Which guidelines UC campuses will use when reopening, how the budget will be adjusted in response to the pandemic and what role the ACT and SAT will have in UC admissions are three of the many decisions the UC Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on at its May meeting.
The Board of Regents, which convenes bimonthly to make decisions for the UC system, will meet Tuesday through Thursday via teleconference. In addition to three public general board meetings, seven regent-staffed committees will meet to discuss recommendations, including measures to improve the UC system’s response to students’ basic needs and to update the policy for addressing regent misconduct.
Much of the meeting will focus on various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The University moved very quickly in March to modify the way it operates in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the agenda states. “UC is committed to ensuring that academic disruptions related to COVID-19 do not threaten any student’s ability to strive for and attain a UC education.”
The regents are scheduled to vote Wednesday on which guidelines campuses will use when increasing on-site operations, including the extension of testing and contact tracing for those exposed to COVID-19 and the use of public health data to make decisions. If the proposed guidelines pass, the campuses will implement universal masking policies and physical distancing protocols, among other strategies, when they reopen.
The proposed item also gives the campuses the option to implement “risk-based” visitor restrictions when necessary.
“University locations will maintain flexibility in all of their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be ready to adjust rapidly to changes in public health conditions,” the agenda states.
The proposal also includes a “roadmap” of how California’s different stages of resuming economic activity will affect UC campuses. If passed, nonessential research, which was slated for phase two, will be allowed to resume under physical distancing protocols, as California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced May 4 regarding the state’s second stage of reopening.
Due to pauses in the UC system’s activities, such as residential services and elective surgeries in UC hospitals, and the uncertainty of the pandemic’s duration, the regents will be discussing an updated budget with a 5% reduction during the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting Wednesday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was unforeseen when planning for the (fiscal year 2020-21) budget kicked off and the full impact still remains unknown,” the proposed budget states. “The proposed UCOP (UC Office of the President) budget carries greater risk than in a typical year.”
Proposed reductions include cuts to research funding, extension of the hiring freeze, suspension of travel budgets until October and reduction of revenue spent on “building and marketing the UC brand,” among many other measures.
At their final board meeting of the week, the regents will be discussing and voting on the UC system’s policy for the use of the SAT and ACT in admissions, after suspending the use of the tests in the current admissions cycle due to the pandemic.
The proposal recommends that the regents approve the suspension of the use of standardized testing in admissions decisions through 2024, giving the UC system time to develop its own test.
UC President Janet Napolitano proposed that, for the next two years, submitting standardized test scores for consideration will be optional for the UC application, before moving to a “test-blind” system in 2023 that will not take test scores into consideration even if they are submitted. By 2025, the UC system would implement its new test, making it available to private and out-of-state schools.
The regents’ meetings will be livestreamed and will include three public comment opportunities.