The University of California Board of Regents convened last Wednesday and Thursday for their July meeting at the Mission Bay Conference Center on the UC San Francisco campus. Highlights from the meeting included the appointment of Avi Oved as next student regent and pay raises for top UC executives.
Oved, a UCLA junior, was confirmed as the 2015-2016 student regent in a nearly unanimous vote. In the meantime, Oved will serve as student regent-designate, providing input, but not voting, on UC issues.
Controversy surrounded Oved’s appointment due to allegations that the former internal vice president of UCLA’s Undergraduate Student Association Council received funding for his 2013 election campaign from Adam Milstein, an activist whose foundation financially supports pro-Israel organizations such as Hillel at UCLA, of which Oved was a part of.
Following the presentation of a document linking Oved to Milstein at a recent meeting, the University of California Student Association held an emergency meeting to discuss concerns regarding transparency and conflicts of interest Oved may have had while campaigning.
At the Regents’ meeting, students voiced their opposition to Oved’s confirmation during the public comment section, many calling into question his involvement with Jewish student organizations and his stances against student divestment movements.
Despite student concerns and UCSA voting to request a delay in Oved’s confirmation until September following a thorough and impartial investigation, the Regents concluded that Oved’s campaign practices were in line with UCLA’s elections policies and proceeded with their confirmation.
“As the student regent-designate, my only allegiance is to the students,” Oved said.
Sadia Saifuddin, current student regent for the 2014-2015 academic year and a fifth-year Berkeley undergraduate, casted the only dissenting vote against Oved’s appointment.
“I will vote no today because students demand it,” said Saifuddin, who denied that her vote stemmed from any external political or religious reasons.
Last spring, during Saifuddin’s confirmation as student regent-designate, she too drew controversy for her co-sponsorship of a bill that called for the divestment of funds from companies that supply the Israeli military’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
“My vote is a reflection of the feelings of a large part of the student community that requests clarity and transparency of their student leader in what is one of the most visible student positions in the state of California,” Saifuddin said.
Despite voting against Oved’s appointment, Saifuddin expressed her intent of supporting him in his role as student regent-designate going forward.
“Tomorrow, I will start the process of supporting the student regent-designate to building [sic] a strong working relationship with the UC community so that the UC students can have two excellent advocates on the Board of Regents.”
Rounding out the morning session of Wednesday’s meeting was a closed session discussion, and subsequent approval of, salary increases for senior members of UC management.
UC Irvine’s Howard Gillman and Terry Belmont were among the 21 UC executives who received 3 percent pay increases. Gillman currently serves as interim chancellor following Drake’s leave for Ohio State. Belmont is the CEO of the UCI Medical Center.
A proposal from the Committee on Compensation reported that the UC ranks in the bottom third of Association of American Universities regarding salaries for its chancellors. Listing an 18.7 percent increase of wages in the general labor market over the past seven years, the report noted that senior members of UC management have not a salary increase within that same period. The proposal justified the pay increase with the purpose of correcting “reputational issues with regard to the University’s compensation practices.” The report associated insufficient levels of compensation with the recent departures of three chancellors, including UCI’s own Michael Drake, who, according to the report, accepted positions with “significantly higher compensation.”
“Participation in this organization-wide salary increase program beings to reposition the University to be more in line with its peer institutions and with its other competitors for talent.”
The final agenda item for Wednesday’s meeting regarded UC’s approach for responding to incidents of sexual violence.
In June, President Janet Napolitano announced the formation of a systemwide task force to tackle the issue. The task force is expected to present its recommendations for education regarding, response to and prevention of sexual violence at the September Regents’ meeting.
The announcement pre-empted the release of a report from the California State Auditor that stated the two UC campuses selected for review—UCLA and Berkeley—do not sufficiently prepare their staff and faculty to respond and report incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The report conceded that although Title IX officers and staff whose roles are key within the reporting process are well-trained, others who are more likely to be first points of contact are not.
Addressing claims that the UC is merely responding to federal pressure to improve its procedures regarding sexaul assault, Regent Reiss said that the University has loftier goals in sight of becoming a national example for other universities to follow.
Earlier this year, before the UC expanded its policy against sexual violence, Berkeley students filed complaints regarding the mishandling of their sexual assault cases.
The task force is comprised of 28 members from across the UC system, including Regents Karen Leong Clancy and Bonnie Reiss, as well as Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin. UC Irvine’s singular representative is Chief of Police Paul Henisey, who is joined by his counterparts from UCLA and Berkeley.
“Though the student representation on the task force is small, I assure you we will be incredibly vocal in order to represent adequately the 233,000 undergraduates and graduates in the UC system,” said Savannah Badalich, former USAC student wellness commissioner whose role on the task force as an undergraduate representative is matched by Rishi Ahuja from Berkeley.
“I hope that this will remain past the [next] Regent meeting as a long-term initiative,” Badalich said.
In memory of the six UC Santa Barbara students killed this past May in Isla Vista, the Regents also passed a resolution conveying sympathy to their families. George Chen, Katherine Cooper, James Hong, Christopher Michael-Martinez, Weihan Wang and Veronika Weiss were each given individual and distinctive mentions in the resolution.
Regents meetings take place every other month. The next one will take place Wednesday and Thursday, September 17-18.