Although most University proceedings were suspended over the course of Winter Break, the UC Board of Regents continued their deliberation concerning the future of the University system in the current fiscal climate in a teleconference held across four campuses at the end of Fall Quarter.
Although the day remained peaceful and no arrests were made, student protesters at the Los Angeles, Merced, Davis and San Francisco Mission Bay campuses successfully derailed the regents’ agenda with defiant interjections as the board opened discussion on its first action item, the UC’s 2012-13 expenditure budget. The new budget plan, which constitutes the UC’s budget request to the state, calls for increased enrollment — although 17 percent of the state’s allocation was requested for existing over-enrollment deficits — and an increase in UC and employee contribution rates to the UC Retirement Plan.
With no public deliberation, the board swiftly passed nine action items and salary increases for 16 administrators and lawyers.
UC President Mark G. Yudof said the board will operate under the expectation that the state will acquire the resources to sufficiently fund the University system and allow for growth.
“We’re only asking for partial restoration, but if we’re able to do that we can avoid the issue of increasing tuition, we can begin the process of moving the University forward and hiring more professors and smaller classes,” Yudof said.
The plan also authorized the establishment of a medical school at UC Riverside, a $233 million, 34-year renovation of UC Berkeley’s Lower Sproul Plaza and an erosion-halting project at UCSB’s lagoon. The board also requested $1.13 billion from the state for capital-outlay projects, which the state has not funded since 2006.
The only section of the budget that was not specifically itemized was the portion relating to student services, though it slated $310 million to be allocated over a broad range of projects including expansion of course offerings, reduction of class sizes and reinvestment in instructional support and building maintenance.
State Assembly Speaker John Pérez, an ex-officio member of the board, received applause from the audience when he said the board must switch the tone of its discussion with state officials to foster a serious evaluation of taxes and strategies to fund the UC.
“It’s acceptable for us to charge fees for non-education-related activities, but it’s appalling that we have gone down the route of charging for educational services,” Pérez said. “I think that if we embrace the term ‘tuition,’ then we have confined ourselves to a future where we always charge for the education-related services.”
In addition to the 16 raises approved during the meeting, compensation increases were also approved for two administrators and two coaches while the board was not in session.
UCSB men’s basketball Head Coach Bob Williams received a five-year contract with a base salary of $235,000 to be taken out of student fees.
When the meeting was interrupted by student protesters, the regents elected to retreat to a private meeting room, and the public was not allowed into the meeting until after board members departed. As demonstrators at UCLA led their chants, the board’s chair Sherry Lansing called in 40 university police to clear the room of protesters.
Following the regents’ closed meeting, Regents Lansing and Eddie Island, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy White, UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake and Executive Vice President of Business Operations Nathan Brostrom met in a private forum with the 20 students who disrupted the meeting.
Addressing the assembled students, who hoped to engage the administrators in a discussion, Lansing said her schedule did not permit for an in-depth conversation at the time due to a preexisting engagement with 20 other university officials.
“We can discuss any agenda you want, but I need to schedule a meeting,” Lansing said. “I can’t have this discussion now — there are 20 people that are waiting and there’s nothing that’s an action item.”
UCLA urban planning graduate student Cheryl Deutsch, president of the student worker union UAW 2865 said the regents’ decision to engage the students is a testament to the success of recent demonstrations.
“I think it was a pretty powerful image — the regents amongst students in a circle participating on terms that students have set,” Deutsch said. “It’s a paradigm shift for students and hopefully for the regents.”
However, the desire to seriously exchange ideas was not reciprocated by the officials, according to Deutsch.
“They just wanted to get some photos snapped of themselves shaking our hands,” Deutsch said. “By their tone and their interaction it was clear that they didn’t want to discuss real issues; they just wanted to set some date in the indeterminate future to re-meet with us.”
According to UCLA second-year anthropology major Liza Corr, “We didn’t talk about anything except the fact that we weren’t talking about anything.”
The regents will hold their next meeting on Jan. 18 and 19 at UC Riverside, though decisions regarding tuition will not be made until March.