During its Wednesday meeting, the UC Board of Regents discussed UCPD, the effects of COVID-19 on the university and improvements to the chancellor selection process.
During the public comment session at the beginning of the meeting, many students spoke in favor of decreasing funding for UCPD, and many faculty members, including several recently laid-off employees, spoke out against the UC system laying off workers during the pandemic.
This was current UC President Janet Napolitano’s final regents meeting, and during her speech, she emphasized the progress the UC system has made in recent years and the importance of investing in students.
“There is no institution in the world like the University of California, and its potential to serve the greater good is limitless,” Napolitano said at the meeting. “UC is and always will be a beacon of opportunity.”
The UC system has admitted an unprecedented number of students for the coming semester, and for the first time, Latinx students form the majority ethnic group of the admitted class, a change that better reflects the state of California, said Board of Regents chair John Pérez during his remarks.
At the following Health Services Committee meeting, Carrie Byington, the executive vice president of UC Health, gave a presentation on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for the UC system, explaining that California is no longer leading the nation in combating the disease and is instead experiencing a surge in cases, with nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases per day.
“I have urged the regents that we must prepare for a pandemic for at least the next two years, and its effects will be felt on our system for longer than that,” Byington said at the meeting.
There is some good news, however, Byington added. UC financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic have been slowing down, she said, and the UC health system has been working to combat the disease, with more than 170,000 individuals tested at UC health centers as of press time.
The UC system will also be participating in COVID-19 vaccine trials, Byington added.
At the Compliance and Audit Committee meeting later that day, the regents discussed the role of UCPD in the university. Nothing was decided in the meeting, but there was a long and lively discussion.
The group discussed the hiring process for UCPD officers, their racial makeup, the weapons they use and whether to create a working group to discuss UCPD further.
UC chancellors and student groups shared comments on UCPD, followed by questions from the regents. Student representatives’ perspectives often came in conflict with administrators’.
“This is a terrible situation in which we found ourselves, where the people who ought to be protected and served are not being protected and served to the point that if they are victimized, they would not seek help from the people who are in place to provide it,” said Student Regent Jamaal Muwwakkil at the meeting.
While students expressed their support for the movement to defund UCPD, some chancellors argued for a slower change.
“Public safety reform has come to be characterized by various slogans,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary May. “There are various calls to disband, disarm or defund police. Each of these concepts is worth exploring, but I admit I have some concerns over the idea of disarming the police.”
At the final committee meeting of the day, the Governance Committee discussed a report from the Regents Working Group on Chancellor Search and Selection.
Regent Lark Park and independent consultants Karen Zamarripa and Elaine Peters presented the report and described their search review process. The report includes 17 recommendations to improve the chancellor selection process, which, according to Park, are practical and will help improve efficiency, equity and inclusion.
The working group surveyed search committee participants about the selection process, in which Zamarripa highlighted the high response rate, with 49% responding overall.
The group also conducted more than 20 interviews with stakeholders involved in the chancellor search process and concluded that the regents must have a more clearly defined role in future chancellor searches.
“If these policies are implemented, during the implementation of these policies, we should be careful not to build walls between the regents and the rest of the committee,” said Alumni Regent Debby Stegura, who described the selection process as a “big learning curve.”
Instead of shifting some responsibilities from faculty to a search firm, the faculty representatives are committed and happy to be involved in the process, said Kum-Kum Bhavnani, chair of the Academic Senate. The regents will continue discussion Thursday, including the Capital Strategies and Academic and Student Affairs committees’ meetings, which were moved due to time constraints.