The UC Board of Regents convened Thursday for a second day of meetings to hear from students and staff on issues regarding employee healthcare premium increases, roadblocks in campus employment for undocumented students and the university’s investment in companies tied to war and weapons manufacturing.
Following public comment, the regents received updates from committees including academic and student affairs, public engagement and development and national laboratories, as well as highlights from the annual UC Accountability Report.
Dozens of students from the UC Divest Coalition, or UCDC, urged the regents to divest from companies investing in war and weapons manufacturing, particularly BlackRock, for its ties with Israel in the current Israel-Hamas war.
“We urge you to divest from BlackRock and provide better transparency of where our tuition is going,” said UCLA student Christina Morcus.
UCDC, along with other students speaking in support of Palestine, urged the regents to listen to students and divest from BlackRock instead of sending out allegedly “empty-worded emails” about the war.
Two Jewish students also gave public comments urging the regents to “stand up against Jewish hate” and enforce policies to ensure the safety of Jewish students on campuses.
“Jewish students across the UC system are in a state of perpetual fear,” said UC Berkeley student Danielle Sobkin. “We ask that you enforce the policies meant to safeguard students and implement long-term change; enough is enough.”
On the first day of regents meetings Wednesday, UC President Michael Drake said his office will allocate $7 million to resources and programming to address safety concerns and education regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to provide “emergency mental health resources” to students and staff and “viewpoint-neutral” education on the Middle East.
Students also spoke on behalf of the Opportunity for All campaign, advocating for employment for all students regardless of immigration status across campuses.
“When I accepted UCLA’s admission offer, I thought I’d conquered the barrier of equal opportunities in education,” said an undocumented student during public comment. “Upon arriving at UCLA, I discovered I was barred from work-study opportunities due to my undocumented status.”
UC employees also made public comments concerning the rise in University health care plan premiums for policy-covered staff.
The University is provided a 4.6% salary increase in the 2023-2024 year to counter the rising costs of health care, but employees such as Kaitlyn LeGros, who is also a delegate for the Council of University of California Staff Assemblies, or CUCSA, do not think that is enough. They are demanding a 7% increase for all policy-covered staff.
According to LeGros, UC staff have been granted salary increases just below 5% in the last two years despite higher inflation rates, shrinking employees’ buying power.
At the same time, many employees, such as Nathan McCall, alleged a below-market pay rate. McCall said he is paid nearly 10% below the market rate for his role, despite holding the position for over a decade.
Some employees are grappling with leaving their UC careers for higher-paying positions due to their low salaries and increasing costs, according to LeGros.
After the public comment session, the regents moved to their second meeting, first hearing from the UC Student Association, or UCSA, President Celene Aridin and UC Graduate & Professional Student Association, or UC GPSA, President Ryan Manriquez on the academic and student affairs committee.
Aridin noted a lack of fiscal resources and staffing among UC CARE Centers. According to her, allocation per student falls below ideal amounts.
Aridin also advocated for the expansion of California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids, or CalWORKs, at UC campuses, noting that University food pantries struggle to provide for general undergraduate students, especially student parents.
Manriquez then spoke on the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine, condemning antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks across UC campuses.
“We, as a graduate student community, are in mourning, from the devastating destruction and loss of life in Israel and Gaza, but that mourning has not come without action on behalf of thousands of members of our community,” Manriquez said. “Graduate and professional students across the system have spoken out to call for a ceasefire.”
Regents recapped items discussed in Wednesday’s meeting, with updates from the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, the Public Engagement and Development Committee and the report from the Special Committee on Athletics.
Regent Lark Park also mentioned the UC Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy System’s award of $1.2 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Katherine Newman, provost and executive vice president of UC Academic Affairs, then shared highlights and updates from the 2023 UC Accountability Report, including increased access for new generation students.
She added that the UC is “partnering with the state to support California.”
Newman’s report concluded the meeting, which noted graduation rates. According to the 2023 accountability report, overall UC graduation rates have increased from 68% to 73% for all students, including increases for first-generation, Pell Grant-receiving and underrepresented students.