University defunds regents’ parties, dinners, reversing former policy

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The UC Board of Regents will no longer use university funds to pay for board member dinners and parties, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Since 2012, the University of California Office of the President has reimbursed the regents more than $225,000 for private dinner parties, according to the Chronicle.

“The Office of the President already has begun reviewing its policies governing entertainment and travel expenses,” said regents chair Monica Lozano and UC President Janet Napolitano in a joint email statement. “To avoid any question over use of university or university-associated funds, regents will absorb their costs for board dinners from this point forward.”

In January 2016, the regents held a retirement party — billed at $13,600 — that was later reimbursed by UCOP, as reported by the Chronicle. A year later, in January 2017, the UC Board of Regents approved its first systemwide tuition increase since 2011 for the 2017-18 academic year.

“I have to say that (the Chronicle’s report) is very disheartening and disappointing,” said California State Assemblywoman Catharine Baker. “I’m glad (the regents) made a change to the policy. (The issue) is definitely an indication of many budget problems (and) weak budget controls.”

Baker said she hopes there will be a “complete revamp” of the regents and UCOP’s accountability and transparency. She added she believed the regents should pay for their own parties and also consider reimbursing these funds for student scholarships to show that “they get the message and are putting students first.”

In an April audit report of the UCOP, California State Auditor Elaine Howle raised concerns about the office, including questions regarding the transparency of UCOP budget expenditures. The auditor’s report examined UCOP spending on staff benefits, including reimbursement for staff travel and meals, finding that “the Office of the President could better control its costs by evaluating its policies.”

Cal Berkeley Democrats President Caiden Nason said it was “shameful” that the regents’ parties were being reimbursed with university funds, adding that campus students were “over these false apologies.”

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Rigel Robinson said in an email that he is glad to see a reversal in the regents’ policy, but hopes to see more effort from the regents to address student concerns. He added that the regents should connect with students at on-campus town halls every semester.

“If UC Regents are so eager to dine with each other outside of their mandated meetings, I hope they can show the same commitment to interface directly with students outside of Regents Meetings,” Robinson said in an email. “The Regents are an inaccessible body who too often can only be reached via a brief public comment period.”

Contact Jamari Snipes at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JamariSnipes.