University of California opposes bill to reduce terms of UC Board of Regents

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The University of California and the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association sent letters Tuesday to the state Senate opposing a bill that would alter term lengths of UC Board of Regents.

Both letters, which were sent to the chair of the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, spoke against SCA 1, which would reduce the term of a regent from 12 to four years. Additionally, the bill would set a maximum term limit for regents of 16 years.

“If this were to pass, it would be detrimental not only to the universities, but the students in the way the institution is run,” said Claire Doan, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President. “The system that we have now ensures that regents are able to act more independently and … allows for greater blends of board members who are appointed by different governors and legislators.”

The bill, which was authored by State Senators Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, was passed on April 20 by the state Senate Education Committee. According to Cannella’s representative Jeff Macedo, the purpose of the bill was to keep the Board of Regents more accountable for their actions.

“Currently, some regents have served for over 20 years and their service should be commended,” Lara said at the hearing, “However, their lengthy term disincentives a dialogue with the public and the legislature.”

The opposition letter representing the UC was written by Nelson Peacock, senior vice president of government relations at the UCOP. In the letter, Peacock said the four-year term would limit board effectiveness because it would not give regents enough time to understand the “UC’s vast policy and operational landscape.”

According to current student regent Avi Oved, decreasing the terms to four years would bring a lack of diversity to the board and increase the political influence that legislators have over the regents in an unhealthy way.

Student regents serve a one-year term on the board. There are currently two student regents — Oved, who is the current student regent and holds voting power, and UC Riverside student Marcela Ramirez, who will take over for Oved starting July 1.

“Constitutional amendments should not be looked at lightly,” Oved said. “If we look at holding the regents accountable … I think you should add another student to the Board of Regents.”

The bill, if passed, would modify the state constitution, which establishes the rules governing UC regents’ term limits.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee to be voted for on an unspecified date. If it passes, it will move on to the Senate floor and will ultimately end with the vote of the governor, who must approve or veto the bill by Sept. 30, 2016.

Contact Sujin Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sujinjshin.