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UC Irvine Chief Orders Partial Hiring Freeze

Spending: His memo says the Board of Regents is considering a 15% budget cut statewide.

November 03, 2001|TINA BORGATTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Because of the recent economic downturn in California, UC Irvine's chancellor Friday ordered a hiring freeze and said the UC Board of Regents is discussing a systemwide budget cut of up to 15% for the 2002-03 fiscal year.

The announcement comes after UC President Richard C. Atkinson asked chancellors at all University of California campuses to be "cautious about permanent hiring and other major financial commitments" because of the state's fiscal problems, according to a campuswide memorandum sent by UC Irvine Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone late Friday.

"As estimates of state revenues declined over the past few months and the impacts of the tragic events of Sept. 11 have been felt, the governor also has asked UC to develop options for possible budget cuts of up to 15% in 2002-03; the UC Regents are in discussions on this issue," Cicerone stated in the memo, which was e-mailed to university staff members. "The state's fiscal condition is serious, and difficult choices must be made in the months ahead."

Cicerone tried to offer some assurances, however, and said some analysts believe the state's fiscal crisis may be short-lived because the fundamentals of the California economy remain strong.

No similar campuswide announcement has been made at UCLA, said spokesman Warren Robak. He said he was not aware of any formal discussions on the matter.

"I'm not privy to budget discussions, and I've seen no memo and I'm not aware of any similar widespread communication," he said.

UC Irvine spokeswoman Karen Young said the university has yet to determine which areas would be considered for budget cuts or how many positions would be affected by the hiring freeze.

However, several employment categories were deemed exempt from the freeze, including staffing at the UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, faculty positions already authorized for this year, research staffers who are paid through contracts and grants, and "staff members vital to the health and safety of UCI," Cicerone's memo stated.

The chancellor also said the university will honor job offers that have already been extended. Exemptions will be considered for positions "vital to the educational and research missions of UCI," he said.

The memo should not have come as a surprise, Young said.

"There had been some feelings among those who watch current events [that there would be retrenchments] because this is happening on a statewide level," she said. Young said university officials will meet over the next few weeks to discuss the extent of the freeze.

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