At their meeting on Thursday at UC San Diego, the UC Regents voted to take steps toward severing UC’s ties with companies that do business with the government of Sudan.

According to a UC Office of the President (UCOP) press release, the Regents will “take steps to express concern” to their foreign funds investment managers about keeping financial ties that “help make it possible for the Sudanese government to continue acts of genocide in Darfur.” In addition to the Sudan decision, the Regents also approved a request from UCSB to add an additional $37,103,000 in funds to pay for the future San Clemente graduate student housing complex, which will be constructed on El Colegio Road.

The Regents also voted to establish an internal group that will work to identify all the particular companies UC has invested in that have business relationships with Sudan, and to devise a plan to analyze the monetary and legal implications of divestment from those companies.

Baylee DeCastro, founder of the Darfur Action Committee at UCLA and spokesperson for the UC Sudan Divestment Task Force (UCSDTF), two groups that endorse UC divestment from Sudan, attended the protest. She said more than 500 people from different UC campuses came to the meeting.

“We filled the Regents’ room to capacity,” DeCastro, a senior international development studies major at UCLA, said.

DeCastro also said the UCSDTF was not expecting the Regents to go so far as to establish a task force to begin the process. She reported that the group was very pleased with the Regents’ decision yesterday and attributed it to the support the group has received from UC-affiliated individuals as well as from politicians at the national and state levels. DeCastro said a third of the members of the California House of Representatives signed a letter expressing their support for the UCSDTF’s cause and urging the Regents to divest from Sudan.

“We were expecting the Regents to meet us at the 20-yard line today,” DeCastro said. “But they met us at the 60-yard line. So we’re very pleased with the decision today, because it is sort of a two-step process for immediate action. We believe that today’s decision is an important first step toward implementing a full divestment. The second step will be a decision in March [at the next Regents’ meeting] to take further action.”

DeCastro also said the UCSDTF will continue to be involved in asking the Regents to divest from Sudan.

“We will be active in calling the Regents to account and making sure they follow through on the commitments they made today,” she said.

As for the funding request for the San Clemente housing project, Marc Fisher, associate vice chancellor for campus design and facilities, said he heard of the Regents’ decision via Chancellor Henry Yang.

“The chancellor called us and said [the request] was approved,” Fisher said. “We called the Office of the President and confirmed this. It was approved Wednesday, but nobody knew until [Thursday].”

The request for additional funds was an amendment to UCSB’s original bid for $114,702,000 for the housing project. According to a UCOP Committee on Grounds and Buildings press release, the supplementary $37 million will be used for an upgraded parking facility and “more efficient and cost-effective” housing units.