Chancellor Block reassures staff that UCLA is thriving
Chancellor Gene Block reassured staff about the UC retirement plan, called for more state support for the university and shared his thoughts on a proposed conference center Wednesday at his annual town hall meeting hosted by UCLA Staff Assembly.
Speaking to a crowd at the Kerckhoff Grand Salon as well as to staff watching via the live webcast of the event, Block began by thanking staff for their hard work during the economic downturn.
“The number of students has been growing, and the number of staff has not,” Block said. “Therefore, everyone has to do more. You know that. You feel that in your jobs, and I want you to know I recognize that.”
Despite the budget, there are countless ways in which UCLA is thriving, transforming and inspiring, Block said. The campus is adding hundreds of dorm rooms and is nearly done renovating Pauley Pavilion; the London Times Higher Education rankings recently ranked UCLA as one of the top 10 universities in the world, and UCLA regularly receives the most freshman applications of any university in the nation, Block said. Nevertheless, state funding for UC remains vital, he said.
“There’s no substitute for state support, but we have to find other sources to supplement state support and focus on philanthropy, so last year, I’m proud to say we raised more money than any other public institution in the United States,” Block said. “I often tell our donors that the state keeps the lights on, but the dazzling things that go on at UCLA really are due to private support.”
During the question-and-answer period moderated by Staff Assembly President Brandie Henderson, one staffer noted that she is a long way from retiring and asked whether she could count on receiving her UCLA retirement benefits.
“You’re guaranteed it, and it’s not changing for you,” Block reassured her. “What is changing is for incoming workers who will be on a new tier … [but] I don’t think anyone who is here currently is under any risk at all of not getting their full retirement.”
Another staffer asked about the UC regents’ recent request
for more information about the proposed UCLA conference center
. Block expressed disappointment at the regents’ suggestion that UCLA should consider buying a nearby hotel, and emphasized the importance of bringing conference attendees directly onto campus where they can experience UCLA.
“I really believe this conference center is something that if we look back a decade from now, we’ll say, 'How did we do without it?' It’s just a great venue for bringing people here,” he said. It would advance UCLA's academic mission by providing a place on campus where faculty and students could exchange ideas with scholars from all over the world instead of feeling the need to hold UCLA conferences off campus
. “It’s important that we bring people close to us.”
A question about staff raises turned the conversation to the state budget, which remains uncertain, Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steve Olsen said.
“We are optimistic that the university will be able to enter into an agreement with the governor and the legislature about a multi-year structure for restoring a portion of the university’s state budget cuts that occurred over the past several years,” Olsen said. “The governor recognizes the importance of adequate state funding for the University of California. … The next step will be bringing the legislature in.”
If you missed it, the town hall can be viewed in a video online
, with the event beginning about two minutes in.