Police use of force, restructuring housing debt discussed at UC Board of Regents meeting

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SAN FRANCISCO – A future endorsement of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, police involvement in campus protests and housing debt at UC Berkeley were discussed during public sessions of Wednesday’s UC Board of Regents meeting.

During the Wednesday meeting — the second of board meetings held at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay Campus Tuesday through Thursday — UC President Mark Yudof said that he will ask the board to endorse Brown’s tax initiative in a future meeting. Additionally, the board discussed the public release of a report on police responses to campus protests and unanimously approved a restructuring of the Berkeley campus’s long-term housing debt.

Yudof said in his opening remarks that Brown’s tax initiative, if approved by voters in November, would ward off an additional $200 million in cuts to the UC system. He added in a press conference that if the initiative does not pass, the UC will institute tuition increases.

“If this ballot doesn’t pass, we will be in a bad situation,” Yudof said. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep our mission, when students are paying more than the state.”

During the open session of the Committee on Finance, meeting members discussed a systemwide review of campus policies and practices in responding to student protests. Following the pepper spray incident at UC Davis and the Occupy Cal protest at UC Berkeley in November that involved police use of force, Yudof asked General Counsel Charles Robinson and Dean of Berkeley Law School Christopher Edley to conduct the review and make recommendations for how to handle protests moving forward.

Edley said at the meeting that he hopes to release a draft of the report to allow for online public comment within two weeks.

However, even after public comments and the report’s finalization, it will ultimately be Yudof’s decision as to what to do with the recommendations, Edley said.

The finance committee’s approval of restructuring UC Berkeley’s housing debt will enable students’ housing and dining fees to remain flat in the 2012-13 school year and limit their growth in the following years, with the goal of reducing what students pay for housing as a percentage of the total cost of attendance to between 41 to 42 percent within the next three years.

Refinancing the bonds that the campus received from the regents to build on-campus housing will result in the campus paying less interest on those bonds, which currently allow the campus 10 years to pay them off.

Restructuring the housing debt will include pushing the estimated $38 million in debt service obligations due to be paid by the campus over the next 10 years into future years when “the Campus has additional cash flow flexibility,” according to the agenda item discussed at the meeting.

UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will have ultimate decisionmaking power over the particulars of restructuring the debt, according to UC Chief Financial Officer Peter Taylor.

On Thursday, Yudof will ask the board to rescind a 1999 measure supporting higher pensions for executives that was never implemented, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Yudof’s request comes as a result of demands set forth in a letter signed by 36 university executives who have threatened to sue the university if the policy — which would eliminate a cap on the size of pensions allotted to employees earning upwards of $245,000 — is not implemented.

Additionally, the Committee on Grounds and Buildings — whose open session was postponed from Wednesday to Thursday — will discuss how to proceed with financing the Lushkin Conference and Guest Center on the Los Angeles campus. The Committee on Educational Policy will discuss an annual report on private support the UC and a report on advocacy. The Committee on Finance will discuss an update on the UC’s 2012-2013 budget and proposed statewide tax initiatives.