The UC regents assembled at UCSF Mission Bay on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing strike of UC workers represented by various UAW units, civic engagement and SVSH training compliance rates.
To kick off the meeting, regent chair Richard Leib acknowledged the ongoing strike by UAW UC academic workers and said that the regents share the UC community’s desire for a “quick and fair resolution.”
Public comments mirrored much of the same sentiment, urging the regents to set an example for universities across the country. Of those public commenters, UCSF Diabetes Center postdoc Rebecca Lee recalled the first three years of her doctoral program at UC Berkeley, when she made $27,000 after working 60 hours per week all year.
“My colleagues and I, we’ve had to put off having families or had to tell our children that we can’t afford to join the soccer team for this year, or had to forgo trips to see relatives because we simply cannot afford it,” Lee said during public comment. “We’re asking not to be paid like executives, just have living wages commensurate with our contributions and basic cost of living standards.”
To this, Michael Drake, UC president, responded that while the university respects the union members’ right to strike, the university’s offers are “generous and fair” and exceed the support available at other top public research universities.
Nevertheless, he said the university will continue to negotiate in “good faith” with an “open mind” and “willingness to compromise.”
“We offer this kind of support not only because it is the right thing to do but because we want to continue to attract and retain the top students from across California and around the world to our graduate programs,” Drake said in his remarks. “I am confident that we can achieve a fair and equitable contract soon.”
However, academic workers were not the only ones calling for a fair contract.
Representatives from the Council of University of California Staff Assemblies urged the regents to consider a 10% wage increase for policy-covered staff when crafting the next state budget proposal. Similarly, public commenters from the Committee of Interns and Residents union called on the Regents to ask UC hospital CEOs to agree to the demands residents have made for a fair contract.
The Public Engagement and Development Committee focused on democracy and civic engagement, welcoming speakers continuing lecturer Dan Schnur from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and law professor Richard Hasen, the director of UCLA’s Safeguarding Democracy Project, among others.
Schnur covered federal election outcomes and their impacts on higher education as well as current Supreme Court debates over considerations of race in college admissions. He said that it is rare that candidates from the president’s party do as well as they did in the 2022 midterms.
“What is absolutely unique, at least in modern American history, is how many voters who disapproved of the president voted for his party’s candidates anyway,” Schnur said. “They didn’t like him, but they liked the other side less.”
In regard to Supreme Court debates over affirmative action, he said he believes the university has an opportunity to educate other institutions on how to ensure diversity in the absence of race-based considerations.
Hassen spoke on UCLA’s Safeguarding Democracy Project and their efforts to ensure “continued free and fair elections.”
The bipartisan members of the project have recommended that election officials come up with “prebunking” strategies to discourage misinformation, make their sites .gov and obtain official status on social media.
During the Compliance and Audit Committee meeting, the Office of Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services identified cybersecurity, sexual misconduct in the clinical environment and conflict of interest or commitment, among others, as priority risk areas.
They also presented compliance rates of ethics, cybersecurity and sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, trainings for staff, supervisors and faculty. Campus had about an 80% compliance rate for SVSH training.
“On the SVSH numbers, they’re unacceptably low, especially given these recent issues,” said Regent Jonathan Sures. “If you break it down by campus, there are some campuses that are doing a great job, and I hate to call them out, but you look at Berkeley, UCLA and Santa Barbara, they have painfully low compliance on these issues.”
Questions rose among the Regents about whether the data presented was accurate to actual compliance numbers due to people either completing the training in person, which may be unaccounted for, or after the due date.
The Academic and Students Affairs Committee assembled to revise the Residence Policy, examine the impact of the pandemic on faculty and take a closer look at the accountability subreport of diversity.
The accountability subreport on diversity found that although steady progress is being made, the university’s first-year students still do not reflect the diversity of California’s high school graduates. Aside from the infusion of $22.5 million for outreach, the university is slated to use about $30 to 35 million to expand the STEM Equity Advancement Change initiative to all 10 campuses.
During the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting, executive vice president in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom reported that students enrolled across all UC campuses are taking fewer average total units per semester compared to previous years. He called this trend “concerning,” adding that incoming community college transfers and retention rates for freshmen and transfer students have also declined this year. However, Brostom also noted summer courses and the pandemic may have affected students’ course loads.
“There’s no indication that there’s a lack of capacity for students to take the classes — it’s more of an inclination to take the hours than an ability to take the hours,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary May.
The Regents also discussed budget changes to expand enrollment, financial aid, energy efficiency of facilities and the DDS-ASPIRE program. The largest investment category receiving $405.7 million under the proposal is the UC’s “Core operations,” which will include a 4.6% salary increase for policy-covered faculty and other retirement benefits.
A campus-specific project objectives report showed UC Berkeley’s funding focused on housing.
The Regents will convene again Thursday to discuss UCLA’s Big 10 membership, among other topics.
Ella Carter-Klauschie, Chrissa Olson, Ratul Mangal, Emewodesh Eshete, Lily Button and Veronica Roseborough contributed to this report.