State senator proposes constitutional amendment calling for sweeping changes to UC governance

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Daniel Kim /File

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California State Senator Ed Hernandez proposed a state constitutional amendment Tuesday which would make sweeping changes to the way UC campuses are governed.

Hernandez introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 14, SCA14, in light of April’s state audit of the University of California Office of the President, which disclosed budgetary practices within UCOP that drew extensive public criticism.

SCA14 would limit UCOP’s financial autonomy and change the UC Board of Regents to include more student, faculty and staff representation, according to a press release from Hernandez’s office.

“Student voices are still too quiet,” said UC Student Association University Affairs Committee Chair Amory Meltzer in an email. Student concerns are frequently found unanswered by the Board of Regents, according to Meltzer, and more student representation on the board would be a significant improvement. SCA14, however, is not supported by UCOP.

“We believe that amending our state Constitution based on this audit would be a mistake,” said UCOP spokesperson Claire Doan in an email.

The constitutional authority of the UC system was last amended in 1976, according to the press release. Senator Hernandez said California has grown since then and now needs the governance to adapt.

“Changes need to be made, especially in California,” Hernandez said. He reminisced about when tuition was just over $600 a semester, adding that California residents are now struggling to afford the $14,000 tuition.

These recent UC tuition increases together with the state audit “have triggered calls for more accountability in how the University of California system is governed,” according to the press release.

Hernandez said SCA14 is “real simple,” though he anticipates pushback from regents. The amendment to the Constitution will provide transparency and accountability in budgetary practice, as well as decrease regent terms from 12 to 4 years.

The audit by California State Auditor Elaine Howle alleged UCOP “failed to disclose tens of millions in surplus funds, and its budget practices are misleading.”

The audit alleged more than $175 million in undisclosed discretionary and restricted reserves were accumulated by the UCOP in the 2015-16 fiscal year. The report also alleged “the Office of the President continues to lack consistent definitions of and methods for tracking the University’s administrative expenses.”

These stated issues, as reported in the audit, require change to increase the public’s trust in the university. “To achieve this change,” Howle wrote, “we believe the Legislature should increase its oversight of the Office of the President.”

In the press release, Hernandez said it is owed to students and their hard working families “to fight for necessary changes within our publicly-funded higher education system.”

Hernandez conceded that the political process would be difficult, but with the help of student activists “filling up hearing rooms,” he believes SCA14 can appear before voters on the November 2018 ballot.

Contact Janesse Henke at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JanesseHenke.

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  • Douglas Bonham

    STEM disciplines need to disaffiliate from the rest of the University of California, and leave them to their fate.

  • CMB4444

    Please, dear politicians – don’t extend your ignorance to higher ed. enough mudslinging in the politics already. People not qualified to run a liquor store shouldn’t feel like they know how to manage the largest and the finest university in the world. Please don’t ruin it.

    • still trying

      It is too bad you are not well enough informed on this issue to present a valid point. A person who lies and provides inaccuracies on budgets, to the public, to the extent that Janet has, should never be allowed to hold a public position, ever. Period.

      • CMB4444

        Every well wishers should have an opportunity to provide input so long it’s within their area of expertise and means well. No one should politicize our children’s future.

        • still trying

          Here again I agree with you, but it appears the public has lost all control and oversight of UC and when questions are asked, they are ignored or the public is lied to. This is not the way to provide for future generations- a costly education with questionable quality. Why has janet’s office doubled in size and her office budget increased by 110% ? So she can manipulate data just like she did at HLS. Reason for her leaving. Why has her office doubled when she is doing the same things as the previous presidents? Why was her staff been given 30% pay increases in a year? You often learn in government when you are robbing the public blind, you compensate your underlings well so no well tells of bad behavior or practices. (The City of Bell). These questioned have been asked repeatedly but all she does is lie in response. UC can do better.

          • CMB4444

            I think we both agree UC needs to do a much better job to serve the public well. I just don’t feel our politicians can do that. They are too busy taking care of their own. So I am opposed a constitutional amendment to empower them any further.

          • still trying

            On this point we do. Any suggestions on how to improve and restore UC’s goals. I have tried working through UC’s juggernaut of bureaucracy and failed miserably.

    • still trying

      “how to manage the largest and the finest university in the world.” Your comment is a joke. UC has been living off its past reputation for years. The reason it is the largest has nothing to do with quality. California is a large State that saw fit to make a system of higher education that was divided into types of higher education: Universities and colleges. No other state had the population or the need to do this. And finest needs to be better defined. Costs vs quality; UC has already proven that it does not belong in this group. UC provides inadequate housing for its students, dumps on the City of Berkeley, uses many City services and pays little for these services. Lectures that are so full the GSA’s tells the students to stay home and watch the class on a computer. Exams given to very large groups of students resulting in cheating that is often ignored. Classes not available to graduating students resulting in longer than 5 years to graduate. UC also has one of the largest numbers of sexual assaults or harassment charges filed against any university in the country and presently has the largest number of federal lawsuits and investigations ongoing. Please check out how these rankings are done. Such as- How many students apply, how many students graduate in 6 years. How happy are the students. GSA’s have told me that they have been pressured to pass failing students because it may result in a poor eval of UC. Come on. Are these criteria a good reason to be proud of UC. Now you have a president that lies and covers up wrongdoing. GET REAL.

      • CMB4444

        When you have 1/3 of the enrollment coming from around the world, trying for a spot at a price higher than most other university, the reputation of that institution is not questionable. Please be critical of the things that need fixing. But please let not give our not so good politicians any say in it.

        • still trying

          The reputation of UC is definately being questioned.
          When millions of Germans followed Hitler, were they wrong or right, because millions followed him. Same goes for Stalin. It takes a while for the truth to come out after years of cover ups and propaganda. How can you fix what has been covered up and ignored for so long. I agree California’s leaders are lacking as well, but you must remember 85% are UC grads.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Janet doesn’t steal, she redistributes.

  • jim hoch

    Another soon to fail effort by Hernandez. Maybe he is still upset at SCA5 biting the dust.