State Senate committee approves confirmation of 3 appointees to Board of Regents

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A state Senate committee unanimously approved the confirmation of three appointees to the UC Board of Regents on Sept. 2.

The three appointees were Eloy Ortiz Oakley, superintendent and president of Long Beach City College; Gareth Elliott, Gov. Jerry Brown’s former legislative affairs secretary; and former California State Assembly speaker John Perez.

“Each has already brought valuable insights to the Board of Regents, and all of us look forward to working with them to ensure that the University of California continues to make our campuses accessible and affordable to Californians,” said UC Board of Regents chair Monica Lozano in a statement.

Brown first appointed Perez and Oakley in 2014, and Elliott — one of Brown’s top aides — in January. Perez and Oakley were appointed to the board in time to vote against last year’s tuition hikes.

“(The new regents were) appointed by the governor at a point where there was a lot of tension between UC and state in terms of the budget,” said UC Student Regent Avi Oved.

State Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles — who chaired the Senate committee — remarked at the hearing that the appointees were “three individuals of color” and thus a reflection of California’s “rich diversity,” as well as representative of the state’s demographic changes.

Though University of California Student Association President and UC Berkeley senior Kevin Sabo said the UCSA did not have a history with Elliott, it voted to endorse his appointment in July.

“I’m going to be really focused on students and their families, and making sure that they’re not just prepared to get into the University of California but that there are slots available for them to attend and that they can succeed and get through as efficiently as possible,” Elliott said at the hearing.

The UCSA took no position on the confirmation of Oakley.

Sabo said the UCSA did not explicitly oppose Oakley because his past actions — which include eliminating a number of instructional programs from Long Beach City College because of budget cuts — did not involve the UC system. He said the association took a neutral position in “solidarity.”

Oved said he admires how Oakley has highlighted issues of underrepresented minorities, particularly in areas where veteran students could be more supported.

The UCSA unanimously endorsed Perez, who Sabo said has reached out to students since being elected Assembly speaker. Sabo said Perez consistently voted against the tuition hikes in accordance with student wishes.

Perez said at the hearing that he hopes to make pathways through the UC system more affordable and accessible for California residents. He sought to reduce student fees for middle-class families with the Middle Class Scholarship Act.

“There is a battle over how much the university focuses on its role as a public entity,” Perez said at the hearing.

The UC Board of Regents will hold its next meeting Tuesday at UC Irvine.

Suhauna Hussain is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @suhaunah.