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UC regents approve data science college at UC Berkeley

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The UC Board of Regents met Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss AI investments, immigration status and work-study jobs, ableism training for faculty and staff and budget reports. The board also voted to unanimously approve UC Berkeley’s new College of Computing, Data Science and Society, or CDSS.

At the Tuesday investments committee meeting, a discussion about artificial intelligence, or AI, was joined by two UC Berkeley community members: campus professor in the departments of EECS and statistics Michael Jordan and campus alumnus and founder of the House Fund Jeremy Fiance.

Jordan spoke to committee members about recent and upcoming developments in AI and potential opportunities for investment.

During the meeting, Jordan also advocated for the transformation of UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science and Society into a college.

“Once every 50 years, something like this happens: a new entity emerges,” Jordan said during the meeting. “And it emerges not just because it’s right for academics. It emerges because it’s right for society.”

Jordan noted data science is the fastest-growing major in UC Berkeley’s history. The program, according to Jordan, has cultivated relatively greater gender parity in enrollment compared to computer science courses and encourages students to solve problems in other academic disciplines.

Campus computing programs have also spurred millions of dollars in donations. In 2021, three donors — including UC Berkeley professors of computer science Ion Stoica and Scott Shenker — donated $75 million in gifts to campus data science research and education.

During the following public comment session Wednesday, several student advocates of the Opportunity for All campaign urged the university to allow students to have work-study jobs, regardless of their immigration status. Students at the meeting also noted these jobs would ease the financial burdens for undocumented students, such as transportation costs, housing and legal fees and lack of financial support from their families.

“The UC has an opportunity and obligation to remove barriers to employment for all students on all of their campuses,” said Melody Torres, a third-year student at UC Santa Barbara.

Others at the meeting echoed struggles with financial insecurity as an added barrier to their professional growth.

Disabled students at UC Berkeley expressed experiencing ableism due to professors’ “lack of training and accountability” surrounding accommodations for the disabled students’ program. They urged the regents to mandate anti-ableism training for all faculty and staff.

In the transition to the compliance and audit committee meeting, protesters advocating for UC worker wages to be raised interrupted Chair Richard Leib’s opening remarks and were promptly removed from the meeting. During the demonstration, the livestream recording shut off. The protestors from AFSCME 3299 were calling for a continued demand of $25 dollars an hour minimum wage, or 5% pay increase.

Following the interruption, the compliance and audit committee meeting convened to discuss the mandatory training for faculty and staff, including SVSH and cybersecurity awareness.

Vice Chair of the Board Gareth Elliott noted he is “quite frustrated” at the low numbers of completed trainings, adding that UC Berkeley has one of the lowest rates of completion. He said future discussions with campus are in order.

At the public engagement and development meeting, community members presented a current statewide citrus program, sought endorsement for public education legislation and updated the board on governmental relations.

Georgios Vidalakis, director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program, said the program intends to safely introduce citrus varieties from other parts of the world to California “for research variety improvement or for use by citrus enthusiasts and the commercial industry of the state.”

Next, regents heard from advocates including Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president for the office of chief financial officer, looking for UC endorsement of Senate Bill 28. This bill requests $15.5 billion total for public education, which would allocate $2 billion to both the UC and CSU systems. Two presentations on state and community governmental relations also discussed intersections between legislation and the UC community.

The health services committee met briefly to discuss salary adjustments for medical chief executive officers at UCLA, UCI, UCSD and UCD campuses.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of UCOP Rachael Nava then announced the office’s proposed budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year during the board’s finance and capital strategies open session. The proposed budget was unanimously approved.

“This budget incorporates guidance from the campuses and prioritizes UCOP’s programs and services,” Nava said. “It represents a positive outlook for the UC and represents the state’s 5% multi-year compact, providing the university with strong predictable financial support.”

At approximately $1.2 billion, the 2023-24 budget is an 18.6% increase from the previous year. Key propositions include state-funded climate research, cancer and tobacco research and academic and public service programs.

The committee also discussed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May 2023 revisions to the state budget, which will maintain UC funding as listed in the January 2023 budget plan.

The academic and student affairs committee began by approving multi-year plans charging professional degree supplemental tuition, or PDST, in addition to existing tuition and student service fees. The PDST proposals for the UC Berkeley engineering and project development programs were approved for a two-year period.

In their discussion of PDST increases, the board brought up concerns regarding diversity, representation and financial aid.

“It’s really important that we educate students that look like the residents of our state, and it is really important that we do our job to diversify these programs,” said Regent Elaine Batchlor.

The board then unanimously approved UC Berkeley’s CDSS, which, according to Chancellor Carol Christ, is the first new college in the last 50 years.

The committee also addressed the implementation of state community college-UC transfer task force recommendations proposed in July 2022. This included redefining transfer readiness, consolidating general and major requirements and more.

UC Berkeley junior Andy Hu commented on the issues facing incoming UC transfers from community colleges, particularly “disproportionate” challenges faced by first generation, low income and non-traditional students.

The committee ended with a discussion on UC expansion opportunities and experiential learning opportunities for students.

Check future coverage for more in-depth discussion on UC Berkeley’s CDSS.

Laurel Spear, Ananya Rupanagunta, Cameron Fozi, Lucía Umeki-Martinez and Kelsey McIvor contributed to this report.

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MAY 24, 2023