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Campus Update to Alumni, Friends and Parents

July 14, 2009

Dear Bruins and Bruin Families,

I am writing to share news of some remarkable accomplishments by our Bruin community over the past year, to brief you on the impact of the budget crisis on UCLA, and to solicit your input on a long-range strategic plan.

As you well know, this is a very challenging time for the state and for UCLA.  California faces an unprecedented budget crisis that requires the University of California to take enormous cuts.   The university has weathered shortfalls in the past, but none close to the magnitude of this one.  Furthermore, the financial crisis in California will, most likely, be long-lasting and require fundamental restructuring in the way UCLA operates. 

Briefly, the university’s deficit systemwide is $800 million.  Student fee increases, amounting to $211 million, have already been approved by the Regents and will help reduce the deficit.  In addition, significant salary reductions for faculty and staff will be required and, sadly, some layoffs are inevitable.  In my time here, I have been enormously impressed by the dedication of our faculty and staff, and it pains me to know how many will struggle with challenges presented by the budget crisis.  Anyone who has seen their extraordinary professionalism must recognize their very special commitment to providing our students an excellent education and a supportive and safe environment. 

We remain extremely concerned about the possible elimination of Cal Grants and the lack of funding for academic preparation programs.  Both of these enable students from all backgrounds to become UC-eligible and to attend UCLA or other campuses that serve as gateways of opportunity.  UCLA currently enrolls 9,300 undergraduates on Pell Grants, federal assistance for low-income students, and 6,800 on Cal Grants.  Proudly, we are first in the nation among major research universities in the percentage of students who are Pell Grant recipients. 

At UCLA, we must cut $132 million (approximately 17 percent) from our general funds budget.  This presents an enormous challenge to our campus that we must meet with extraordinary planning and execution.

Our primary obligation is to our students, and we will continue to provide both undergraduate and graduate students the same high-quality education that UCLA students have long received.  To that end, I have authorized emergency bridge funding to ensure course availability, as well as the continuation of special programs, such as freshman seminars and opportunities for interdisciplinary study.  Over the next year, our academic departments will review their requirements and course offerings to determine how they can increase the efficiency of their programs without sacrificing quality.

Although the next few years will be painful, we will reorganize to become more efficient in our business operations.  Inevitably, we will also have to shrink the size of our faculty, staff and student body.  I can assure you, however, that UCLA will remain one of the world’s premier institutions.  During this difficult time, we will do whatever it takes to retain and recruit faculty of the highest distinction and to offer a world-class education to the very best students.  We will enable our scholars to continue their outstanding research.  We will not lose sight of our responsibility to serve the people of California; building and maintaining a diverse campus community will remain a key objective.

I am confident, too, that our extraordinary alumni and friends will do all they can to help us weather this crisis.  UCLA alumni have traditionally stood behind their alma mater in times of triumph as well as hardship.

In spite of our near-term challenges, we continue to make exciting long-term plans for UCLA’s promising future.  We are in the final stages of developing a 10-year strategic plan, leading up to our centennial in 2019.  We welcome your feedback and input.  Please read the draft plan at http://www.evc.ucla.edu/ and send us your thoughts.

Our faculty continue to draw wide acclaim and significant honors.  In 2008-09, six were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Eric Becklin, Rogers Brubaker, William Gelbart, Stanley Osher, Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Terence Tao); two to the National Academy of Engineering (Deborah Estrin and John Kim); two to the Institute of Medicine (Jose Escarce and William Vega); three to the National Academy of Sciences (Juli Feigon, Shelley Taylor and S. Lawrence Zipursky); and three to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Albert Carnesale, H. Ronald Kaback and James Bowie).  Three won Guggenheim Fellowships (Sally Blower, Sanford Jacoby and Demetri Terzopoulos); two were named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientists (Mark Frye and Hui Sun); and two were among Discover magazine’s 50 "Best Brains in Science" (Terence Tao and Joseph Teran). 

In the arts, Bob Rosen won the John Huston Award from the Directors Guild of America; Gilbert Cates was named Producer of the Year by the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors; Catherine Opie received a President's Award from the Women's Caucus for Art; Greg Lynn won the Golden Lion award for the Best Installation Project in the International Exhibition at the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale; and Thom Mayne was ranked 15th on “Fast Company” magazine’s inaugural ranking of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.  These are indeed notable accomplishments that exemplify UCLA’s excellence.

During the same period, faculty won more than $966 million in research funding through competitive contracts and grants.  This is a record for UCLA and keeps us ranked among the nation’s top universities in this arena.  I should note, however, that these funds are allocated specifically for research and cannot be used to cover other expenses, such as general operation of the university.  Our faculty also submitted more than 1,000 proposals for research funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and, so far, have received $20 million of these stimulus funds.  These efforts are vital to our research mission.

In December, Scott Waugh officially became the executive vice chancellor and provost, after serving in an acting role for almost two years.  Scott has been part of the UCLA family since his days as an undergraduate, and I appreciate the leadership he is providing.   

In 2008-09, we welcomed 76 new faculty and several new deans.  Courtney Lyder left the University of Virginia to become dean of our School of Nursing in August; and Franklin Gilliam, previously associate vice chancellor of community partnerships, became dean of the School of Public Affairs in September. 

Two more deans are brand new.  On July 1, Teri Schwartz became dean of the School of Theater, Film and Television, and Alessandro Duranti, dean of the Division of Social Sciences.  A UCLA alumna, Teri previously served as dean at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  She replaces Bob Rosen, who provided outstanding leadership to the school for more than a decade.  Alessandro previously was chair of our anthropology department and replaces Reynaldo Macías, who provided interim leadership for more than two years.  We deeply appreciate Reynaldo’s efforts in keeping the division vibrant in both teaching and research.

In the past fiscal year, UCLA made a major commitment to K-12 education in Los Angeles.  In partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the UCLA Community School was created on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel in central Los Angeles.  Set to open this fall, the school will eventually serve grades K-12.  It will help relieve overcrowding in the neighborhood’s schools and provide our students and faculty a setting for engaged scholarship. 

Our University Elementary School is now known as the UCLA Lab School.  As you know, the school’s Seeds campus at UCLA, which serves pre-K through sixth grade, is widely renowned for excellence and innovation.  Plans are now underway to establish a second campus in the city, where tuition will be reduced or forgiven, based on families’ ability to pay.  We are delighted to be able to reach out to our community in these ways.   

Also critical to our public mission is the transfer of our scholarship to market.  The California NanoSystems Institute recently launched a technology incubator that will enhance UCLA’s partnership with companies in order to spur new businesses and create high-tech jobs. 

Meanwhile, UCLA is out front in sustainability.  The UC’s award-winning sustainability policy, aligned with the state’s leadership, calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  UCLA, with our own Climate Action Plan, is set to meet that goal eight years early.  We also are collaborating with Caltech, USC, the City of Los Angeles and local agencies on CleanTech Los Angeles.  This initiative will position L.A. as the global leader in research, commercialization and deployment of clean technologies.

UCLA Intercollegiate Athletics continues to excel.  Our women’s water polo team won its fifth consecutive NCAA title, bringing our total to 104, still the most in the nation.  In May, we launched the public phase of our Campaign of Champions to renovate Pauley Pavilion.  Since 1965, Pauley has been a cherished venue for athletics and other student events.  The project will modernize the pavilion while preserving the mystique and character that so many people hold dear.

We are also making UCLA more international in its educational and research programs.  We recently signed an agreement with Peking University to establish a joint research institute of science and engineering.  The institute will increase the exchange of faculty and students and raise awareness in Asia of UCLA’s strong scientific programs.  Other key partners in Asia include universities in Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Sadly, some of our news is tragic.  Several months ago, the campus community was devastated when staff research associate Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji died from burns sustained in one of our labs.  The incident was a very painful reminder of the critical importance of laboratory safety protocols, procedures and training.  As we mourn Sheri’s death, we are increasing and fortifying our efforts to ensure safety across campus.  The UCLA Office of Environment, Health & Safety launched a comprehensive review of laboratory safety programs, revised its inspection program and enhanced enforcement measures. 

We intend for our faculty, staff and students to be able to do their work without fear of harm.  Yet some of our researchers who conduct critical animal experiments have been subjected to acts of intimidation by extremists—acts that have included 11 cases involving fires, fire bombings and vandalism since 2006.  Last April, in a UCLA Pro-Test rally, about 700 faculty, students and staff marched on campus in support of biomedical research.  Associate Professor David Jentsch, whose car was firebombed at his home near UCLA on March 7, led the rally.  We will continue our unwavering support for all of our researchers who are leading the effort to help solve the mysteries of agonizing illnesses ranging from Parkinson’s disease and cancer to autism and schizophrenia. 

We just completed a strong year in fundraising.  We are still counting end-of-the-year gifts, but already we know that we have raised more than $354 million in gifts and pledges.  The Bruin Scholars Initiative, which I officially announced in January, is especially important to my wife, Carol, and me because it focuses exclusively on student support.  Its goal is to raise $500 million for graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships in four and a half years.  So far, almost 3,400 individuals have contributed, including approximately 2,500 alumni and more than 400 volunteers.  I am deeply grateful.

Just as we share with you our progress, we also seek your input regarding issues facing the university.  You are a critical voice for higher education and for UCLA.  Please sign up as advocates for the university at www.advocacy.ucla.edu.  Keep reminding our state officials that UCLA’s excellence must be preserved.  You bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise, leadership and experience from almost every field.  You are truly partners in our success, continuing the great UCLA legacy, and we depend upon your participation.

Always, we appreciate your support.  I am inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of our alumni and friends and the participation of our Bruin parents.  I wish you a great summer and look forward to seeing many of you in the fall.

Sincerely,

Gene D. Block
Chancellor

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