Regents Meetings: May 2013

UC Regents discuss Governor Brown’s revised budget and UC union workers strike.

 

The UC Regents met for the final time this academic year last Wednesday and Thursday in Sacramento to discuss Governor Jerry Brown’s May Revision to the state budget and its impact on the UC fiscal budget, as well as other policies and plans.

The May budget revision takes into account the changes to the state as well as to the national economic outlook since the first 2013-14 budget proposal introduced by the governor in January. The governor’s proposals for higher education include a mixed bag of state reinvestment and set goals for California’s universities.

The revised state budget also includes a four-year tuition freeze starting next year, despite reducing the overall proposed funding for higher education. If the budget is passed by the state legislature, the tuition freeze would need to be approved by the UC Board of Regents.

Brown’s budget also does not include the previously proposed unit cap, a measure that the governor had introduced to allow for a speedier education in fewer years. The proposal had drawn many concerns from students, and the UC supported this decision in an official statement.

Brown has introduced other measures to improve graduation rates at UCs and Cal States and to encourage undergraduates to earn their degrees in four years instead of five or six. This includes a recent proposal to give UCs and CSUs more funds if their graduation rates rose by 10 percent by 2017.

UC officials and the governor discussed their positions on how to approach the issue of graduation rates. Brown continued to press UC officials to look into the factors that affect graduation rates, whether the factors are inherent to each campus or outside of the campuses.

UC officials cautioned against putting too much focus on improving graduation time. That could lead to more selective admissions, especially passing over lower-income students who may need more time to finish college due to weaker high schools or families with no college background.

Brown’s proposal also sets performance targets for the UC, including the aforementioned higher graduation rates and increases in transfer students and degrees received by low-income individuals.

The regents also discussed restructuring the university’s debt in terms of shifting the responsibility of the debt to the UC system from the state. Brooke Converse, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said that the university would be able to save $80 million a year due to the state having a worse credit rating.

The governor’s budget will be deliberated by the state legislature, which has until mid-June to review, edit and finalize the budget and have it ready for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

Members and supporters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 were arrested for unlawful assembly during the regents meeting on May 15.  AFSCME, a union that represents the interests of UC patient care workers protested while the Regents convened to voice their concern surrounding workers’ salaries and benefits.

The union members asserted that they would strike and refused to leave the meeting. Protestors took advantage of the public comment portion of the meeting to speak about the need for the UC to help workers, not fight them. Within 20 minutes, 13 protestors were arrested, cited, released and asked to leave the premise.

AFSCME 3299 members have been in negotiation with the UC over contracts and pensions and high executive salaries despite low patient worker salaries. The frustration over these negotiations has led the AFSCME to support the decision to strike. The union members voted on the decision with 97 percent approving the strike.

Members of the UC have expressed concern over the decision, saying that the strike would threaten service to patients and claimed that the union has not explored all the options for compromise and bargaining. In concert with this standpoint, the UC has issued a restraining order on strikers, which was approved by the San Francisco Superior Court earlier this month.

AFSCME 3299 members will continue with their plan to picket on May 21-23. The strikes will take place at seven UC medical centers across the state, including the UC Irvine Medical Center.