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UC Regents discuss plans to mitigate housing crisis, worker wages, pass measures in March meeting

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At its Wednesday meeting, the UC Board of regents discussed the system-wide student housing crisis, wage transparency and more.


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The UC Board of Regents convened Wednesday morning at the UCSF Mission Bay center for a two-day long meeting and discussed the UC-wide student housing crisis, worker wages and more.

First on the agenda was the board meeting, which consisted of a 30 minute public comment period made by undergraduates, graduate students, workers and community members from various UC campuses.

Among the public commenters, some were concerned regarding UC’s job transparency and wage fairness, or an alleged lack thereof.

“We’re asking for ample warning (to) consult any consolidation or service reduction that will result in layoffs or impact patient care,” said Jackie Patrick, an employee at the UCSF hospital. “I love the children that I work with and we are urging you to be transparent and let us know if you’re going to lay us off and give us ample time to find new jobs.”

Maria Rodriguez, a senior custodian at UC Davis Medical Center and a “proud member” of AFSCME local 3299, the university’s largest worker union, urged the university to raise wages.

“I work hard at the hospital at the University of California, (Davis). A top institution in the country, yet me and my family still struggle,” Rodriguez said. “I make $22.71 an hour. I work very hard at the hospital, but yet I struggle to pay rent to pay my bills and pay for my child care. We’re asking for UC to raise our pay.”

Following the board’s open session and public comment, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee and the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee discussed progress and plans for building additional student housing units for students across the UC system.

Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Katherine Newman said having access to affordable and accessible housing is critical to student well-being. She noted that students with stable housing are at a far lower risk of struggling academically.

“We’re building 20,000 units in housing, but that’s going to take years and there’s going to be many (houseless) students in the intervening time that rely on this and are forced to face harassment by police, instability, the stress of constantly having to move … it sounds like campus (is) afraid of the PR issue of offering empty parking lots to students to sleep in at night,” said UC Student Association president Alex Niles.

Niles noted that similar housing problems could recur even with expanded housing due to continuously increasing UC system enrollment.

University Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom said, thanks to the student housing grant program, the University is receiving $389 million for the construction of new beds and is currently applying for 500 million more.

Another program called the 0% revolving loan through the state was discussed, where the university could potentially have access to 1.5 billion dollars to go towards developing new housing.

Newman noted that it is important to acknowledge the efforts the UC is making to address the housing crises across the system and that national escalation of rent prices is “close to unprecedented.”

UC Berkeley sophomore Andy Hu said the university isn’t doing enough, citing UC housing projects such as People’s Park being “slow to materialize.”

“To ensure that all students have access to affordable and accessible housing options, the UC system must invest in building new housing, maintaining existing dorms and finding creative solutions to address the high cost of living in California,” Hu said. “We want you to provide solutions for affordable housing in every campus in the University of California rather than telling us it’s still a work in progress.”

Following deliberation in the closed session, the governance committee unanimously passed three measures via roll call votes. These confirmed market-based salary adjustments for certain level one senior management group members within the Office of the President and the extension of the Charter of the Special Committee on Innovation Transfer and Entrepreneurship through September 2023, among other items.

During the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee session, preliminary funding for the Ridge Walk North Living and Learning Neighborhood at UCSD was approved, part of their goal to provide four-year guaranteed housing at least 20% below market price for students.

Additionally, financing for proposed housing units at UCSC were approved by the committee. The units, known as the Hagar and Heller developments, were contested in public comment the last time they were brought to the floor — however, no public comments were made during this committee session.

“The need for student housing resonates within our campus and resonates within the Santa Cruz community,” said UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “We are in a new phase of relationships between UC Santa Cruz and the surrounding community.”

Presentations from UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Berkeley’s School of Optometry and UCLA’s School of Nursing followed, requesting further funding for high school and undergraduate outreach, need-based financial aid and diversifying faculty and student body. The California Community College and UC Task Force presented to the Board of Regents at the Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting.

Notably, Eric Van Dusen, Outreach and Tech Lead in Data Science Undergraduate Studies at UC Berkeley, discussed a new UC Transfer Pathway.

The new pathway is for the undergraduate data science major, which has seen massive growth since it was introduced to Berkeley in 2018.

The Academic Council Special Committee on Transfer Issues, or ACSCOTI, is working to push an introductory data science curriculum in California Community Colleges in hopes of making the program more accommodating for transfer DS students — who made up only 18% of 2022’s graduating class of 677, according to Van Dusen.

“At Berkeley, we support transfer students who have found their way to the data science major, providing a separate seminar with academic and career counseling focusing on the specific needs of transfer students who are often first-gen and low-income students, likely navigating multiple responsibilities while acclimating to a four-year campus,” Van Dusen said.

Jo Moon, Lucía Umeki-Martínez, Ria Raniwala, Eleanor Dalton and Kelsey McIvor contributed to this article.

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MARCH 15, 2023