UC regents discuss campus housing, Affordable Care Act

Audrey McNamara/Senior Staff

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SAN FRANCISCO — The UC Board of Regents convened Wednesday at UCSF Mission Bay to discuss a variety of topics, including UC Berkeley student housing recommendations, the potential impact of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act on UC Health and the nomination of Carol Christ, UC Berkeley’s interim executive vice chancellor and provost, as the next UC Berkeley chancellor.

During the board’s open session, UC President Janet Napolitano announced that the regents will vote Thursday on Christ’s appointment as the 11th chancellor of UC Berkeley. If confirmed, Christ will become the first woman to serve as the campus’s chancellor.

“This is a pivotal time in the storied history of what is widely acknowledged as the best public university in the world,” Napolitano said in her opening remarks. “Carol has all that it will take to lead the campus to even greater heights.”

In subsequent committee hearings, campus administrators and UC officials updated regents on housing plans and changes to the university’s health system that would result from a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, by the Trump administration. Regents will also discuss a proposal Thursday to cap nonresident undergraduate enrollment systemwide, to be voted on at their May meeting.

The proposed nonresident enrollment cap was originally scheduled for a vote at Thursday’s meeting.

According to regents chair Monica Lozano, the cap is consistent with the university’s historic commitment to admitting and enrolling California residents.

Regents were provided updates on student housing proposals from UC Berkeley and UCLA, including a presentation by Christ on the UC Berkeley Housing Master Plan. According to Christ, expanding housing capacity is an urgent problem for UC Berkeley — the campus needs to double its current housing capacity for undergraduates and quadruple it for graduate students.

“For many students, on-campus housing is a golden ticket to educational success, retention and community,” said UC Student Association President Ralph Washington Jr. at the meeting.

Washington Jr. referenced UC Berkeley’s Global Edge Program, a one-semester study abroad program for newly admitted campus freshmen.

“I think it’s a little troubling and ironic that students are going to another country to ease the housing burden and when they return, they are still not able to find on-campus housing,” Washington Jr. said at the meeting.

One potential development site of particular interest is the Oxford Tract location, according to Christ. Christ identified Oxford Tract as a site that would be relatively easy to turn into student housing, stating that it would significantly add to UC Berkeley’s housing stock. Christ noted, however, that the site is “politically complex” because of considerable student activism against building on the tract.

During public comment, Joshua Arnold, a UC Berkeley doctoral student, called on the regents to reject the proposed development of housing on the Oxford Tract, emphasizing the space’s role as a research site and a source of fresh produce for the Berkeley Food Pantry.

Regents also discussed the potential impact of a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act on the UC Health system. According to a presentation led by Elizabeth Engel, UC Health chief strategy officer, approximately $5.4 billion in premium and cost-sharing subsidies, $21 billion in Medicaid federal funding and protections for about 5.8 million consumers with pre-existing conditions would be at risk with a potential repeal of ACA.

Nelson Peacock, senior vice president of UC Government Relations, said the university has been meeting with key Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to advocate for the benefits of ACA.

“The outcome is uncertain,” said the presentation led by Engel.

Regent Sherry Lansing later requested regular updates from UC Health as the future of ACA becomes clearer.

The board will reconvene Thursday to vote on Christ’s appointment and discuss the proposed nonresident enrollment cap.

Contact Audrey McNamara and Bobby Lee at [email protected].