UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly talks future of campus’s financial, housing crises

Paige Hagerman/Staff

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The UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly heard updates Thursday on the future of UC Berkeley’s budget, Title IX protections and the city’s housing crisis.

At the meeting, Vice Chancellor Chief Financial Officer Rosemarie Rae shed light on the campus’s ongoing financial crisis. She said that during the past 10 years, state support has dropped from $500-$300 million. The reduction was accounted for by increases in tuition and out-of-state enrollment.

In fiscal year 2007, 18 percent of the campus’s revenue was generated through tuition and fees, as opposed to 33 percent in fiscal year 2018. State support dropped from 27 percent to 14 percent during this time period.

“We need to improve our financial positions,” Rae said to the Graduate Assembly. “Berkeley must pivot to revenue generation while maintaining cost efficiency.”

The city’s housing crisis as it relates to housing-insecure graduate students was brought up at the meeting by Rajiv Parikh, UC Berkeley associate vice chancellor of capital strategies. Parikh said resident services programs such as rent credit, which operates on a needs-based application process, can help graduate students find permanent housing solutions.

According to Parikh, the campus will have to make some “tough choices” in the future.

“(The) city is starting to understand our needs,”  Parikh said at the meeting. “(The) chancellor has done a terrific job working with the new mayor.”

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos stressed the need to promote mentorship programs on campus that integrate the faculty and graduate student populations in order to improve communication between the two bodies.

Alivisatos is currently in the process of visiting various colleges to learn more about what UC Berkeley’s graduate education system should look like in the future. According to Alivisatos, a consistent observation in all of his recent college visits was the “double down” approach of graduate students toward a specific topic in their bid to create new knowledge.

“We live in a society where the need to create new knowledge is everywhere — literally everywhere,” Alivisatos said at the meeting. “The contradiction is later finding that the value of that skill is quite restricted.”

Alivisatos proposed creating an environment for graduate students at UC Berkeley similar to that of the undergraduate program, in which students must study a range of different courses and topics.

Representatives of UAW 2865, the UC student-workers union, also attended the meeting to talk about the union’s upcoming collective bargaining drive to negotiate a labor contract, starting in January 2018. Some of its goals include a 17 percent wage increase and a 50 percent increase in child care subsidies. The union’s current contract expires in June 2018.

UAW 2865 representatives also praised California Senate Bill 201, signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 15, calling it a victory for labor unions. The bill, authored by State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, gives research assistants the same right to unionize as other student employees, including teaching assistants, readers and tutors.

Campus Title IX officer Denise Oldham reiterated UC Berkeley’s policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment at the meeting, stating that the University of California will not be beholden to new interim federal guidelines, which she labeled as “political” in nature. A campuswide email sent by Chancellor Carol Christ on Sept. 7 emphasized that the system developed by former president Barack Obama’s administration was “efficient and fair” and that the campus will remain committed to it.

“Every member of our university’s leadership team has an unwavering commitment to equality and equity across the rich diversity of genders, sexual identities, religions, abilities, ethnicities and identities in our community,” Christ said in her email.

Azwar Shakeel is the lead student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @azwarshakeel12.