During Monday’s town hall, the UC Board of Regents’ Special Committee to Consider the Selection of a President heard student and faculty concerns, which included climate change and educational affordability, regarding the next president of the UC system.
Created to search for the next UC president, the special committee set the criteria for the position in November 2019 and aims to make a decision by May, according to Gareth Elliott, the chair of the special committee. He added that the special committee’s decision to hold these town halls across UC campuses breaks from precedents set by other committees.
“This is the first UC presidential search in which the special committee is going beyond what is spelled out in policy to make itself available for input from additional stakeholders and the public,” Elliot said. “Today’s meeting is one of these opportunities.”
Speakers at the town hall emphasized the importance of the next UC president’s commitment to addressing climate change, diversity and inclusion, educational affordability and increasing state funding for the UC system.
Campus junior Sarah Bancroft was one of three students at the town hall who spoke on behalf of a coalition of climate-focused student groups. The groups asked the special committee to take climate issues into consideration when it evaluates candidates for the next UC president.
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented and devastating climate crisis,” Bancroft said at the town hall. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in their 2018 report, has called for rapid, far-reaching changes in all aspects of society to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst possible effects of climate change — is the UC system exempt from that call?”
John Pérez, the Board of Regents chair, responded directly to student requests to choose a climate leader as the next UC president, stating that while the climate action issues were not part of the written criteria, this did not mean that these issues would not be “taken seriously” when evaluating candidates.
Academic Senate chair Oliver O’Reilly emphasized the importance of gaining funding to improve accessibility to resources.
“Please make sure that (the next UC president) … has the ability to gain more public support for this university and gain more resources from the state,” O’Reilly said at the town hall. “All of the problems you’re hearing right now have to do with … diminished resources in a time of change.”
O’Reilly added that the next UC president would need to be “superhuman” to effectively address the concerns and needs of the many constituencies involved in the UC system.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President and UC Student Association President Varsha Sarveshwar, who was also among those present at the town hall, agreed.
“The challenge for the regents is that they’re looking for a superhuman, but that’s not possible,” Sarveshwar said. “There are always going to be compromises made.”