UC President to host live web chat discussing protests, funding

UC President Mark Yudof is hosting a live web chat March 2 — the same week students across the UC system will be protesting tuition increases and budget cuts — to field questions from university faculty and staff regarding protests, state funding for the university and an initiative to redirect administrative costs to academics and research.

The web forum is intended to facilitate an open and frank discussion between Yudof and UC staff and faculty members, said Penny Herbert, director of strategic planning at the UC Davis Health System and a moderator for the web chat.

“Our role as staff advisers is to bring the voice of the staff to the UC regents and the UC leadership,” she said. “The staff that we meet with cares very deeply about the students.”

The forum was organized on behalf of faculty and staff and is not open to students. Some student organizers said they are concerned about the lack of student representation.

Brian Riley, a graduate student at UC Davis, said he is skeptical of Yudof’s intentions by only addressing faculty and staff during the planned web forum.

“It’s difficult to know what his intentions are,” he said. “What really needs to happen is that we need to have some kind of positive convergence where the faculty gets more involved in the decision-making process and the strategic planning of the university as a whole.”

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said students have recently had opportunities to engage in dialogue with UC administrators to discuss police action taken in response to campus protests last semester.

“The town hall meeting at Davis held on Friday had something like 35 people,” she said. “That’s not many people. You have sections of chemistry lectures that are larger than that.”

Charlie Eaton, a UC Berkeley graduate student and financial secretary for the United Auto Workers Local 2865, said the union has no plans to participate in Yudof’s web forum but emphasized the need for more transparency from the UC Board of Regents.

If its only an hour, I cant imagine that hes going to have a real conversation with … workers and faculty,” he said.

Graduate students and other student workers represented by the union plan on participating in a March 1 day of action, Eaton said. An education-related protest is also scheduled to take place in Sacramento on March 5.

Both Occupy Cal organizers and the UC Office of the President said the fact that the web forum and the student protests are happening during the same week is a coincidence.