The UC Board of Regents met for a second day at UCSF on Wednesday to discuss financial aid, workers’ pension funds, student experiences, as well as state and federal advocacy.
The meetings began with a heated public comment period in the board’s open session, during which more than 20 people spoke. More than half of the speakers were UC system workers speaking in protest of the proposed 1.5% increase in employee contributions to pensions.
Jason Rabinowitz, principal officer of Teamsters Local 2010, presented the regents with a petition signed by more than 3,000 university employees in opposition to the contribution increase.
“No increase in the employee contribution is acceptable or fair, not now and not a few years down the road either,” said Catherine Cobb, president of Teamsters Local 2010, during the meeting.
Kathryn Lybarger, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, or AFSCME Local 3299, spoke against the university’s alleged increased outsourcing to private contractors during public comment, which were addressed in a separate committee later in the meeting. Her comments were met with chants of “Whose university? Our university.”
After public comment, UC Board of Regents chair John Pérez said he and UC President Janet Napolitano returned last night from Washington D.C., where they were defending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipients in light of an ongoing Supreme Court case that may end the program. According to Pérez, 1,700 UC system students are DACA recipients.
“It’s important that we communicate to everyone in the community that regardless of the outcome, our commitment will not falter,” Pérez said at the meeting.
After the board’s open session, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee discussed financial aid, the university’s role in preparing and retaining high-quality educators and the undergraduate experience over time.
“We need to make sure students across California have access to highly effective teachers, rigorous curriculum and culturally responsive instruction,” said Michael Brown, UC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, at the meeting.
According to Brown, 80% of UC system admissions come from 20% of the state’s high schools. He said this data shows how the school a student attends can “doom” them in terms of UC access.
The committee reviewed trends from 2006-2018 in the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey, administered every two years. According to Pamela Brown, UC vice president of institutional research and academic planning, the percentage of students who are at least somewhat satisfied has reduced from 82% to 79%. The survey also shows that first-generation students express lower satisfaction with their education than those who are not first-generation students, a trend which Michael Brown called “worrisome.”
In the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting, the regents discussed the progress of UCPath — a relatively new human resources, payroll, benefits and academic personnel system for university employees — implementation across UC system campuses. It was recently deployed at UC Davis and the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. By May 2020, UCPath is projected to be deployed at UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC Hastings College of the Law, UCSF and UC San Diego, according to the agenda.
UCPath deployments, however, have faced opposition due to system malfunctions wherein some cases, there have been reports of allegedly inaccurate payment amounts and missing checks. Kelly Ratliff, UC Davis vice chancellor for finance, operations and administration, acknowledged that there was frustration from students who received delayed payment for their work.
Although protests occurred during the board’s open session over pension benefits for retired employees, the committee decided to delay further discussion on retiree benefits.
“It’s ultimately concerning that we don’t have a long-term plan, and that over time, this is one of the areas that will continue to eat into our operational costs as the demographics shift,” said UC Regent Michael Cohen. “As people wonder, ‘Why is there not enough money around the UC budget to do things that we want to do’ aimed at students and research and so forth, the answer’s going to be ‘Well, we didn’t set aside any funding in 2019 or 2020.’ ”
The Public Engagement and Development Committee also met, starting with a unanimous vote to endorse Proposition 13, the recent bond signed by CA Gov. Gavin Newsom that will allocate $2 billion to the UC system for seismic upgrades and deferred maintenance if approved by voters on the ballot in March.
Many of the committee’s regents said they were particularly concerned about the implementation of the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which was passed by the California State Legislature last month and would allow student-athletes in California to sign individual sponsorship deals.
The regents concluded that they would need to figure out the details, with the help of athletic directors at different campuses, before the bill is fully implemented in January 2023 to protect student-athletes standing with the NCAA and school’s sponsorship agreements.
Chancellor Carol Christ spoke next, joined by campus junior Rebeca Borges and campus senior Mac Hoang, who represented former foster students with the Berkeley Hope Scholars Program.
Borges said former foster students are challenged with having the resources to pay for basic needs, signing leases without parental support and finding supportive housing over long breaks, in addition to other issues.
“Holding onto hope with no reality is deafening,” Hoang said at the meeting. “We care about our community, and we are here to change the world because we have felt the bottom.”
The regents said they were empathetic to the students’ situations, and UC Regent Christine Simmons, committee vice chair, added that she would start a task force on the subject.
Finally, near the end of the day, the Governance Committee met to discuss the university policy on outsourcing and contracting for workers. The regents passed a new measure that will prioritize the use of UC system workers and ensure that any contract workers used will receive the same wages and benefits as UC system employees.
“As the third largest employer in the state of California, the University of California should strive to be an employer of choice, supporting all of our employees,” Napolitano said at the meeting. “We should align our practices as closely as possible with state standards and when we can exceed those standards.”
Maya Akkaraju, Olivia Buccieri, Alexandra Feldman and Kate Finman contributed to this report.