Update: This article has been revised to include the full breakdown of votes for and against the L report.
On the third and final day of the UC Regents Meeting at UCSF Mission Bay, the Regents voted on and formally passed the 2015-2016 UC budget as well as a Long-Term Financial Plan, referred to as the L report, which includes an increase in UC tuition by up to five percent each year compounded over the next five years for a maximum increase of 27.6 percent, unless the state increases University funding.
The tuition increase passed with a 14-7 vote while protesters chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, tuition hikes have got to go!” to drown out the vote count. In response, Regent and Chairmen of the Board Bruce Varner called a recess to have police clear the room. Afterward, the Regents heard reports on UC Health’s preparedness for Ebola and the status of Department of Energy labs operated by the UC. The Board also voted on proposals regarding compensation for senior officials.
The votes for the L report were identical to those of next year’s budget, which incorporates the tuition increase, with UC President Janet Napolitano, Richard Blum, William De Le Peña, Sheldon Engelhorn, Russell Gould, Eddie Island, George Kieffer, Karen Leong Clancy, Hadi Makarechian, Norman Pattiz, Bonnie Reiss, Fred Ruiz, Richard Sherman and Bruce Varner voting in favor of the increase, and Governor Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Tori Atkins, Tom Torlakson, John Pérez, Eloy Oakley and Sadia Saifuddin voting against it. Regents Sherry Lansing, Monica Lozano, Paul Wachter and Charlene Zettel were absent, and thus did not vote.
Before the vote to approve the tuition increase, students, staff, administrators, alumni and other members of the UC community spoke at a half hour public forum, denouncing the tuition hike, budget cuts, an unfair workload for staff and alleged discrimination against unions.
UC San Diego Associated Students President Robby Boparai said he was concerned about the impact of raising tuition on already struggling students, many of whom have difficulty paying current tuition levels.
“I understand that the Regents have been placed in a difficult position given the fact that the state has kind of defunded education,” Boparai said. “We’re not getting the resources we need, but y’all need to understand that by raising tuition you’re placing students in a very difficult position. Across many of the UC campuses we’re seeing students struggle with food insecurity.”
Sebastian Cano, a student at UC Davis, said he feels the Regents have failed the students, and hopes to destabilize the Board of Regents.
“I believe you have failed in your mission to provide affordable education for many of our students who want to provide a better future for themselves,” Cano said. “As such, on behalf of many of the students who are here today and students who couldn’t make it today … we are planning on organizing boycotts on all the Regents’ private businesses, and we’re gonna make sure and redistribute this pain you’re trying to inflict upon us. We would also like to organize a recall against Mr. Governor over there.”
Scarlett Tovar, another UC Davis student, said she was frustrated with California politicians’ rhetoric on education.
“I’m sick of listening to lawmakers make speeches claiming that education is the fundamental key to social evolution and welfare but then abandoning us when they inevitably decide that it’s too risky to stand in solidarity with us,” Tovar said.
Assistant researcher of physics at UC Berkeley and UCSD alumus Benjamin Lynch said although he shares Governor Jerry Brown’s position against the tuition increase, Brown deserves some of the blame for not providing the University with enough state funding.
“You’ve got a real problem, Napolitano. You’ve got to sell these fee hikes to the people of California and they hate you,” Lynch “You’ve got a real problem, Governor Brown. We agree on no tuition hikes, but why do you have to tie the ‘no tuition hikes’ position to service cuts, staff cuts, benefit cuts, layoffs. We don’t accept that either.”
Regent and President of the Alumni Associations of California Sheldon Engelhorn gave a statement supporting the tuition hikes in order to maintain accessibility.
“Our primary objective is to make sure we have access to university education for all eligible, qualified students and protecting that access is our primary objective in this time of limited choices and it’s for that reason we supported the L Report,” Englehorn said.
According to the Long-Term Financial Plan, the five percent tuition increase is a maximum, as the plan allows for a smaller increase or no increase if the state provides enough funding to cover the current budget shortfall. In light of this, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said he remained optimistic about the University securing more state funding.
“I think they’re open to doing additional funds. That’s my personal opinion. I think [Governor Brown] understands the need for more money. I know Toni [Atkins] is going to be a champion for getting more money. That’s the proposal she gave,” Newsom said. “So I think there’s a chance that this year’s increase can be shrunk or eliminated, but what do we do year two, three, four?”
After the Board reconvened following the vote, UC Regent William De La Pena presided over a discussion of the Committee on Health Services on preparations for Ebola.
“We have almost 100 volunteers at UCSF willing to help take on these patients and that just shows the public commitment that this university has,” De La Pena said.
UC Health Sciences and Services Vice President Dr. John D. Stobo said the UC healthcare system has been working to adequately prepare for a possible Ebola outbreak.
“The goal is not only to provide effective treatment to Ebola patients, but at the same time to ensure the safety of healthcare workers,” Stobo said. “The cooperation of everyone in the medical field has just been tremendous … The planning and coordination has been unprecedented in my six years associated with UC Health.”
UC President Janet Napolitano congratulated recent award recipients working within the UC system, and placed special emphasis on congratulating UCSB’s Professor Shuji Nakamura for winning the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the blue LED, which is especially energy efficient.
“With the advent of LED lamps, the world now has longer-lasting and more efficient light sources,” Napolitano said.
Correction: This article originally said the L report vote passed 13-7 based on the vote count heard during the meeting. However, the correct count was 14-7. The article has been updated accordingly.