Intro to the UC system

Nathaniel Solley/Staff

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Welcome freshmen, to the University of California, Berkeley.

Not Berkeley, UC Berkeley.

I emphasize the UC part because you need to know your place as a piece in the larger UC system. It’s an essential part of understanding how you, as a student, are affected by distant — and sometimes abstract — decisions.

The short story: There are decision-makers above this campus, called the UC president and regents (read UC system CEO and board of directors), that administer the entire 10-campus, 230,000-student statewide system.

These administrators make the university’s “high-level” decisions: setting admissions standards and enrollment goals, having the final say on major construction projects, determining funding for each UC campus and, most importantly for you, setting tuition.

Tuition and fees for the UC system are about $13,000 per year and have almost doubled in the last five years, after a series of decisions coming from the president and regents. Decisions to raise fees were a response to almost $1 billion in state funding cuts during the state’s recession-induced financial crisis.

But this year, state funding has started to return, with the state increasing funds by about $250 million for fiscal year 2013-14. Gov. Jerry Brown has also asked the regents to freeze UC tuition for the next four years.

The regents also technically own campus buildings, land and facilities — you may have seen the brass plaques on Sproul Plaza that read “Property of the Regents of the University of California.” They approve large campus construction projects, like a $223 million redevelopment project that aims to make Lower Sproul Plaza a hub of student life and activity.

So who are the president and the regents?

Current UC President Mark Yudof, a former executive of the University of Texas system, helped the UC system weather the worst of the recession and the state funding cuts that followed. In January, he announced he would be stepping down from the position at the end of the summer to become a campus professor of constitutional law.

Yudof is set to be replaced by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano at the end of September. Napolitano will be the first female president in UC history and was previously governor of Arizona.

The UC president is one of the 26 voting members of the UC Board of Regents — 18 are appointed by the California governor and confirmed by the state Senate for 12-year terms.

The regents include former CEO of Paramount Pictures Sherry Lansing and investment banker Richard Blum, who is the husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, as well as ex-officio members like the current governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the State Assembly.

There is also one student regent, who is selected by a search committee of regents and appointed by the board. The current student regent is Cinthia Flores, a law student at UC Irvine.

So next time you hear about a tuition increase or a universitywide policy change, perhaps you’ll take a second to consider who these people are and what decisions they make — because their decisions very often affect hundreds of thousands of students and cost billions of dollars.

Contact Jacob Brown at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jacobebrown.