UC Board of Regents discusses herbicides, audits, Title IX

Sunny Shen/Staff

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The UC Board of Regents met Thursday to hear public comments and discuss herbicide usage, state auditor recommendations and the state of Title IX at the UC system.

The day’s meetings began with the board’s public comment session.

Indigenous activist Joshua Lanakila Mangauil spoke on behalf of a group of protesters against the Mauna Kea telescope project, which he called “a desecration to our sacred summit and to conservation lands.”

After the comment session closed, John Pérez, chair of the Board of Regents, broke with protocol to inform the public that he intends to ask for a full discussion on the Thirty Meter Telescope as soon as possible.

At the Compliance and Audit Committee meeting, representatives from the UC Herbicide Task Force presented several recommendations for standardizing pesticide usage across UC campuses, all of which have been approved by UC President Janet Napolitano for implementation.

According to Ken Smith, UC Office of the President, or UCOP, executive director of environmental health and safety, the UC system currently does not have any systemwide communication or coordination about pesticide usage. The task force also recommended creating the Systemwide Pesticide Oversight Committee to help coordinate local integrated pest management committees at each UC campus.

“Ultimately, the enactment of these recommendations by the president represents a complete paradigm shift for authorizing pesticide use within the university,” Smith said at the meeting.

Committee members also heard updates on the UC system’s progress toward implementing all recommendations given by the California State Auditor in April 2017. Kurt Sjoberg, a partner at Sjoberg Evashenk Consulting, said the UC system had successfully met 18 out of the 21 recommendations required to be implemented by April 2019.

The remaining three recommendations — which concern budget timelines, salaries and reserves — may not be fully implemented, according to Sjoberg’s report.

Representatives from the university’s sustainability initiatives updated the regents Public Engagement and Development Committee on the current state of systemwide sustainability goals for 2020 and 2025.

“The University recognizes the need for urgent action, given that our world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius, and given that our state, not to mention the entire continent of Australia, is already feeling the dire impacts of climate change through wildfires and drought,” said Sapna Thottathil, UCOP associate director of sustainability, at the meeting.

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla emphasized at the meeting the difficulties and limitations of campus fundraising and described the need for greater funding for basic needs and mental health services.

“(Fundraising) is not as sexy as people think it is; it’s actually really hard work,” Khosla said at the meeting. “And it’s not the panacea that people think it is because it can help you augment a few deficiencies, but it can never replace the core need (for state funding).”

The week’s meetings concluded with a second board meeting, during which regents discussed the state of Title IX at the UC system. A systemwide sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, policy was implemented in 2016, and a revised edition of the policy was implemented in July 2019, according to systemwide Title IX director Suzanne Taylor.

Taylor added that the UC system has seen an increase in student complaints since 2016, which she said was “encouraging.”

“Student complaints have increased significantly since we put the SVSH policy in place in 2016,” Taylor said at the meeting. “They connected that increase to better training and student outreach and improved reporting processes.”

Contact Maya Akkaraju, Alexandra Feldman and Revati Thatte at [email protected].