News you might have missed over break

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During breaks away from Berkeley, it’s easy to miss the news that’s going on at our very own campus. We’ve prepared a list of a few of the most important news events happening over winter break and the end of last semester that students should take note of.

Dec. 19:

Pi Kappa Phi member Jeffrey Thomas Engler, a former campus student, was found dead at his fraternity house Dec. 19.

Police and the Berkeley Fire Department were dispatched to the property, located at 2908 Channing Way, about 7:30 a.m. that morning. According to a Berkeley Police Department alert, Engler was pronounced dead at the scene.

Alcohol consumption and a fall from a roof may have contributed to his death, according to Engler’s sister, Caity Engler.

Jeffrey Engler, who was enrolled at Laney College and previously attended UC Berkeley, was studying bioengineering, according to a BPD press release. While at UC Berkeley, he participated in the campus marching band’s tuba section. He was a current member of Pi Kappa Phi but did not live in the fraternity’s house.

Growing up in San Leandro, California, Engler was known for his love of hiking and the outdoors, as well as his passion for local activism.

While in high school, Engler worked as a student representative on the San Leandro Unified School District School Board and coordinated a grassroots campaign that led to major renovations at San Leandro High School.

Engler is survived by his parents, Jeni Engler and Jerry Engler, his sister, Caity Engler, and his brother, Michael Engler.

— Adrienne Shih

Dec. 18

Amid pressure from Black Student Unions of nine UC campuses, the University of California announced in December that it had sold approximately $25 million worth of investments in private prison companies.

Contention came to a head in November, when the Afrikan Black Coalition, or ABC — a universitywide group for black student organizations — reported in a press release that the university had shares in the Geo Group Inc., the Corrections Corporation of America and G4S, three private prison corporations.

On Dec. 17, ABC announced that the Black Student Unions had voted on a resolution calling for immediate divestment. The resolution cited a disproportionate number of black prison inmates in American prisons and the profitability of the prison-industrial complex as reasons for divestment, among others.

According to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein, UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher decided to sell the university’s shares in the three companies after meeting several times with a group of ABC members and subsequently informed them of the sale Dec. 18.

The ABC is currently petitioning the university to divest $425 million from Wells Fargo, whose investor fund still invests in private prison groups. The university, however, has a policy against blanket divestments, though it does have a sustainable investment policy in place, according to Klein. The ABC plans to deliver the petition signatures to the UC Board of Regents at its March 20 meeting.

— Andrea Platten

Jan. 12

The UC system received a record number of applications for the 2016-17 school, with UC Berkeley receiving 5.8 percent more applications than it did in the prior year.

206,339 freshmen and transfer students submitted applications for fall 2016, marking a 6.4 percent increase from fall 2015, and all UC campuses saw increases in applicant numbers, according to a Jan. 11 announcement made by the University of California Office of the President.

Across the university, there was an increase in the number of Latino and African American applicants, and UC Berkeley in particular saw an increase of 6.7 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.

— Ivana Saric

Jan. 12:

Gov. Jerry Brown released his state budget proposal for the 2016-17 fiscal year in early January. The proposal confirmed funding for the university previously agreed upon by Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano, after nearly a year of squabbling between the state and the university over UC funding. Brown’s plan allocates about $350 million in additional funding to the UC system.

Many praised the budget for expectedly adhering to conditions set forth by the funding agreement reached in May to keep tuition flat for in-state students. In this agreement, the university secured one-time funds of $125 million for the university in exchange for increasing enrollment of out-of-state students over the next few years. The added funding will also include other one-time provisions that will pay for deferred maintenance costs, energy projects and the UC Retirement Plan.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein previously noted that new students will find themselves at a university that, thanks to the funding agreement, is no longer in a budget crisis but is still underfunded by the state in terms of its ability to accommodate the enrollment growth.

Some student leaders felt the state budget did not adequately address food and housing security for the large influx of additional students — 6,500 students in fall 2016, and 10,000 by the 2017-18 year — that will occur.

In response, Napolitano announced a housing initiative that aims to add 14,000 beds across the UC system by 2020 to provide living spaces for the growing student population. UC officials plan to meet with various campuses to help initiate or fast-track previously planned housing developments. UC Student Association President Kevin Sabo said the initiative is a step in the right direction but it still falls short of resolving the affordable housing crisis that is especially severe for UC Berkeley students.

— Suhauna Hussain