On its first day of virtual meetings this week, the UC Board of Regents approved the construction of UC Berkeley’s Data Hub building and discussed improving admission processes to be more fair and accessible.
The Finance and Capital Strategies Committee in its meeting approved the design and construction of the 415,000-square-foot Data Hub building proposed by UC Berkeley for discussion in September. The building will serve as an interdisciplinary facility for the Division of Computing, Data Science and Society.
The project will be partially funded by a $252 million donation received by the campus earlier this year.
During the Compliance and Audit Committee meeting, the regents discussed the UC system’s response to recommendations from a September state audit, which alleged that 64 students were unfairly admitted to four UC campuses.
“We are committed to doing everything possible to prevent any fraudulent activity that interferes with a right and fair admissions process,” said UC Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Brown during the meeting.
The UC Office of the President, or UCOP, is looking closer at three important but “far-reaching” state recommendations before moving forward with them, Brown said. These include having UCOP oversee admission processes at UC Berkeley, which admitted 55 less-qualified applicants, for the next three years.
According to Brown, there may be other options to solve campus admission problems without having UCOP oversight.
The UC system will be implementing the other nine state recommendations, which include prohibiting giving authority to one person to make admission decisions, encouraging high school participation in college preparatory programs and requiring two readers for transfer applicants.
On the subject of transfer students, the Public Engagement and Development Committee also discussed in another meeting how the UC transfer experience can be improved.
Throughout this meeting, there was an emphasis on standardizing major and Associate Degree for Transfer, or ADT, requirements across all campuses in the UC, California State University and California Community Colleges, or CCC, systems. As Regent and CCC Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said during the meeting, students should not have to know where they are transferring to on day one.
Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, also recommended that the regents “put their money where their mouth is” and support transfer outreach initiatives currently funded by community colleges. She added that it will be important to expand the spots available for ADT students as the number of transfer students continues to increase.
“If we’re able to find ways to accommodate this large increase in transfer-eligible students, we would end up with a much more diverse set of college graduates in California,” said Hans Johnson, director of the Public Policy Institute of California Higher Education Center. “If we don’t accommodate them, then we’ll have yet another pool of students who’ve done everything that we’ve asked them, but then there’s no room at the end for them.”
Other suggestions brought up by panelists included placing community college students directly into college-level classes, rather than remedial ones, and creating partnerships modeled after that of UC Riverside and Chaffey College to ensure that more students can earn a bachelor’s degree.
Laura Hope, Chaffey College’s acting associate superintendent of instruction and institutional effectiveness, said during the meeting that the progress that has been made thus far has given transfer students a “flashlight” for the maze that is the transfer process. It is now the job of the regents to put “boots on the ground” and help these students navigate their way through, which the regents in the meeting said they plan to do.
The Academic and Student Affairs Committee discussed during a later meeting Native American student admissions, 21st-century skill development for UC students and supporting UC students with disabilities, among other topics. The board expressed support for a debt-free path to UC institutions.
The committee also addressed survey results indicating students feel that they lack information literacy, or the ability to organize information one receives. According to Brown, UC Berkeley’s data science initiative, which expanded from a course to a college, addresses “information literacy analysis.”
In addition to approving the construction of the Data Hub building, the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee discussed 2020 UC finances. UCOP Financial Accounting Associate Vice President Peggy Arrivas said the university finances “remain very stable.” Despite university expenditures increasing by about $4 billion in the past year, revenues increased by $1.7 billion.
The committee also approved the 2020-2026 Capital Financial Plan. In addition to more seismic evaluations being done on campuses, the committee addressed how more housing projects are being deferred due to limited occupancy on campuses and the university’s need to rely on reserves during the pandemic.
“This plan was prepared assuming that the campuses continue as is,” Arrivas said during the meeting. “We believe that in the future, we’ll need to modify what’s in the Capital Financial Plan as the campuses get further into that type of planning.”
The Board of Regents will continue its meetings Thursday virtually.