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Fall Regents Meeting Recap

The UC Regents met this past week with new UC President Janet Napolitano at the helm for her first Regents meeting since she’s taken office. During this three-day meeting from Nov. 12 to 14 at UC San Francisco, the Regents discussed issues ranging from the institution’s budget to the development of new projects across the system.

One announcement making headlines during this three-day meeting is the continuation of the tuition freeze, which Napolitano assured, will be extended to the 2014-15 school year. The upcoming school year will be the third year in a row that tuition is frozen. Regents also passed the 2014-2015 budget, including a $381.7 million increase in spending. In July, the state approved a budget that included a 5 percent base raise in funding. This time around, officials at the Regents meeting are seeking a raise in $120.9 million in state funding.

That $120.9 million is set to go toward pension, enrollment growth and educational improvements. This request was made, despite Governor Brown’s warning that this increase may not go over well in the legislature and will not be a permanent solution to the UC’s financial structuring.

“If we want to keep tuition down, we’re going to have to reshape the way things are done,” Brown said. “That’s just the big bad state talking.”

The Regents heard from representatives of UC Irvine during their three-day meeting during a committee on grounds and buildings meeting.  Committee members heard from Vice Chancellor Wendell C. Brase as he presented updates on a plan that will commission expansions in Mesa Court housing. The reason behind this expansion is attributed to the fact that UCI has not met their goal of providing housing for 50 percent of their undergraduates. The plan in question would replace Mesa Court Commons and would provide more housing amounting to 500 beds and a reconstruction of the current commons structure, which was built in 1968.

Currently, UCI provides housing for 46 percent of students, falling short by approximately 1,000 beds in fall of 2013. This rate is expected to rise to 2,100 beds in the fall of 2016 if nothing is done to curtail the demand.

“Two of our pillars of excellence that [Chancellor Drake] likes to talk about — in fact I heard him talk about this just yesterday — are character and leadership, equally important in our view to academic excellence,”  Brase said. “And character and leadership, we believe, are benefitted when a freshman can start their college experience in a residential life setting, which is a supportive community. That’s why this 50 percent goal that we keep company back to is reflected not only in our long-range development plan but also in our strategic academic plan.”

The public comment portion in all three meeting days highlighted a number of issues that students, parents, workers, instructors and tax-paying citizens raised during the speaking portion. A number of speakers from AFSCME 3299 were present, including 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger. Union members from all over the UC brought up issues regarding working conditions, unfair labor practices and low wages during the public comment portion. AFSCME 3299 is set to go on strike this Wednesday, Nov. 20 to protest the unfair practices committed against service workers in the UC.