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Rising Demand Coupled with Declining Support for Maintenance and Energy Starting to Take Toll on Campus, Faculty Senate Told

By Paul K. Mueller | October 30, 2006

The UC San Diego Representative Assembly began the new academic year on Tuesday, with new chair Henry C. (Harry) Powell overseeing a full slate of senate business. The senate also hosted Steven Relyea, vice chancellor for business affairs, and Gary Matthews, assistant vice chancellor for auxiliary and plant services, who reported on the challenges of providing energy and maintenance for campus facilities in a time of rising demand and declining support for such necessities.

Henry C. Powell
Henry C. (Harry) Powell

Powell, a professor of pathology in the Health Sciences division, takes over from previous chair Jean-Bernard Minster. Powell’s vice chair is James W. Posakony, professor of cell and developmental biology.

The new chair opened the meeting by thanking Minster and members of the senate for their service, then read prepared remarks by Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, who was attending the Association of American Universities meeting in Rochester, N.Y.

Fox noted the university’s record enrollment, welcomed the new members of the administrative team, and encouraged senate members to share their ideas and comments about remaining searches with her. She applauded the recent election of four faculty members to the Institute of Medicine, and thanked all those who contributed to the success of the Open House and the Chancellor’s 5K Run/Walk, which supports undergraduate scholarships.

The assembly then approved reports, named members to committees, and OK’d two proposed amendments, one from the Graduate Council, one from Warren College faculty, both involving wording changes to existing texts.

Powell next introduced Relyea and Matthews, who painted a somewhat somber picture of a growing campus and declining funds for its maintenance.

UC San Diego, they pointed out, has more than 240 buildings, 6.4 million square feet of floor space, 1,100 acres, 125 miles of water and gas lines, 32 miles of power cabling, 30 miles of roads, an 800,000-gallons-a-day seawater system (principally for campus cooling systems), and a central utility plant that generates 19 million watts (about 85 percent of the campus’s needs) – for a total replacement value of $2.7 billion.

Unfortunately, they said, funding for operations, maintenance and facilities renewal has been under-funded by the University of California system for more than two decades – and the state hasn’t funded any operating costs for new buildings since 2003.

UC San Diego added 1.1 million square feet of floor space, a 19 percent increase, in those three years, and will add another 300,000 square feet in 2006-07.

The university works very hard, said Matthews, to minimize costs, extend or postpone maintenance schedules, stretch resources, increase building efficiency, use renewable energy wherever possible, and increase staff productivity (already about three times higher than comparable industry productivity). But postponing upkeep and delaying equipment replacement, he said, has already begun to take a toll on facilities and services for students, faculty and staff – a deterioration that could influence student and faculty retention, among other problems.

Until adequate and realistic funding is available, Matthews said, the university is prioritizing maintenance and facilities projects, strictly managing staffing levels, reducing service levels, considering borrowing to pay for deferred maintenance, and lobbying the UC Office of the President for promised funds.

The presentation, with far more detail, is available here.

Following the presentation, and after noting that there were no student petitions or unfinished business, Powell adjourned the assembly until its next meeting on Nov. 28.

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