The UC Board of Regents convened virtually Thursday to discuss standardized testing requirements, to hear public comment regarding the UC system’s COVID-19 response and to approve preliminary plans to build on People’s Park.
The board meeting opened with public comment, during which the regents heard from UC students and staff about the response to COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus. Several commenters acknowledged UC President Janet Napolitano’s executive order to grant 128 hours of paid administrative leave but urged UC administration to consider allowing all employees to work remotely.
“The most vulnerable in our community must be first priority in this time of crisis,” said Catherine Cobb, president of Teamsters Local 2010, at the meeting. “No UC employee should have to decide between going to work to maintain their livelihood and risking their own health and well-being.”
Additionally, students asked the regents to consider implementing a more lenient grading scale for the remainder of the academic year, due to stress and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Varsha Sarveshwar, president of the UC Student Association, suggested adopting a pass/no pass system for spring terms, as well as ensuring that students still meet graduation requirements.
Sarveshwar also said educators need to adapt their virtual instruction to support students with disabilities, noting that the abrupt transition to online learning was difficult for many students.
“We’re not advocating for classes to come to a halt, but in this moment, learning should be stress-relieving for students, not a stressor,” Sarveshwar said at the meeting.
The regents also approved a motion to add a requested $10.1 million to the 2019-20 Budget for Capital Improvements to support housing development on People’s Park. Funding will come from campus funds, according to the agenda item. The motion passed after it was deferred during the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting Wednesday.
According to Regent Hadi Makarechian, chancellors of all campuses requesting approval of preliminary plans funding met with the committee after the meeting and agreed to run “stress tests” for their respective campuses’ cash needs. Makarechian stated that some proposed funding plans were reduced as a result.
The regents later addressed concerns over standardized test scores used in admissions after hearing a presentation from Michael Brown, UC Office of the President executive vice president for academic affairs, who provided background on standardized tests. Brown introduced the chair of the 2009 Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools, or BOARS, UCLA professor Sylvia Hurtado, who discussed a BOARS report on standardized testing.
The BOARS report found that standardized tests focus more on test-taking ability rather than subject matter and do not correspond with California high school standards. A discussion with strong feelings followed between the presenters and the regents. There will be another presentation in the next regents’ meeting in May, as they are waiting on the Academic Senate to complete its comment period.
“California represents a huge market for testing agencies,” Hurtado said at the meeting. “It is our role to hold the agencies responsive to these concerns rather than assume their interests are consistent with the UC goals of education for the students of California.”