing-the-secret-corruption-inside-pbss-news-division/

Here is an excerpt:

In recent years, Arnold has been using massive contributions to politicians, Super PACs, ballot initiative efforts, think tanks and local front groups to finance a nationwide political campaign aimed at slashing public employees’ retirement benefits. His foundation which backs his efforts employs top Republican political operatives, including the former chief of staff to GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey (TX). According to its own promotional materials, the Arnold Foundation is pushing lawmakers in states across the country “to stop promising a (retirement) benefit” to public employees.

Despite Arnold’s pension-slashing activism and his foundation’s ties to partisan politics, Leila Walsh, a spokesperson for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), told Pando that PBS officials were not hesitant to work with them, even though PBS’s own very clear rules prohibit such blatant conflicts…

The stealth Arnold-PBS connection, however, represents a major escalation in the larger trend. In this particular case, PBS seems to be defying its own rules and regulations about conflicts of interest. At the same time, the fact that PBS is obscuring the financial arrangement suggests the network may be deliberately attempting to hide those conflicts from its own viewers…
But most troubling of all, the report on Vallejo promoted the city councilor’s “campaigning to change (state) law to give cities the right to negotiate for pension cuts.” PBS’s “Pension Peril” correspondent noted that the legislator’s coalition is “hoping to get the initiative onto the ballot” so that cities can unilaterally cut public employee pensions. What the PBS “Pension Peril” series omitted is the fact that the “Pension Peril” series’ own benefactor, John Arnold, is the major financier of the very California ballot initiative PBS was promoting. Arnold’s involvement in that ballot measure follows his earlier funding of pension-cutting advocacy in California, which PBS also did not mention.

DFA Letter in Support of Graduate Students in Contract Negotiations

February 5, 2014

Jeffery C. Gibeling
Vice Provost – Graduate Education and Dean – Graduate Studies
Office of Graduate Studies – 250 Mrak Hall
1 Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616

Dear Vice Provost Gibeling:

It is with increasing concern that the Davis Faculty Association (DFA) observes that UC and the Academic Student Employees (ASE) represented by UAW 2865 have failed to reach an agreement. UC’s resistance to the ASE bargaining position is counterproductive. It is extremely important that the UC system maintain the national competitiveness of graduate education at UCD and across all UCs. We are writing to you because we know you are as concerned as we are in these issues, and have devoted much effort to improving conditions of graduate students on campus. It is our impression that many of the bottlenecks to an agreement originate with UCOP and its legal team, as opposed to at a local campus level where students and their interests have defenders such as yourself.

As you know, our ability to bring strong graduate students to our campuses is based, in part, on the level of graduate student stipends we can offer; in this regard we have increasingly fallen behind our peer institutions. For example, according to the most recent UCOP Graduate Student Support Survey, the gap between UC stipend offers for years one and two and those from ‘top-choice’ peer institutions grew between 2007 and 2010 to $2,697 and together with the higher cost of living at UC institutions created a total deficit of $4,978. When surveyed, prospective graduate students who went elsewhere consistently praise UC’s academic resources, but chose other programs due to the higher cost of living and lower levels of financial support at UC campuses (Findings from the Graduate Student Support Survey http://j.mp/1fF52dr). The Report of the Taskforce on Competitiveness in Academic Graduate Student Support (http://j.mp/1fF5BE7), adopted by UC Academic Council in June 2012, declares “rising tuition and uncompetitive stipends threaten to seriously undermine program quality” and asks that additional resources be allocated for net stipends for academic doctoral support.

The GSI wage in particular is so low that our students often take more than one outside job to make ends meet in a high cost-of-living area, thereby retarding their time to degree, on which there are now normative caps. One such cap is the 18-quarter rule, which bans students from being a teaching assistant beyond 18 quarters, even though average time to degree for many fields is slightly above 6 years. Currently the 10 month (49.5%) GSI stipend is $17,655 for an incoming student. Some students may come in with fellowships, but their income drastically falls as soon as they start teaching to levels that are sometimes nearly half that being provided at our rival private institutions.

Greater consciousness of debt burdens and unfavorable academic job futures mean that talented Ph.D. students today are ever less willing to choose a school they may intellectually prefer over a school that provides more economic security. This may be especially true for graduate student workers who are first generation college students. UC was slightly ahead of its peer institutions for under-represented graduate students in 2004 and 2007, but fell behind in 2010 (The Report of the Taskforce on Competitiveness in Academic Graduate Student Support). Once the low levels of child care support and dependent health care support are factored into the equation, parents and partnered people may also be unlikely to choose a UC campus. These low levels of support restrict who attends the UC and limit the range of role models for undergraduates.

The recruitment of the most competitive graduate students has become increasingly difficult given UC’s financial disadvantage and unsupportive social climate. These issues directly affect DFA members because graduate students are a large part of our academic community. Being able to recruit competitive graduate students is factored into a faculty member’s decision about where to teach and conduct research, and where to continue working. We believe higher ASE wages, along with a commensurate increase in TAS funds to cover increased salaries, more child care support, and increased dependent health care support will help to level the playing field, and cease to disadvantage our academic student workers. We urge you to take proactive steps to communicate to UCOP the importance of this issue for preserving the academic distinction of graduate education at the University of California.

Yours sincerely,
The Davis Faculty Association board

cc: Chancellor Linda Katehi

Concern about UCD’s proposed response to inquiry about ASA membership

January 30, 2014

Provost & Exec VC Ralph Hexter
573 Mrak Hall
Davis, CA 95616

Dear Provost Hexter:

It has come to our attention that several faculty members have been contacted by Lynette Temple, Director of Legal Affairs. They have been informed that their names have come up in connection with a search of university communications regarding the American Studies Association (ASA). Your office directed Ms. Temple to take these actions in response to a request for information concerning whether “…any UC Davis funds currently support any ASA activity …”

We are deeply concerned about this, and specifically about why the university plans to single out individual faculty members in response to a request which does not appear to ask for that level of detail.

We intend with this letter to take no position either positive or negative about the actions of the American Studies Association. Rather, we are concerned with the obvious threat to academic freedom. To take an analogous example, how would the university respond to a request by opponents of genetically-modified agriculture for information about university relationships with Monsanto? Would individual faculty member’s names automatically be released?

We have two requests:

[1] That the university not provide personal information unless it is specifically demanded to do so, and required by law.

[2] For clarification from you about university policies concerning responding to such requests, and their implication for academic freedom.

Sincerely,
The Board of the Davis Faculty Association

cc: Lynette Temple, UCD Director of Legal Affairs

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