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UC Regents Authorize Investigation of the Office of the President

The University of California Regents authorized an independent consultant to investigate issues related to the State Audit of the UC system, particularly the claim that the Office of the President interfered with campus responses to surveys issued by state auditors.

The Board of Regents voted unanimously at the special meeting on May 11, which was called due to the severity of the allegations against the UC Office of the President.

In her audit report, California state auditor Elaine Howle stated that the UC Office of the President previewed campus responses to surveys issued directly to the campuses by the auditor, rendering the responses unreliable. The interference also included a conference call amongst the UC campuses organized by the Office of the President that intended to coordinate responses.

Survey responses from several UC administrations were changed after their original drafting.  According to emails obtained by the Los Angeles Times,  the original UC Irvine response included a statement that a systemwide initiative to expand online learning “has a number of challenges and this is an example of an initiative that does duplicate efforts on the individual campuses in a way that many feel is not value added.” The response also noted that a website containing information on faculty diversity had been taken offline. Both statements were taken out of the campus’s final response.

Reporting by the San Francisco Chronicle indicated that survey ratings on  questions  “about quality of collaboration with the president’s office over campus fees were changed from ‘OK’ to ‘satisfied.’”

UC Deputy Chief of Staff Bernie Jones stated that the allegation of interference was groundless and that there was no effort to dictate campus responses. He stated that he set up the conference call after campuses called the president’s office for assistance, and that he only stated to campuses that their responses should be factual and  reflective of the Chancellor’s views.

In a statement at the special Regents meeting, Napolitano welcomed quick action by the board to retain an independent consultant to review the state auditor’s contention of UCOP interference. UC President Janet Napolitano stated that there was no improper motive in the review but acknowledged that in retrospect, her office should have handled matters differently.

Regent John A. Pérez agreed with Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom that the Board of Regents would be the most  important audience for the investigation, but also stated that “equally important is the public in making sure that folks not only value the product of what comes out of this, but the process we undertook.”

The UC regents plan to have a longer, more thorough discussion of the state audit on May 16-18, including its findings, conclusions  and recommendations, as well as a presentation by state auditor Howle.

In a statement before the state legislature, Howle stated that “In my 17 years as state auditor, we have never had a situation like this.”

ASUCI will also be sending a delegation of UCI students up to the conference alongside other UC students to present a list of demands to the UC Regents in public comment. Demands by UC students include “an immediate rollback on tuition, more services to protect and support marginalized student and worker communities, and a fair contract for campus workers (including sanctuary protections for workers and students).”

As with all Regents meetings, the next meeting will be broadcast live online.