The UC Board of Regents continued their meeting of March 18 and 19 and opened with the Committee on Long Range Planning for the University of California mental health funding, during an afternoon session of the Regents meeting at UC San Francisco.
UC President Janet Napolitano and California Governor Jerry Brown debriefed the Regents on long-range planning for the University of California (UC), addressing issues of enrollment, cost-based decision making and tuition hikes.
Brown said the state government is always restricted by issues of cost, but they are working along with the rest of the country toward flattening the tuition curve.
“We’re going spend a lot of money,” Brown said. “The question is how we’re gonna get the most for what we spend.”
Student regent and fourth-year social welfare major at UC Berkeley Sadia Saifuddin said the state could benefit from a greater collaboration of all three public education systems in California with the state government. Saifuddin also said certain specific factors prevent the California education system from working properly.
“We see our college counselors in community college that are 400 percent over capacity. They have 2,000 students per college counselor and they should have 500,” Saifuddin said. “I think these intricacies are what prevent students from being able to move through that system effectively.”
University of California Student Association (UCSA) President and fourth-year management major at UC Merced Jefferson Kuoch-Seng addressed student mental health funding and said increased and sustainable funding for student mental health services are a critical priority. Jefferson also urged the UC to support the UCSA divestment against firearm manufacturing companies and asked the Regents to take a “public stand to divest from all investments in the gun industry.”
Kuoch-Seng discussed a system-wide mental health petition to demand in four parts that UCOP mandate in-person consent and bystander intervention training for all students, faculty and staff, allocate a minimum of $420,000 per year for the bystander training program, designate self-identified survivors as training leaders and provide stipends and or class credit for all trainers.
“We’re asking President Napolitano to actively invest in in the survey and trust the power and effectiveness of peer to peer education and student leadership,” Kuoch-Seng said. “Implementing this would make UC the national leader in this very important work.”
Kuoch-Seng concluded by inviting Napolitano and Brown to a public town hall hosted at UC Davis next month, requesting that the Regents make their proceedings more readily available to students.
“Our leaders need to debate each other’s ideas in open forum with students instead of working behind closed doors. Too much is at stake for students,” Kuoch-Seng said. “The upcoming round table with students and governor staff is a start, but students deserve direct dialogue with both the president and governor.”
UC Berkeley Mechanical Engineering Professor Panayiotis Papadopoulos presented UC Berkeley’s Undergraduate Student Learning Initiative to the board, suggesting the Initiative can serve as a model for other UCs. The program seeks to provide support for every academic department at UC Berkeley to develop education and curricular goals for the majors overseen by each department.
Papadopoulos said the faculty committee charged with outlining the initiative has focused on administrative lower division curriculum, personalized student mentorship, undergraduate research and creative opportunities and administrative issues like student housing options beyond the “conventional dormitory paradigm.”
“The community within the institution in which our undergraduate students live, study and interact has a profound effect on their personal growth as well as on their allegiance to their alma mater,” Papadopoulos said. “The undergraduate initiative is now exploring hybrid residential models that cover the full spectrum between dormitory and residential college living.”
Brown said there needs to be a greater focus on the quality of teaching in undergraduate courses in order to improve the undergraduate experience. He also said the priorities and methodology of university professors are disconnected from what undergraduate students need in an instructor.
“The teaching path seems to be very different from the research and Ph.D. path,” Brown said. “All the things that you need to write a book or a research paper to satisfy a Ph.D. committee are utterly esoteric when related to what you have to do to relate to lower divisions students.”
Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley said he agrees with Brown that UC’s focus on research is taking away from the quality of undergraduate instruction. Oakley said he hopes UC will find a way to become more relevant as an undergraduate university.
“As we pay such great attention to the value of the research, to many Californians, the value of the undergraduate outcomes is also as valuable, if not more,” Oakley said.
Papadopoulos agreed university incentives are skewed and faculty members focus too much on their research, but said the problem is less deeply rooted as Brown and Oakley had described.
“I think the problem is not a deep fundamental problem,” Papadopoulos said. “It is primarily a problem of culture and incentives.”
Oakley also discussed admissions and said Napolitano’s characterization of UC as an institution for “California’s most talented students” is problematic in the admissions process due to insufficient means of selection.
“I fear that many of the tools we use do not allow many students — who may demonstrate the talent in the university — to get in,” Oakley said. “If there are generations of folks in families that understand how those tools are applied at admissions, or there is a particular student who as availability of advisors who are able to explain how those tools are applied, we still are not allowing many students to get in — particularly from areas of our state that need it most.”
UC Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Aimée Dorr said the Board has an admission system that identifies “applicants who shall be reviewed” with a preliminary, simplified screening but is mostly based on a holistic review.
“They do that thinking about the context within which the student is going to school,” Dorr said. “Those features — I think with anyone’s experience — help to broaden considerably the things that you look at, what you find as indicators, and how you might see students who are very successful in their context who might not look that way elsewhere.”
Papadopoulos said Berkeley’s faculty is prioritizing a revision the admissions process in the Undergraduate Initiative.
“We are increasingly concerned with over reliance on standardized tests, and we are trying to move the holistic review to being a lot more attentive to what we refer to as non-cognitive factors,” Papadopoulos said. “Capacity to persevere, capacity to thrive in a challenging environment, integrity.”
The Board then discussed Napolitano’s initiative to streamline the community transfer process and the possibility of building on policies modeled after recently passed Senate Bill 1440, which created the Associate Degree for Transfer program to increase transfers between California community colleges and CSUs. Napolitano said the UC needs to make it easier for community college students to transfer.
“Ideally, a student who transfers in is ready to hit the ground running in his or her major,” Napolitano said. “In general, we find that to be true, but I still think there’s an aspect of clarity that we need to work through.”
The Thursday morning session opened with a public comment period where the students primarily raised concerns on UC divestment from fossil fuels companies.
Alden Phinney, third-year international economics major at UC Santa Cruz speaking on behalf of the Fossil Free UC campaign said students are taking steps to preserve the environment, but said their efforts are fruitless unless the UC system divests from fossil fuels and “invest fully” in climate solutions and communities affected by extractive industries.
“In this room you have people who recycle, who bike to school and to work, who study climate change in hopes of making systemic change,” Phinney said, “but our individual actions amount to nothing if the power of fossil fuel companies remain unchecked. We are doing our part to move past fossil fuels and we implore you to do yours.”
Third-year political science and film and media studies major and External Vice President of Statewide Affairs at UCSB Melvin Singh said gender-wage equality is a pressing issue at all campuses and needs to be addressed.
“What we have is the average female professor will receive about 10 percent less than her male counterpart, and of the highest paid 30 professors at our campus only two of them are women,” Singh said. “I’m proud to see that we have a female president sitting at our system. I think we should really look into this issue, not just at my campus but UC wide.”
First-year art history major at UCSB Lacy Wright said addressing sexual assault on campus should be a priority, and asked UCOP to allocate funds towards sexual assault prevention.
“I along with everyone else represented by the UC students association is requesting that the UC allocate at least $420,000 per year to create in-person consent and bystander intervention training and education,” Wright said. “It is really time to stop discussing how to combat rape culture and instead start discussing how to create a culture of consent to end rape before it actually ever occurs.”
After public comment the Regents convened the Committee on the Oversight of the Department of Energy (D.O.E.) laboratories.
Vice President for Laboratory Management at UCOP Kim Budil said the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a facility researching and designing nuclear weapons, has made progress regarding certain concerns outlined in the D.O.E. 2014 performance evaluation report.
“The issues went beyond the nuclear waste issues, including bringing several nuclear facilities back to full operational status, some concerns regarding project management and resuming waste operations at the laboratory,” Budil said. “Under the leadership of lab director Charlie McMillan we’re making steady progress on all three fronts unidentified by the department of energy.”
According to Budil, the Los Alamos laboratory plans to recommence work in the lab’s plutonium complex and to restart waste operations following conferences involving D.O.E. and New Mexico.
“On the nuclear facilities front, the laboratory is preparing for full restart of their main plutonium facility, PF-4,” Budil said. “Discussions are ongoing between New Mexico and the Department of Energy, the state of New Mexico and the department are looking to find a mutually beneficial solution. It’s in everyone’s best interest to resume waste operations at Los Alamos as well as at the waste isolation pilot plant.”
Following the Committee on Oversight of the Department of Energy Laboratories, the Committee on Education Policy discussed two items pertaining to UC students who are active military service members or veterans.
The Board also approved the proposal by Dorr to amend the Regents Policy 3106, a policy on waiver of tuition and fees to comply with the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACA) to keep tuition low for complying service members.
“Active duty service members relocate around the country regularly … they sometimes do not have the opportunity to establish residency in the state where they or their dependents are then going to go to college, including California,” Dorr said. “When that happens, we charge them non-resident student tuition. The VACA…stipulates that any higher-ed institution that does this will lose all GI bill benefits that they have. For the students we have now, that is at least $30 million, so of course we don’t want that to happen.”
The Board then discussed Serving Those Who Serve, an update from Student Affairs Vice President Judy Sakaki and UC Transfer, Re-entry, and Student Parent Center (TRSP) Program Director Ron Williams on student veteran services at UC.
Sakaki said the UC veteran population has increased from approximately 1,300 in 2008 to more than 2,000 in 2015 and “is more diverse than ever before.”
“Twenty-seven percent of our student veterans self-identify as white, 25 percent as Asian, 19 percent as Chicano/Latino, five percent as Black, with the remaining students identifying as other or simply declining to state their ethnicity or race,” Sakaki said. “While women make up only 14.5 percent of general U.S. active duty military personnel, they account for 23 percent of our student veteran population, so we’re really proud of this fact.”
According to Williams, the UC’s next steps include demonstrating the value of a UC degree and the UC Veterans Summit scheduled for May 29 to May 30 at the Oakland Marriott City Center will help accomplish this goal.
“Student veteran leaders representing California community colleges, California state universities, and our UC campuses will answer a call to serve as public higher education ambassadors,” Williams said. “At the summit students will identify best practices for increasing student veteran access … create ambassador action plans based on those best practices for the 2015-2016 academic year and enhance regional partnerships among public higher education campuses.”
The Board open session was the final session of the meeting and included Napolitano’s report to the Board, which summarized recent events across UC, including the election of UCSB physics researchers to the National Academy of Engineering.