Proposal requests that regents endorse UC-friendly ballot measures

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A University of California Academic Senate proposal introduced in early February requests that the UC Board of Regents endorse specific ballot measures or legislation that would increase revenue to the state and prioritize state allocation of funds to the university.

The proposal, which was distributed to all senate faculty members, will be voted on by the campus divisions of the Academic Senate. The senate will likely know the results of the vote by mid-April, according to Academic Senate chair Robert Anderson.

If passed, the senate would send a “memorial to the Regents” message to UC President Mark Yudof and would then ask him to pass it on to the members of the board.

The proposal precedes a voter decision that will significantly impact the university in November. If voters do not approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increases, the university faces a $200 million state funding cut, according to Brown’s January budget plan.

Anderson said the proposal represents a faculty effort to stand in solidarity with students following recent budget cuts and tuition and fee increases.

“The first point of the memorial is to generate discussion in everyone in the university community and everyone in the faculty and to have a frank discussion about how difficult the budget situation is,” he said. “The source of the increases in tuition has been state funding cuts, and we need to find an effective strategy to restore the cuts that have already been made.”

Anderson said although the public support from the regents for specific state ballot measures or legislation would not “generate millions of votes,” it could still have a significant effect on voter support for legislation impacting the university.

“It could well sway a few hundred thousand people,” he said. “It could persuade people who support the UC.”

The proposal points out that one of the arguments against the proposed memorial is concern over the constraints on university advocacy in support of ballot measures, which are quite “severe.”

University resources may not be used in support of ballot measures, and only the regents may take a position on behalf of the university in support of specific ballot measures, according to the UC Office of the President’s Legal Guidelines for UC Participating in Ballot Campaigns.

The proposal notes that systemwide senate assembly members who argued against submitting the proposed memorial to the various campuses initially expressed concern that it might not garner enough votes to make a statement.

However, Anderson said he had “little doubt” that the proposal would pass.

UC Student Regent-designate Jonathan Stein said at the March 5 Day of Action for public higher education that the regents need to take action to gain the trust and support of students by supporting a specific tax plan.

“I told the chair that if the board does endorse a plan, a lot of the anger toward the Board of Regents will dissipate,” he said. “If they fail, it will grow. I think the time for doing nothing is over.”

Damian Ortellado is the lead higher education reporter.