The UC Board of Regents met Wednesday in San Francisco to review the upcoming budget for the 2019-20 school year, appoint Jamaal Muwwakkil as the student regent for the 2020-21 school year and review basic needs within the UC system.
According to board chair John Pérez, Wednesday’s meeting was focused on empowering the UC system to innovate and find new ways to “provide an elite education without elitist barriers that limit education.”
During the public comment section of the board meeting, three UC students asked the regents to support Senate Bill 24, calling for more accessible abortion care near UC campuses.
A UC Berkeley alum spoke on behalf of Emma Warshaw, a UC Davis student who is the co-founder and former president of Students for Reproductive Freedom at UC Davis, in a statement urging the regents board to support the bill.
“I can assure you there is widespread support for this bill on my campus,” the statement said. “Right now, with other states banning abortion, the UC system has a chance to show the nation that California prioritizes its students and our reproductive health.”
In addition to abortion care, several issues were addressed through public comment, including the role of the UC system in climate change, fossil fuel emission and UC faculty misconduct.
During the Public Engagement and Development Committee meeting, mental health funding for UC students was discussed, and a three-tier model was proposed to fund and address student mental health.
In a presentation by Brad Buchman, medical director of student health and counseling for UC Health, and Angela Gilliard, legislative director at the UC Office of the President, the committee reviewed statistics highlighting the current mental health issues on UC campuses. During the presentation, it was stated that 61 percent of UC students felt overwhelming anxiety and 12 percent seriously considered suicide — these numbers supplemented a conversation surrounding how to tackle mental health funding within the UC.
“This is not unique to UC,” Buchman said. “As we know, students are experiencing an incredible amount of distress, and not all of them are coming to our counseling centers.”
Buchman and several committee members emphasized preventative care during the meeting, citing that the bulk of investment should be in the third tier of the three-tier model: prevention work.
In an open meeting of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, a report generated by the UC Student Association and the Institute for College Access and Success about student loan debt was shared. The report, meant to identify gaps in UC financial aid and highlight opportunities for Cal Grant reform, showed that UC students who are lower-income and those who are members of underrepresented groups are more likely to borrow money for tuition.
Following the report, Jazz Kiang, a doctoral student studying in the Higher Education and Organizational Change Division at UCLA, spoke to the committee about how student loans and debt affect lower-income students disproportionately.
“Most of my college friends and colleagues needed to take out student loans in order to get by, and some still must balance repayment of those loans with other forms of debt their families had,” Kiang said. “It is unrealistic to assume that all students and families can navigate this landscape equally.”