UC Regents Discuss Change

The University of California Board of Regents met to discuss UC finances and campus climate on Wed., March 19, and Thur, March 20, at the conference center of UC San Francisco Mission Bay. During the meeting, the Regents also approved UC President Janet Napolitano’s action appointing Howard Gillman as UC Irvine’s interim chancellor effective on or around June 30 this year.

At the second UC Regents meeting of 2014, the board discussed the results of its first ever system-wide campus climate survey. The assessment reported that almost a quarter of its respondents had experienced exclusionary, hostile or offensive conduct during their time at the university within the past year. Out of the approximated 25 percent, nine percent of respondents reported that the conduct affected their studies or work. To help improve overall UC campus climate, Regents suggested increased campus engagement.
UCI constituted 10,679 out of 104,208 system-wide respondents. According to the UCI-specific campus climate report, 80 percent of respondents reported that they felt “very comfortable” or “comfortable” with the overall UCI campus climate, while 6 percent reported feeling “very uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable.”
Twenty-three percent of respondents reported that they had experienced exclusionary, intimidating, offensive or hostile conduct at UCI, and out of that 23 percent, eight percent reported that the conduct affected their ability to study or work. A higher percentage of staff respondents made up the eight percent compared to faculty, students and postdoctoral scholars. Compared to white respondents, a slightly higher percentage of underrepresented minority and multi-minority respondents reported experiencing this conduct.
Several constituent groups, such as LGBQ, transgender and multi-minority respondents, as well respondents with disabilities, reported that they were less comfortable with the overall campus, workplace and classroom climate of UCI. Also, two percent of respondents reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact in the past five years at UCI. Out of the two percent, a higher percentage of undergraduate students reported this experience than staff members, and a higher percentage of LGBQ, genderqueer and respondents with disabilities reported this experience.
“The university has room to improve,” UCI Student Regent Cinthia Flores explained. “If you feel you are outnumbered or explicitly under-represented, you will feel disenfranchised.”
Recently, UCI has tried to improve the campus climate by establishing and maintaining several programs, such as the Olive Tree Initiative, the Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Student Outreach and Retention Center, the New Narratives Series: Conversations on Identities & Culture, and several sexual violence prevention programs.
This system-wide campus climate assessment was administered online from Nov. 2012 through May 2013, surveying UC staff, faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars across all UC campuses as well as the UC Office of the President. UCI’s survey was offered in English and Spanish, and contained 99 questions total and included several open-ended questions. The survey was distributed from Jan. 14, 2013 through Feb. 22, 2013.
The response rate system-wide was at 27 percent, while the UCI’s response rate was at 25 percent. The accuracy of the assessment came into question because of its low response rate.
“Do we have reason to believe the validity of [the survey’s] conclusions? How much confidence should we have in a response rate of 21 percent from our undergraduates?” Regent Eddie Island questioned.
Regardless, UC expects campuses to take steps to improve their campus climate.
The Board of Regents continued to discuss the 2014-2015 academic year budget and the UC system’s long-term financial future. Though no clear answers have been offered, Regents acknowledged that if they do not receive more funding, there will be tuition increases.
Regent Hadi Makarechian commented, “I’m not for the tuition increases either  nobody is. But the operational dollars have to come from some place.”
On Thursday, UC announced the implementation of the “Leveraging Scale for Value” project, which was developed this past year, presented to the board during the meeting. From now on, the UC system’s five medical centers will collaborate to save more than $100 million a year, explained the UCOP. According to a press release, the project will first focus on three areas: supply chain, revenue cycle and clinical laboratories.
“We are leveraging the UC system’s collective strength to become more efficient,” UC Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Services Dr. John Stobo said. “By collaborating more, we can ensure the financial well-being of our clinical enterprise, allowing us to continue improving the health of Californians.”
According to the UCOP, UC medical center expenses are projected to exceed revenues in 2017, as the $7.5 billion clinical enterprise has almost no support from California general funds and provides about $500 million in support of UC medical and other health professional schools. These realizations have brought to light the need for the UC to lower its clinical enterprise costs.
The project aims to improve revenue cycle management, create operational savings and potentially increase revenue by sending more lab tests to UC medical centers instead of other external labs and implementing other changes, according to the press release.
“The ‘scale’ project does not replace what each medical center must do on its own to contain costs,” Stobo stated. “The system-wide efforts focus on what individual medical centers are unable to do on their own. Both local and system-wide efforts are needed to get us where we need to be.”