Upcoming regents meeting spurs plans for student demonstrations

The UC Board of Regents will meet at UC Riverside this week to discuss finances and other issues facing the University of California while protesters will hold demonstrations at the Riverside and Berkeley campuses urging students to act against potential future cuts.

Throughout the Wednesday and Thursday meetings, regents will examine the university’s future financial condition following a recent announcement from Gov. Jerry Brown that after last year’s trigger cuts and state revenue shortfalls, the UC may be faced with significant cuts yet again.

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Brown’s budget proposal, released Jan. 5, stated that the UC may be cut $200 million if voters do not approve proposed tax increases this November, following a year in which the UC system was plagued with $750 million in cuts from the state.

The board’s itinerary was determined before Brown’s announcement, but according to the agenda, UC Vice President for Budget and Capital Resources Patrick Lenz will update the board on Brown’s budget proposal Thursday.

Although the board will not vote on tuition or fee increases for students during the meeting, student protesters still plan to demonstrate.

The last regents’ meeting in November — which was rescheduled and held across four campuses via teleconference due to safety concerns — took place in the heat of the Occupy movement and saw a turnout of protesters and activists so large that the meeting was delayed at three of the four locations.

On Thursday, students will again protest at UC Riverside and UC Berkeley in order to connect the Occupy movement to issues facing the UC and renew efforts in defense of public education in the spring semester.

The regents will allow time for an hour of public comment at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting and 20 minutes for comment at Thursday’s meeting.

But Elliott Kim — a volunteer community organizer and recent alumnus of UC Riverside’s graduate program for history — said he and other organizers hope that the regents will open the meeting beyond the usual limited number of audience members and are calling on the regents to take time to engage the public in critical dialogue on issues at the UC.

“I would love to see that happen this meeting,” Kim said. “But whether the regents will be responsive to that is yet to be seen.”

Community members, students and faculty of UC Riverside are calling for an all-day rally against fee hikes, “trigger” cuts and any other cuts, layoffs and other austerity measures Thursday.

“Organizers and activists are trying to make a more equitable, accessible and just society,” Kim said. “When public education is being systematically privatized, this is not going to happen.

In addition to hearing from activists associated with the Occupy movement, UC representatives will meet with Fix UC — a coalition of students from the editorial board of UC Riverside’s student newspaper, The Highlander — which has developed an alternative method to finance the UC.

Under the plan, students would forgo paying tuition while in California public universities and instead contribute a percentage of their income to their respective campuses for 20 years after graduation.

According to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel, Lenz and UC Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom will meet with the students sometime during the week.

Jessica Rossoni covers higher education.