Members of UC community protest retirement benefits, fossil fuel investments at regents meeting

Phillip Downey/Senior Staff

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About 40 protesters affiliated with the university participated in demonstrations and a public comment period during the UC Board of Regents meeting at the UCSF Mission Bay campus Thursday.

Assembled in front of a UCSF conference center, protesters representing UC employees ranging from custodians to medical personnel voiced opposition to recommendations for new UC retirement benefit options. Many protesters then joined other members of the UC community in a conference room to participate in a public comment session that touched on a range of issues.

The retirement benefits recommendations were submitted to UC President Janet Napolitano by a task force that was the result of the 2015 budget agreement between the university and state leaders. The recommendations create two pension options for UC employees who begin work with the university after July 1 of this year.

“The task force report and its recommendations is only a first step,” said UC spokesperson Steve Montiel. “We want to ensure the long-term sustainability of the UC retirement plan,” he added.

Those opposed to the recommendations claimed that the new retirement benefits plan would impede the university’s ability to compete for skilled workers, particularly in medicine.

Napolitano will continue to accept feedback from the community regarding UC retirement benefits before submitting a proposal to the regents in March.

Other members of the UC community that participated in public comment included representatives from Fossil Free UC, which called for the university to divest from fossil fuel companies. After the public comment period, the group staged a mock debate to draw attention to their concerns.

“Investing in fossil fuels is completely illogical, it is completely unethical, and it needs to be stopped. Divest today,” said Mimi Fox, a student at UC Santa Cruz and a member of Fossil Free UC.

Montiel said that the university is committed to “an approach to investments that takes into account social issues” but that “at the same time, the university will not do blanket disinvestments.”

Maxwell Jenkins-Goetz covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected].