The California State Senate confirmed four nominees to the UC Board of Regents on Friday amid scrutiny from student and faculty groups about the nomination process and the professional background of the nominees.
Regents Richard Blum, Monica Lozano, Norman Pattiz and Richard Sherman, who were nominated by Gov. Jerry Brown in January, were confirmed to serve a 12-year term on the board. While Blum, Lozano and Pattiz have previously served, this will be Sherman’s first term. Blum, Pattiz and Sherman were confirmed with a vote of 29-3, and Lozano was approved with a unanimous vote of 31-0.
One of the main concerns students and faculty voiced about the confirmation of the nominees was Brown’s failure to consult a 12-member advisory committee in the selection of the regents, which is stipulated in article nine of the state constitution.
“Recent practice has been for governors to ignore that provision and publicly announce their nominations simultaneously with sending a letter of announcement to the advisory committee,” said Joe Kiskis, vice president of external relations of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, at a Senate committee hearing last Wednesday. “The public announcement significantly preceded the letter.”
After the regents’ confirmation, the University of California Student Association is now considering requesting the formal opinion of the state’s attorney general on the constitutionality of Brown’s actions. The organization also aims to put together a regent-reform package to put on the next ballot.
Reforms would include formalization of the regent-nomination process, shortening office term length and making donors to gubernatorial campaigns ineligible for regent nominations, according to Kevin Sabo, UCSA board chair and ASUC attorney general.
“We have a flawed process with a governor who has taken this process wholly upon himself,” Sabo said. “It’s not just Jerry Brown. We haven’t been following the process for a very long time — at least since Gray Davis.”
At the Senate committee meeting, during which the regents were moved to the state Senate for confirmation, several public commenters questioned whether the nominees were representative of average UC students and California residents.
The nominated individuals come from a background of business and finance with experience in fields such as investment banking, media and entertainment.
Before the hearing, the faculty association submitted a letter to multiple state Senators expressing similar concerns about the nomination process and the nominees’ failure to reflect the “economic, cultural and social diversity of the state” as specified in the state constitution.
“It’s a bunch of folks with a lot of money and not necessarily ties to the UC,” said Caitlin Quinn, ASUC external affairs vice president, whose office sent representatives to the hearing. “Most of them didn’t go to the UC or have experience in academia or anything public.”
Several other UC students also spoke during the hearing’s public testimony, including Sabo and UCSA President Jefferson Kuoch-Seng. All students urged the committee not to vote for Brown’s slate of nominees.
“One of the things that works in the regents’ favor is that people don’t understand the finer details about how the government and the UC is run,” Sabo said. “Your average student doesn’t make the connection between the regents and decisions about class sizes or tuition.”