A coalition of elected officials, students and UC workers, community members and organizations announced a new campaign Wednesday dedicated to reforming the University of California at a press conference in Sacramento.
Calling itself “Take Back UC,” the nascent group hopes, in sweeping terms, to “refocus” the university on its original mission of providing quality education and patient care, serving as an engine for economic growth and conducting cutting-edge research.
State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Assemblymember Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, who both spoke at the event, are co-chairs and active members of the campaign. Other speakers at the conference included American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 spokesperson Todd Stenhouse, ASUC Senator Caitlin Quinn and a representative from the state Board of Equalization, an agency in charge of tax administration and fee collection.
“(Take Back UC aims) to build a community of watchdogs,” Stenhouse said. “What it will do is build awareness and organize and mobilize Californians to stand up for common-sense reforms.”
Cannella, a UC Davis alumnus, argued that the UC system has lost sight of its main priorities and employs an unnecessarily high number of administrators compared to the number of faculty members who directly educate students.
“We’ve got some upside-down priorities in our UC system, and that’s causing tuition to be out of control,” he said. “We are trying to bring a positive change to the system, which will ensure access and improve quality in the classroom. We’re going to explore every avenue to improve the UC system.”
The campaign is circulating two petitions — one regarding the pensions of top UC officials and another that aims to increase the quality of employees at UC medical centers. About 6,000 people have signed each of the petitions, Stenhouse said.
Pan, a former professor of pediatrics at UC Davis, said the coalition will try to place pressure on decision-makers at the university.
“We want to increase accountability at the UC and ensure that public investment is being used wisely,” he said. “We want to be sure that we take action to ensure that we put students, patients and people that the UC serves first, not just the administrators.”
However, Dianne Klein, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, questioned the group’s claims.
“The assertions made by this AFSCME-led group, Take Back UC, are at best, lacking context and, at worst, blatant distortions and mischaracterizations,” Klein said in an email. “Its public unveiling, so to speak, appears timed with ongoing labor negotiations.”
At UC Berkeley, Quinn authored a bill in support of the campaign.
Other members of Take Back UC include Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington and United Auto Workers Local 2865, a union representing UC graduate students.