While the majority of UC students were taking their finals, the UC Board of Regents convened at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay on Mar. 17-19.
The most highly anticipated agenda item, the update from UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown on prospective solutions for funding the UC bore no major headlines regarding the future UC’s tuition structure.
The “committee of two” reported that they’ve had two formal meetings and are set to meet again in April.
“I would say the conversations have been far-ranging,” Napolitano said. Some of the ideas that the two have been looking closely at include increasing the amount of degrees generated, examining the cost of a higher education in the context of a research university and looking at the importance of enrollment numbers.
The committee is convening during a time when leadership from both the State Senate and Assembly have proposed plans to fix the shortfall in university funding. Napolitano said that the committee has met with both Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senator Kevin de León regarding funding solutions.
Brown said that he’s not only “very interested in the greatness of the university” producing new knowledge or serving as an engine for California’s economic growth, but also as an institution that develops better people.
“I do want to say, though, that everything has costs,” he said. “My goal is just to spend a little less money than the people I’m talking to.”
Where and how the UC’s money is being spent sparked a demonstration from students and community members.
Multiple speakers during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting called upon the regents to keep Richmond’s residents in mind when developing their new research campus in the Bay Area community.
Melba Willis, a Richmond resident, said that the city has a large vulnerable community that is in danger of being priced out of Richmond if an influx of highly-paid research jobs raise the cost of living. She and other speakers called for a community benefits agreement to be reached between the UC and Richmond residents that would mutually benefit both parties, especially in regards to labor contracts with unions.
Kristian Kim, a UC Berkeley student, started off the demonstration by taking off her outer layer of clothing, leaving behind only her underwear.
“It was a symbolic representation of the fact that this is all I have left,” she said.
Students also criticized the timing of the meeting, saying that it prevented students from attending in order to voice their concerns. The three-day meeting coincided with students’ finals and midterm and schedules.
In response to the protests, the police in riot helmets filed into the room and formed a barrier between the public seating area and the roundtable of regents. The entire board of regents left the room, but not before Napolitano was caught on the meeting’s live feed making a dismissive comment about the students’ concerns.
“Let’s go,” she said to chairman Bruce Varner. “We don’t have to listen to this crap.”
She apologized the next day.
“I apologize and I ask for your empathy and understanding,” Napolitano said. “We have public comment to listen to serious things expressed seriously,” she added.
The agenda also included a status update on UC medical centers, the authorization of a century bond and a tuition policy change for veterans.
Regent William De La Pena reported that 40 percent of the UC’s budget is funded by revenue from its medical centers.
Terry Belmont, the CEO of the UCI Medical Center, said that upcoming initiatives for the center include expanding community access points, strengthening its market position and facility renovations.
“I think we’re just coming into adulthood,” he said.
A 100-year bond, valued at $500 million, was also approved by the regents. UC Irvine is set to receive $130 million. $50 million will go towards deferred maintenance, $50 million will go towards space renovations and technology upgrades and $30 million will set up research equipment and spaces for newly-hired faculty.
Veteran students were the recipient of the only concrete tuition change to arise from the meeting. Because their military service can interrupt the requirement that students must have resided in California for at least 12 months in order to qualify for in-state tuition, veterans sometimes have to pay non-resident supplemental tuition. For the approximately 2,000 veterans attending the UC, the change would waive that particular requirement, allowing them to pay in-state tuition rates.