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Campus Update from the Chancellor

February 25, 2014

Dear colleagues:

Now that the spring semester is well underway, I wanted to pause for a moment and provide you with a campus update.

It’s always a challenge for me to decide what you might be most interested in learning from me. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I miss the mark. But I am always interested in your suggestions—please feel free to send them to me at chancellor@ucmerced.edu.

For me, this semester began with a heavy work-related travel schedule. One of the trips was to Washington, D.C., where I participated with approximately 70 college and university presidents and chancellors in a White House summit on college access and success for students from low-income families.

The summit provided me with opportunities to tell the UC Merced story and to connect with organizations and foundations that may in the future support some of our initiatives. During the two-day meeting, both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke of their resolve to bring more low-income students into the higher-education pipeline and emerge at the end with college degrees.  

In many respects, UC Merced is a poster child for this initiative—we serve a high percentage of students from low-income families and they graduate at a rate that far exceeds the national average.

State and UC Budget

As you know, this is the time when the California Legislature is in session and the complex process of negotiating the University of California’s budget for next fiscal year takes place.

I was pleased to see Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2014-15 budget, introduced last month, includes full funding for the second year of his multi-year plan for the University of California.

This means an increase of $142.2 million from the state’s general fund, a 5 percent increase over the previous year. The passage of Proposition 30 in 2012, which generates additional tax revenue through 2017, has made it possible for the state to begin reversing some of the catastrophic cuts the university suffered during the economic crisis.

Nonetheless, the university is still working on addressing a number of ongoing concerns, including the state’s contribution to the UC Retirement Program, the 7,500 students enrolled at various campuses throughout the system (including UC Merced) for which the state is not paying its share, and restoring funding for reinvestment in academic quality – e.g., faculty hiring, graduate student support and funding for instructional equipment and technology.

We will monitor the budget as it makes its way through the process over the next few months. If you’d like to learn more and receive alerts when we need your voice to be heard in Sacramento, please sign up to be a UC Merced advocate.

Campus Budget

At a recent retreat held for members of my cabinet, we had a lengthy and productive discussion about the process for developing campus budgets. Vice Chancellor Dan Feitelberg made it clear that a robust system is needed to plan annual budgets effectively and move to the mid-term goal of developing multi-year budgets. Multi-year budgets will enable units across the campus to plan more effectively and make strategic use of their limited resources.

You will hear more soon from Vice Chancellor Feitelberg and the campus Budget Office about our strategic direction, the development of a campus budget system and our planning process for next year's budget. A new budget system should be rolled out to the campus for the following year's budget call.

I know this transition period has been frustrating for some of you, but when the new system is finally in place, we will be able to get easy-to-understand budgets to units at the beginning of each fiscal year. I appreciate your patience.

Compensation Philosophy and Strategy

As previously announced, I’ve asked Vice Chancellor Michael Reese to launch an initiative to develop both an overarching compensation philosophy and a near-term strategy to support the campus’s personnel needs through 2020.

The initiative will be informed by a vigorous data-gathering exercise to determine UC Merced’s current competitive standing. In addition, a round of listening sessions is being held with senior leadership, faculty members and unrepresented staff members to gain a solid understanding of compensation issues across the campus.

The philosophy, which will come first, is to serve as a general statement of intent behind compensation policies – i.e., it will articulate basic principles of compensation and how its various elements can be used to attract, retain and reward talent. The strategy will follow, outlining specific actions to strengthen the campus workforce through the year 2020 consistent with the philosophy.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to attend and lend your perspective at the listening sessions later this week on campus.

On a related note, I’m pleased to inform you that, at the direction of President Janet Napolitano, the university is making plans to implement a systemwide salary increase program for non-represented staff for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

This action is in recognition of the hard work and dedication of our staff, the lack of regular salary increases over many years and the scheduled increase in employee retirement contributions on July 1.

The targeted increase will be 3 percent, calculated on the basis of a July 1, effective date. Human Resources leaders are developing implementation guidelines for our campus, which they’ll issue within the next month.

Our ultimate decision will be informed in part by the current compensation philosophy and strategy initiative currently underway on the campus.

(Note that this salary increase plan will apply to non-represented staff excluding student employees. For employees covered by Academic Personnel policies, information regarding salary plans will be issued at a later date.)

2020 Project

With student applications hitting new records each year, we need to add more buildings, facilities and housing quickly and cost-effectively to ensure as many qualified students as possible can be admitted.

As part of the 2020 Project – in which the campus’ size and enrollment will grow to accommodate 10,000 students within the next six years – the university will open a competitive process early this spring by issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ) for one or more development partners.  This will be followed by a request for campus development proposals (RFP) from the most qualified respondents to the RFQ.

The selected development team will design and build approximately 1.5 million square feet of new teaching, research and residential facilities on a 219-acre, university-owned site adjacent to the existing campus. The university aims to have a team in place by year’s end, begin construction in 2015 and have buildings delivered by 2017.

Campus planners envision the expansion consisting of mixed-use facilities built in compact clusters to save development time and money.

Campus-Climate Survey

Lastly, I wanted to provide an update on the campus-climate survey many campus community members (more than 30 percent) completed last February.

You may recall the survey was part of the University of California’s systemwide initiative, which provided faculty and staff members and graduate and undergraduate students at all UC locations an opportunity to share their experiences of living, studying and working at the UC.

Survey reports and findings for each location will be published in mid-March and released at the UC Board of Regents meeting. The data will be used to assess the institutional climate with a goal of developing or changing policies and programs that promote healthy and welcoming learning, working and living environments.

At that time, our campus survey results will be made available to you.

After an initial review of the draft results, I am very pleased to note the responses indicate the majority of campus community members have experienced a positive campus climate.

Of course, there will be areas where improvement can be made, and I look forward to partnering with our faculty and staff to strengthen ties among all community members.

In closing, I want to express my appreciation for all that you do to contribute to the building of the nation’s next great research-intensive and student-centered public university.

Sincerely,

Dorothy Leland
Chancellor
 

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