In online conversation, Carol Christ gives budget, campus updates

Chancellor Carol Christ took questions from the campus community on Monday. (UC Berkeley video)

There are two major budget concerns Chancellor Carol Christ has for UC Berkeley. One, the short-term loss of revenue caused by empty residence halls, canceled performance events and empty athletic fields.

Two, is the anticipated steep, long-term cut in state support as California, and the world, grapple with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both, Christ said in a live online Campus Conversation on Monday, contribute to a Berkeley budget deficit between $170 and $400 million. The conversation was a chance for Christ to take virtual questions from the campus community, including students, staff and faculty.

Christ, who joined via webcam from her California Hall office, said that she and other campus leaders were working to understand the total budget impact for the campus before making any decisions.

Campus leaders, she said, are guided by three principles, including protecting the health of Berkeleyans, maintaining educational consistency and “saving as many jobs as possible.”

The short-term loss in revenue due to shelter-in-place is best described as a “steep-V,” Christ said, with revenue that will likely start up again as soon as athletics events start, residence halls fill with students or performances resume.

More troublesome are the potential cuts to the state budget, which are predicted to be as much as $53.4 billion over the next two years.

“It is not conceivable for the state to experience that kind of shortfall and for the University of California to not be affected,” Christ said. “That is something we are obviously very, very concerned about.”

Christ added that she and other Berkeley leaders are monitoring the number of students who plan to enroll in the fall, which will have additional impacts on Berkeley’s budget.

Christ also pointed to three scenarios campus leaders are using to prepare for the next few months.

Above all, Christ said she had been pleased by how the campus community has responded to the COVID-19 crisis.

“I have been so impressed by the resiliency and creativity and dedication of the community, particularly at a time when are all facing challenges, not just in our work lives but in our personal lives,” she said.