UC Student Regent-Designate, Avi Oved paid a visit to UC Irvine last Thursday, meeting with student leaders and administrators.
His visit was part of the Board of Regents’ outreach efforts in order to mitigate the removed nature of their San Francisco-based meetings. Oved mentioned that there were considerations to move the regents’ bimonthly meeting down to UC Irvine next year, with the main challenge being the transportation of the resources of the office of President Janet Napolitano.
Oved, currently a fourth-year economics major from UCLA, is currently shadowing Sadia Saifuddin, the current student regent, for the 2014-2015 term.
Discussion regarding the possibility of a tuition increase recurred throughout his meetings with various student groups.
“It’s inevitable, almost, at this point,” said ASUCI President Reza Zomorrodian, who said that the majority of Oved’s conversation with student government officials, including Executive Vice President Sanaa Khan and Sonali Madireddi, president of Associated Graduate Students, revolved around tuition costs, which have been frozen at 2011-2012 levels.
Oved said that although there hasn’t been an official tuition increase proposal, he has been having informal conversations with UC administrators and Office of the President staff.
“The possibility of a tuition increase is imminent,” said Oved, who indicated that the increase will be in the ballpark of four to five percent, which would translate to an approximate $600 increase.
Oved was unsure, however, what exactly those numbers indicated due to the ambiguity of the language during those conversations. One possibility would result in a gradual tuition increase over the next few years. The other would mean an annually recurring increase of four to five percent, ultimately resulting in a cumulative double-digit percentage increase.
Zomorrodian offered some insight into why tuition may rise, citing rising pensions and the need to expand infrastructure to meet a burgeoning student population. Zomorrodian referred to these two items as inflexible costs which, when combined with a shortfall of state funds, necessitate more funds.
Pensions, and more specifically compensation for tenured faculty, have recently been a hot-button issue for the UC, with administrators calling for more competitive compensation packages in order to retain academic talent.
According to Zomorrodian, UC administrators project that the UC undergraduate population will grow by approximately one-third over the next five years and will require the necessary infrastructure to accommodate them.
For Zomorrodian, if tuition rises, he hopes to enact a transparency measure that will show students where their funds are being allocated across the UC system.
Previously, President Napolitano stated that due to the lack of contributions by the state to higher education funding, a tuition increase will have to be seriously considered. Oved and the current student regent, Sadia Saifuddin, are set to meet with Napolitano before this month’s Regents meeting to discuss the possibility of a tuition increase.
“Sadia and I are working together to see what we can do to circumvent this issue,” Oved said. “You can rest assured that your student regent will never support a tuition increase.”
Additionally, Oved’s meeting with student government representatives highlighted his two main priorities, sexual assault and mental health, which also align with pillars of Zomorrodian’s administration.
Currently, Oved is involved with implementing recommendations for faculty and staff to be trained on how to respond to incidents of sexual violence that may be shared with them. This effort is an expansion upon the first phase of the recommendations presented to the regents in September by Napolitano’s sexual assault task force.
Regarding mental health, Oved referred to a fee initiative being worked on by Dr. Elizabeth Gong-Guy, director of UCLA’s Counseling Center, and Dr. John Stobo, senior vice president of health sciences and services for UCOP that would provide funds to be distributed among campuses for the expansion of mental health services.
“The question really is how the services at different schools are at different stages of development and so we really want to make sure we are catering to specific campuses,” Oved said.
Also high on Oved’s priorities for his term is an increase of student representation on the Board of Regents. Chief among his plans to do so is to propose an amendment to the Constitution of California that would add another student regent to the Board, allowing for differentiation between representation graduate and undergraduate students.
Oved is also slated to visit UC Davis in addition to his January tour with the current Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin, to promote awareness about the student regent position.