Dead raccoons in the walls of a physics classroom, 40-year-old air filters in labs and water leaks in humanities buildings — stakeholders at UC Riverside criticized all of the above at a town hall hosted by the Special Committee of Regents on Thursday on the Riverside campus, where attendees were invited to share their suggestions and recommendations to the committee selecting the next head of the University of California.
The event, preceded by a town hall hosted on the UCLA campus two days earlier, helps distinguish this search for a new president as being the first in which the Regents Committee have created space for public input.
While the UCR speakers raised similar issues as those at UCLA, including advocacy for undocumented students and the need for climate change action, many statements addressed challenges facing the campus specifically. In particular, town hall attendees discussed difficulty the campus has had in meeting its goals of increasing student enrollment while also continuing to provide a quality and affordable education to its current student body.
These inequities were recognized by many individuals present, including Robin Russin, a professor in the Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production at UCR. Russin expressed his frustration with the lack of funding given to the university to meet this challenge.
“We need money; we need resources. We cannot grow without them,” Rossin said.
“We are already in a highly impacted situation … this idea of growing to 35,000 students [by 2035] is simply not real. It can’t happen. We’re already overstressed unless we’re given the resources for new faculty.”
Christopher Chase-Dunn, a sociology professor at UCR, expressed bewilderment at the campus goal of expanding resources to accommodate 10,000 extra students within the next 15 years. He emphasized the ongoing challenges in addressing the already-expanding undergraduate student body with a limited amount of resources.
According to Chase-Dunn, many faculty members remain “very concerned” about this issue since there does not seem to be a plan for sustainable growth.
“If we just expand and take care of all of the poor kids in California and solve the problem for the rest ofrestall the other campuses, we’re gonna be diplomable, doing online courses and handing out things, but it won’t really be an institution that meets the stands of the University of California system,” he stated.
“The plan is to expand the campus hugely over the next few years, and we’re very concerned because apparently there’s no agreement on how we’re going to have enough resources in order to do that,” Chase-Dunn said.
Many of the students and faculty at UCR also condemned the current lack of resources and the fact that classes are held in old buildings with various utility issues.
According to Assistant Vice Chancellor and Campus Architect Jaqueline Norman, many of the buildings on campus were built during the early 1900s and during the 1950s.
“Most of these buildings have not had any significant renovation or improvements since their original construction,” Norman said. “Supporting contemporary learning and cutting-edge research in aging buildings with often failing infrastructure is a daily institutional challenge.”
Many also expressed their frustrations regarding a perceived status bias and disparity in funding allocations — a 2012 report, for example, showed an allocation of $398 million at UCLA, versus $154 million given to UCR and $117 million to UC Santa Cruz.
“We are the lowest core-funded campus in the UC, heavily reliant on state funds, tuition and fees,” Jennifer Brown, a professor of public policy, said.
“What we need is a president … who will reverse the structural inequities which have existed across the system. As a woefully underfunded campus, UCR has fewer resources for our current students than other UC campuses.”
She pointed to figures obtained from UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox’s office, which showed that UCLA receives $11,444 per student, while UCR receives $8,447 per student.
“We understand that there are weighted algorithms involved in this, but we still believe that this is an instance of institutional racism,” Brown said.
She attributed this to the composition of UCR’s student body, which has a higher proportion of minority students compared to other campuses in the UC system on average. The student body, of which 86.6% identifies as a minority, has a higher overall ethnic diversity than UCLA or UC Berkeley. More Pell Grant students are enrolled at UCR than at all of the Ivy League universities combined, and nearly 60% of the student body is made up of first-generation college attendees, according to data from the official UCR website.
“Therefore, we ask that the next president commit to funding UCR on a proportional basis equivalent to other campuses and erase the structural inequalities which are deeply eroding the quality of access at UCR,” Brown said.
Students also associated lack of funding as being especially harmful to minority or underrepresented groups, often drawing from their own personal experiences.
Silvia Ferrer, a DACA recipient at the university, spoke about navigating the legal difficulties associated with her immigration status.
Ferrera cited university support groups as critical in supporting her academic endeavors, but also described these programs as being “substantially underfunded,” which she said came as no surprise in light of the campus’s status as the lowest core-funded campus in the UC system.
Vincent Rasso, director of government relations for Associated Students at UCR, said that the next UC president must work to help students facing urgent housing and food insecurities, issues which he attributed to being more pervasive at UCR among Black and Hispanic students.
“The next UC president must be a strong ally to students by working diligently within university and legislative governance to uplift the voices of students,” he said.
Public commentary for the next UC president can be submitted to the Regents through email or postal mail, with the addresses on the Search Committee website.