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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

UCSB FA Open Letter to President Napolitano on UCOP and the Health Care Fiasco

November 14, 2013

Dear President Napolitano,

Last week our campus was visited by a delegation from UCOP – including Peter Taylor, John Strobo, and Dwaine Duckett – the purpose of which was to explain the new health care plans and to reassure us about the diminished options now available to us. As you may have heard, things did not go well.

Before the audience of faculty and staff intervened, the delegates had begun to deliver a self-congratulatory pitch emphasizing the fact that they had saved everybody in the UC system from higher premiums by dropping the Anthem plans across the board. When urged to get directly to the issue of most concern to us at UCSB – the termination of PPO benefits at the tier 1 level – they had little to say, except to encourage us to make the best of a bad situation, and to blame our local health care providers (especially Cottage Hospital) for refusing to accept UCOP’s terms. They also danced away from their failure to communicate effectively with Sansum Clinic.

Mr. Taylor had already made plain in comments published in the October 10 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as in a response to a petition from our Divisional Academic Senate, that his guiding principle in negotiations with the various health care providers for campuses without medical centers was to obtain discounts, insisting that physicians under contract with the UC system not be paid any more than the system pays its own. He was so committed to his principle – arbitrary though it was – that adhering to it was more important to him than the welfare of our campus community. When things did not go his way with the Santa Barbara providers, he and his subordinates made the coldly calculated decision to cut us loose from the rest of the system. In the Chronicle interview he said that he did not see the need to deviate from his principle in the interests of the “600” UCSB employees – actually more than 700 and their families – who would be affected. When questioned during his visit here he was unapologetic; indeed, he seemed to think we should admire him for his refusal to compromise.

The attitude and methods of Mr. Taylor and his subordinates are typical of the cynicism and arrogance that have prevailed at UCOP in recent years. The new health care plans were conceived by an inner circle of top administrators, developed, and negotiated without anything even approaching appropriate consultation with faculty or employees. With no regard whatever for the principle of shared governance, the Academic Council’s Faculty Welfare Committee and Health Care Task Force were kept in the dark much of the time and, as the formal announcement of the new plans drew near, the Faculty Welfare Committees on the individual campuses were pressured to maintain confidentiality. Our own Chancellor did not learn the terms of the new plans until the second half of August!

One is hard pressed to decide which is more deplorable, the reckless managerial swagger of Taylor and his team, or their sheer ineptitude. If the UC system plans to self-insure – to go into the insurance business – it had better find more competent administrators. We call upon you to remove Taylor, Strobo, and Duckett from further involvement in the process and to take the matter into your own hands until a new set of administrators can be appointed.

We hope that you understand the depth of our anger over this betrayal of our trust, and that we do not intend to let the matter rest. The employees of UCSB are facing discriminatory treatment that seriously degrades the quality of our individual lives and those of our families, as well as undermining the collective welfare of our campus community, and we are prepared to fight it with every means at our disposal, including legal action. We call upon you to exercise the leadership necessary to resolve this crisis in a manner that satisfies the needs of UCSB’s faculty and staff.

Yours truly,
Nelson Lichtenstein President,
UC Santa Barbara
Faculty Association (UCSB FA) nelson@history.ucsb.edu

Robert Williams
Board Member, UCSB FA

Aranye Fradenburg
Board Member, UCSB FA

Julie Carlson
Board Member, UCSB FA

Jorge Luis Castillo
Board Member, UCSB FA

Elisabeth Weber
Board Member, UCSB FA

Allan Stewart-Oaten Board Member, UCSB FA


Kum-Kum Bhavnani,
President, UC Santa Barbara
Academic Senate

William Jacob
Chair, Academic Council of the UC Academic Senate


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