The University of California Board of Regents convened on July 20 and 21 in-person at UC San Francisco Mission Bay to discuss systemwide matters including admissions, a new student regent and the 2030 capacity plan.

2023-24 student regent Merhawi Tesfai (left) speaking following his appointment, seated next to Marlenee Blas Pedral (right), the 2022-23 student regent. Courtesy of the UC Regents

The Nexus compiled moments relevant to the UC Santa Barbara student community from the Regents’ March meeting below.

Appointment of 2023-24 Student Regent

The Regents approved the appointment of Merhawi Tesfai as the 2023-24 student regent following a vote held during their July 20 board meeting.

Tesfai is currently a doctoral student in social welfare at UCLA and will serve as student regent-designate for the 2022-23 year, participating in all Regent deliberations.

He will have voting privileges on the Board of Regents in the 2023-24 year. 

“My hope is to continue the rich tradition of bringing the student perspective to the important discussions that happen here,” Tesfai said at the meeting, following his appointment. “I’ve had student experiences at UCLA as an undergrad transfer student, and now as a professional student, so I understand the importance of the mission and the ideals of the UC.”

Marlenee Blas Pedral, a UC Santa Barbara alumna and UC Berkeley law student, will serve as the student regent with voting privileges for the 2022-23 school year.  

Discussion on the Implications of the Overturning of Roe v. Wade on the UC System

The Board of Regents discussed the implications of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the Supreme Court decision that overruled the landmark Roe v. Wade case establishing a constitutional right to bodily autonomy during pregnancy — for the University of California. 

General Counsel Charles Robinson said the Dobbs case held that there is no longer a constitutionally protected right to an abortion and that “state laws therefore are subject to the lowest level of scrutiny by the court.” 

“At issue in Dobbs was a Mississippi state law that banned delivery of abortion services after 15 weeks of pregnancy,” Robinson said. “The Supreme Court in Roe previously had held that the mother had the constitutionally protected right to abortion up until the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy.”

UC Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Anne Foster said the UC health system now faces a “cascade of challenges” in its mission of public service and clinical care education due to the decision. 

“The Guttmacher Institute projects that the number of women of reproductive age whose nearest abortion clinic would be in California will increase 30 fold to 1.3 million as other states ban or severely restrict abortions,” Foster said. 

According to Foster, the UC Los Angeles Center on Reproductive Health, Law, and Policy estimates that eight to 16,000 additional patients from states that are projected to limit or ban abortions may travel to California annually for abortion services. Foster acknowledged this creates a pressing need to expand abortion services within the UC but emphasized that the system’s facilities are currently at capacity. 

“It is difficult for the UC system even to accommodate all of the California patients seeking care,” Foster said. 

The UC health system’s two main operational concerns are staffing shortages and the need for more operating room time, along with a need for more flexibility to rapidly repurpose physical space and expand services and funding for more accessible abortion options. Security was also noted as an additional concern. 

“This is just the truth,” Foster said. “We have a duty to protect our patients, students, staff and providers, and we’ll need to expand our security measures and training.” 

Foster also spoke on another area of concern — the privacy and security of medical records. 

“EMR [Electronic Medical Records] systems may automatically communicate healthcare data from one healthcare provider to another regarding a shared patient across states,” Foster said. “We will need to take additional measures to assure privacy for our patients.” 

Foster emphasized the UC system’s “highly successful [and] complex” family planning fellowships and noted that there will be an increased demand for training due to “care-limiting states,” saying that such expansion in training and fellowship will require funding as well. 

Foster also said UC health anticipates care-limiting states imposing “new terms on contracts and awards” that could negatively impact research activities by the UC, to which the UC needs to develop a system-wide approach to handling such “new terms, conditions and extramural awards.” 

“The UC has a long history of world-class research and obstetrics … and the UC has been instrumental in advancing evidence-based care guidelines in all of the above that are operating in the U.S. and around the world,” Foster said. 

“Reproductive choice, at its very core, is an equity issue, a human rights issue,” she continued. “At UC and at UC Health, equity is our north star, and we are unwavering in our commitment to advancing equity.”

Discussion on the 2022-23 State Budget

The Public Engagement and Development Committee discussed the importance of programs and investments made in UC schools using funding provided in the 2022-23 California state budget.

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom highlighted the importance of the UC and state relationship before kicking off a discussion of the various UC programs funded by the state budget.

“A very significant and meaningful part of the university and its mission is to be of service to the state, helping to solve challenges and contributing to a higher quality of life for all its people,” he said

Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in June, the 2022-23 budget provides the University of California with a $602.3 million increase in state funding. Of that, $15 million is set aside for an expansion of services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and $22 million to transition the Student Academic Preparation and Educational Partnerships programs to have ongoing funding rather than one time.

An additional $754.1 million was included in one-time funding for the UC, with large investments in climate and immunotherapy research included in that amount.

The budget also signifies the intent for the UC to increase its undergraduate enrollment for the 2023-24 school year past one percent and allow the university to use enrollment funding for students admitted over-target from last year. 

Upon the state Senate and Assembly’s return from their summer recess on August 1, they are expected to take up four bills that are priorities of the UC and have been discussed in previous Regents meetings. 

Three of the bills, SB 883, SB 960 and SB 1299, are awaiting action in the Assembly Appropriations Committee while Sen. Monique Limón’s bill SB 912 is pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Discussion on Fall 2021 Admissions

During the Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting, the Regents discussed undergraduate admissions numbers and approved a policy codifying the elimination of testing requirements in undergraduate admissions.

Standardized testing was not required for the fall 2021 admissions cycle and was fully eliminated following a vote in the November 2021 Regents meeting, requiring further amendment of Regent policies.

The amendment of Regents Policy 2110 — which addresses augmented review in the admissions process — officially removed the testing requirement as part of the admissions process. The amendment also combines seven different Regental policies on admissions into one comprehensive policy.

The Regents reviewed statistics of fall 2021 UC admissions, which presented a 13% increase in California resident applicants, with 128,256 applications recorded — the highest number of applicants the UC has ever received.

“The increase in applications in 2021 may be partly attributable to the elimination of standardized tests as part of the admissions process, especially for students who might have previously thought their test scores decreased their likelihood of admission,” said Madeleine Sorapure, chair of the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools. 

Of these California resident applicants, 83,775 were admitted and 39,648 were enrolled. Sorapure added that 16.2% of California public high school graduates were admitted to the UC this year, exceeding the expectation that the UC system should enroll students from the top 12.5% of state high school graduates.

Overall, the UC enrolled 51,727 applicants as freshmen and 21,509 transfer students for Fall 2022 system wide.

Following the presentation of statistics, Regent Jose Hernandez questioned whether the UC was on track to increase enrollment in accordance with the planned growth of 23,000 students — further discussed in the 2030 Capacity Plan — to which Provost Michael Brown responded affirmatively.

“There have been some challenges this particular year, such as in our transfer student zone, but in general we are on track,” Brown said.

Discussion on UC 2030 Capacity Plan

The Regents presented their UC 2030 Capacity Plan — designed to help foster inclusive enrollment growth — on Wednesday. 

The proposed plan aims for a growth of 23,000 students, with aspirations of over 33,000, the discussion item read

UC Santa Barbara’s specific capacity plan noted that the campus is “approaching maximum enrollment” and “faces housing constraints, but plans future expansion.” Currently, the university is being sued by the city of Goleta for failing to cap enrollment and violating the terms of its Long Range Development Plan. 

Regents discussed funding for the enrollment expansion, which will require support from the state of California and further investment in on-campus facilities — including purchasing more land. The proposed plan would cost around $324 million and the aspirational plan around $438 million. 

“There are ways to use any marginal benefit we get from more students to increase the quality of the institution overall as we regrow,” UC President Michael V. Drake said in response to concerns raised about funding for increased enrollment. 

Currently, both UC Riverside and UC Merced — the two smallest UC schools — propose between 30% to 35% of the planned enrollment growth, with UC Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego half or over half. 

The proposed goals of increasing racial equity and enrolling students in underserved California communities will be accomplished through improving timely graduation rates, expanding student services, and effective in-person and online courses, according to the discussion item. 

COVID Update – Nisha

UC Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Anne Foster presented to the Regents on July 21 a national-level update on COVID-19 and campus preparedness plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The country is experiencing high levels of community transmission of COVID-19 and an uptick in hospitalizations.

“When it rains, it pours, and this unfortunately is our current reality,” Foster said. “As of Tuesday this week, 93% of counties in the United States are experiencing high levels of community transmission.”

This most recent surge can be attributed to the rapid rise of BA.5, a highly infectious strain of the omicron variant, according to Foster.

“We’re also in the middle of a huge wave because of a new subvariant BA.5,” Foster said. “It now accounts for nearly 80% of infections and will soon out-compete and eclipse other variants.”

Foster said the UC system plans to mandate COVID-19 testing prior to arrival on campus in the fall and maintain the capacity for high-volume testing.

“We plan to keep the infrastructure in place to have a north-based high-volume lab, which is UC Davis, and a south-based lab in the Los Angeles area.”

Foster said that campuses will institute indoor masking recommendations pursuant to county-level guidelines and focus on providing isolation accommodations for students who test positive with COVID-19 in campus housing or hotels, depending on available space. In addition, UC student health services plan to offer onsite booster vaccinations and access to Paxlovid, a Pfizer-prescription treatment for COVID-19.

Foster urged all eligible community members to get fully vaccinated, noting the FDA’s recent approval and CDC’s recommendation for the vaccination of anyone ages 6 months or older.

“For those who are 50-plus who are unvaccinated, a recent study has shown a 42-fold increased risk of death from COVID-19 compared to those who completed both the primary series and two or more booster doses. This again underscores the importance of vaccination,” Foster said. “If you’re eligible for a booster, please get one.”

Foster also negated the popular theory that natural immunity from infection offers sufficient protection from the virus and underscored the importance of social distancing, indoor masking and handwashing to avoid infection.

“Natural infection from omicron resulted in weak immunity,” Foster said, citing a UC San Francisco Gladstone Institute study. “It’s probably no better than about one dose of the vaccine, so being unvaccinated or undervaccinated means limited immunity and increased susceptibility to repeat infections.”

Foster also addressed health concerns around long COVID. According to the CDC, approximately 20% of adults have a health condition that might be related to their previous COVID-19 illness, such as neurological and mental health conditions, kidney failure, respiratory conditions, etc.

Foster said that vaccinations have been proven to be ineffective in reducing the risk of getting long COVID, affirming the importance of following COVID-19 safety guidelines to avoid infection.

“We had hoped that vaccination for COVID would dramatically reduce the risk of developing long COVID, but a recent study also shows only about a 15% reduction,” Foster said. “This again means avoiding infection and reinfection is very key.”

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Sindhu Ananthavel
Sindhu Ananthavel (she/they) is the Deputy News Editor for the 2022-23 school year. Previously, Ananthavel was a Community Outreach Editor for the 2021-22 school year and an assistant news editor for the 2021-22 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com
Holly Rusch
Holly Rusch (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2022-23 school year. Previously, Rusch was the University News Editor and co-Lead News Editor for the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com or hollyrusch@dailynexus.com.
Asumi Shuda
Asumi Shuda (she/they) is the Community Outreach Editor for the 2022-23 school year and the 2021-22 school year. Previously, Shuda was an assistant news editor during the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at asumishuda@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.
Nisha Malley
Nisha Malley (she/her/hers) is the County News Editor for the 2022-23 school year. Previously, Malley was an Assistant News Editor for the 2021-22 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com.
Mark Alfred
Mark Alfred (he/him) is an assistant news editor for the 2022-23 school year. Contact at markalfred@dailynexus.com or 858-413-7384 (iMessage/WhatsApp/Signal/Telegram).