Regents pass tuition increase amid student protest

Ryan Serpa/Staff

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents passed a tuition increase plan and the university’s 2015-16 budget Thursday despite extensive student protests and dissent from state officials.

Both the budget and the tuition increase plan passed 14-7. Under the plan, fees will increase by up to 5 percent per year for the next five years. Students, campus administrators and staff demonstrated throughout the three-day meeting, with one UC Berkeley student arrested Wednesday.

The same seven members of the board dissented on both votes. Ex officio regents Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson voted against the proposals, along with regents John Perez and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who were appointed by Brown on Monday.

Student regent Sadia Saifuddin voted against both measures as well.

California residents will see systemwide fees increase by $612, from $12,192 to $12,804, in the coming academic year, with the potential for the state to alleviate or eliminate the increase through supplementary funding. Should the state fail to provide the amount of funding expected in the budget, students could see tuition and fees increase by more than 5 percent.

In January, the governor will present to the Legislature his proposed budget, which details allocations to the university.

During the budget vote, students chanted, “Hey ho, hey ho, tuition hikes have got to go.” After the plan passed, students refused to leave the meeting room, shouting, “Shame on you,” delaying the proceedings for almost five minutes and pausing the meeting. Later, as they voluntarily exited the building, they chanted, “Are you ready to fight? Damn right!”

“When you raise the tuition for students, you are pricing out our future leaders,” said Lauren Buisson — vice president of Teamsters Local 2010, a labor union of 14,000 UC workers — at the meeting. “(The regents’) actions have consequences.”

Robby Boparai, president of UC San Diego Associated Students, said students need to explain to citizens that funding the university is worthwhile.

“My definition of student activism is students sitting down at a boardroom table,” he said. “But it’s important to protest and show student strength.”

On Wednesday, hundreds of students from all UC campuses protested outside the building. A glass door at the UCSF Mission Bay campus was broken, and UC Berkeley student Jeff Noven was arrested on suspicion of vandalism and inciting a riot. He was later released.

UC Berkeley students began occupying Wheeler Hall on Wednesday evening. Though the group started with about 50 individuals, that number nearly quadrupled by midnight. About 40 students remained in the building as of Thursday afternoon.

UC President Janet Napolitano said in an interview with The Daily Californian that student protests are not the most persuasive way to garner the regents’ attention.

“When students come up and speak about their personal circumstance, or they have some data, or they have experience … those are very powerful ways to present the students’ position,” Napolitano said.

Students, campus administrators and staff spoke against the plans in a heated public comment session prior to the Thursday vote. Some speakers were dubious of the long-term effects of the proposal, saying the hike would deter future applicants and diminish the possibility of social mobility in California.

“Students are not just angry — we are sad,” said UC Davis student Amelia Itnyre in a tearful speech before the board. “There are students crying in the halls. (The regents) should be crying.”

According to the university, the tuition policy offers stability for the university and predictability for students and their families in light of state disinvestment.

“The data is the data,” Napolitano said. “The fiscal reality is that, absent greater state investment in higher education, tuition has to be raised.”

The budget contains a $459 million increase in revenue and expenditures. About a quarter will be spent on mandatory costs, and the rest will be allocated to items such as academic quality, salary increases and deferred maintenance.

Additionally, the university will enroll at least 5,000 more in-state students and 2,000 more nonresident students over the next five years.

The UC budget relies on a 4-percent increase in state funding, per the governor’s funding plan. The state, however, has said that these funding increases are contingent on a freeze in university tuition and fees, which has been in effect for the last three academic years.

Each of the ex officio members, the two members recently appointed by Brown and the student regent voted against the plans, while the rest of the appointed regents voted for them. UC spokesperson Steve Montiel said this division was unusual and particular to the current debate over fee hikes.

“All the ex officio members care about the university,” he said. “(The members) who voted yes were indicating that the UC should be priority for state.”

Relations between the university and the state will likely be tense in the coming months, with next year’s tuition and fees unclear until the state releases its budget plans. Until then, Napolitano plans to collaborate with Brown to resolve the two parties’ differences.

“In many respects, this meeting is the end of the beginning of a process,” Napolitano said. “I’ll work with the students — I pledge to do that. And I’ll work with the leaders in Sacramento.”

Contact Sahil Chinoy and Zoe Kleinfeld at news[email protected].