The University of California Board of Regents assembled last week from May 16 to May 18 at UC San Francisco for its bimonthly meeting. The Board held a thorough discussion of the state’s recent audit of the UC Office of the President, voted to authorize a budget for UCOP for the 2017-2018 school year, and placed a cap on nonresident enrollment in the UC.
The board also heard a variety of public comments from students to divest from the fossil fuel industry and also to roll back tuition in light of the state audit.
Numerous union workers also spoke in public comments urging the UC to create better conditions for workers, including better hours, increased pay, better benefits and ending layoffs.
UC Students Advocate for UC Divestment from Fossil Fuels
UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis students addressed the UC Investment Subcommittee on the issue of the UC’s involvement in the fossil fuel industry.
UCSC student Alexia Daoussis called it an “immoral, unethical industry responsible for spewing carbon emissions into the atmosphere, worsening the current climate crisis. A $2.65 billion endowment in the fossil fuel industry harms students across the UC immensely.”
UCD students Evan Steel and Kevin Horng spoke about the effects of the fossil fuel industry on marginalized communities.
“Supporting the fossil fuel industry is supporting the displacement and killing of millions of innocent people around the world and forcing American soldiers into unnecessary conflict,” said Steel.
“I am here to represent those marginalized and oppressed voices that cannot be here, literally, due to safety reasons, health reasons, and just the fact that they have to be working all these hours to survive,” said Horng.
The students also directly called out Regent Richard Sherman, who they recognized as the Regent most responsible for the fossil fuel investment.
“You have the obligation to use your position to make a political statement to change the environmental situation for the better and to listen to the students you should be representing,” said UCSC student Laretta Johnson.
UCSC students Martin Genova and Sam Weinstein noted that students and faculty have all taken action but UC regents have yet to. Both asked Regent Sherman, “Whose side are you on?”
The Regents thanked students for their remarks and noted how important student feedback is in their decisions. They also recognized that student voices have been the catalyst for change in the fossil fuel issue, before moving on with the meeting.
Students and Union Protest Over Audit Response
Student protests erupted at the UC Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday, May 17. The Regents were criticized for increasing tuition while allegedly secreting $175 million in funds.
“Whose university?” the crowd chanted. “Our university!”
Students argued that a state audit’s recent revelation of $175 million in previously undisclosed funds was evidence the UC had sufficient funds to support its students.
UCI External Vice President Taylor Chanes told the board that she, as well as many other students, were struggling with student loans and debt.
UC President Janet Napolitano continues to defend the fund, arguing that the surplus amount in a reserve fund was in fact only $38 million, not $175 million. She has stated that the rest of the money is allotted to campus-based programs and research.
In her audit released earlier this month, state auditor Elaine Howle listed 33 recommendations to improve the UC’s budgeting practices, which Napolitano says the UC is working on implementing now.
Last year, the budget for the president’s office was seven pages. This year, it is 30. According to the budget plan, the total proposed budget for next year is $813.5 million. It includes $424.7 million for Systemwide Academic and Public Service Programs and $388.8 million for Central and Administrative Services. The budget also compares plan details to last year’s plan.
Howle’s recommendations ultimately serve to make the office’s budgeting tactics more transparent.
Cap on Nonresident Undergraduates
The UC Board of Regents voted on May 18 to approve a policy on non-student enrollment that would cap the population of out-of-state and international students at its nine undergraduate campuses.
Under the policy, five campuses would be required to cap their enrollment of nonresidents at 18 percent. The four other campuses whose nonresident student population already exceeds 18 percent — UC Berkeley at 24.4 percent, UC San Diego at 22.9 percent, UCLA at 22.8 percent and UC Irvine at 18.9 percent — would cap their nonresident enrollment at the percentage that each campus enrolls next year.
“Our new nonresident enrollment policy strikes the right balance between UC’s continued commitment to putting California students first and the significant benefits that out-of-state and international students provide the university,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “This policy represents a broad consensus achieved after extensive consultation with regents, legislators and other stakeholders.”
The high percentage of nonresident student enrollment caused controversy after a state audit last year, leading to accusations that the UC was not doing enough to serve the population of California, who are increasingly looking to enroll in the UC as an affordable option.
The state’s Budget Act of 2016 called for the UC Board of Regents to adopt a policy limiting the number of undergraduate nonresidents as a condition for receiving $18.5 million to support the enrollment of an additional 2,500 California resident undergraduates in the upcoming academic year.
In response to the controversy, the UC announced that it would expand enrollment at all of its campuses and that the majority of the students enrolled would be California residents. UC enrolled about 7,400 California residents in fall 2016 and expects to enroll an additional 2,500 this upcoming Fall.
The UC states that the nonresident population is well below the average for a public university system. UC nonresident undergraduate students currently make up about 16.5 percent of total undergraduates systemwide, compared with an average of 27.9 percent for the public institutions in the Association of American Universities (AAU).
The UC also argued that the stagnation in state funding for the UC meant that it needed to seek revenue elsewhere. For the 2016-2017 school year, nonresident tuition and fees amounted to $40,182 per student in comparison to the $13,500 that resident students pay. Both tuition amounts will go up at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year as a result of a recent tuition hike approved by the Board of Regents.
The Regents expect to review the policy in about four years to determine its efficacy.
New UC Building Projects
The Board of Regents approved three new building projects at UC San Francisco, including a new neuroscience building, a new psychiatry building and new student housing buildings.
Two of the projects approved Thursday expand on UCSF’s position as an institution for research and care in neuroscience and mental health. The largest project is the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building. The Weills donated $185 million last year to establish the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences.
The other building will become the UCSF Child, Teen and Family Center and Department of Psychiatry Building, which was funded by a $50 million anonymous donation. The building will provide mental health services to adults, children and families living in the Bay Area.
The third building project will be a graduate student and trainee housing complex, which help give graduates access to affordable housing in light of soaring housing costs throughout the Bay area.