‘Committee of 2′ does not make specific recommendations at UC Regents’ Wednesday meeting

Jessica Gleason/Staff

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UC President Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown’s “committee of two” reported that talks on university finances had been productive, but did not yield specific recommendations, in the committee’s first update to the UC Board of Regents on Wednesday.

Brown and Napolitano have met twice since the two-person advisory committee was established by the regents in January. It was created to provide a framework within which the two could exchange ideas and examine ways to reduce the university’s cost structure.

“Hopefully in the near future — without putting a date on it — we will be able to return to the board with concrete proposals,” Napolitano said at the meeting, which was held at the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

Brown first proposed the idea for the committee in the wake of the regents’ November decision to approve a possible tuition increase, as well as the governor’s subsequent budget proposal, which accounts for a 4 percent funding increase to the UC system contingent on tuition remaining flat.

“We want to keep tuition as low as possible and as predictable as possible,” Napolitano said to the board. “We want to do all this without sacrificing a single iota of the university’s quality.”
Brown emphasized the inherent tension between the state Legislature and the university as a result of their differential roles.

“Inevitably, I’m the one who has to say no, and I will when I have to,” Brown said at the meeting.

Napolitano said she has had meetings with students over the past month. Citing, however, a lack of knowledge about Napolitano’s recently announced cap on out-of-state student enrollment at two UC campuses — and freeze on enrollment of California students — student leaders asserted that public officials should make decisions in an open forum instead of behind closed doors.

“Students deserve direct dialogue with both the (UC) president and governor,” said UC Student Association President Jefferson Kuoch-Seng at the meeting.

Earlier in the day, students and community members gathered to protest the UC Regents’ stance on tuition hikes and failure to sign a “community benefits agreement” in the construction of the Berkeley Global Campus in Richmond. The agreement aimed to shield residents from gentrification and displacement potentially caused by the proposed campus.

Protests began at the end of public comment, with students stripping down to their undergarments and throwing fake money at the regents. Priscilla Ibrahim, a student at the protest, said the group had gathered because it felt that the UC Regents did not care about low-income individuals.

“We have a common cause and a common enemy — the UC Regents,” she said.

Police issued a dispersal order to the protesters shortly after the demonstration began. Napolitano was heard on video responding to protests with “We don’t have to listen to this crap.”
UCSF spokesperson Elizabeth Fernandez said no arrests were made.

Student frustrations about rising costs fall in line with broader debates about the role of a public university. At the meeting, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks noted the university’s struggle to balance excellence in instruction with student access in his presentation on the changing structure of undergraduate education at the meeting.

“(We need to be) engaged in the academic side in terms of our knowledge of the institution as much as we are in the finance side, because now they’re going to start to intertwine,” Regent George Kieffer said at the meeting.

Contact Suhauna Hussain and Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected].