UC regents discuss COVID-19 impacts, community outreach

Photo of a UC Board of Regents meeting
Joshua Jordan/File
The UC Board of Regents meets in 2018. At the board’s online meetings Wednesday, the regents discussed the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UC system’s financial, health and student success outcomes dominated discussions during the UC Board of Regents meetings Wednesday.

UC Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Brown said the UC community should anticipate remote instruction for the rest of the school year, with UC Health Executive Vice President Carrie Byington adding that UC Health is preparing for a potential surge in cases and a timeline for resuming classes.

During the board meeting, Byington outlined several levels of COVID-19 restrictions. For most indoor businesses to operate with modifications, there must be at most one case for every 100,000 individuals and the case positivity rate cannot exceed 2%, according to Byington.

“It is this minimal-to-moderate category that many people across the country have recommended for the opening and resumption of in-person classes for both K-12 and college,” Byington said during the meeting.

Board of Regents Vice Chair Cecilia Estolano asked whether Byington feels confident UC Health will have enough personal protective equipment, or PPE, for its personnel. Byington assured the regents that the UC system’s PPE supply is sufficient.

Between March and August, the coronavirus pandemic cost the UC system $2.2 billion, according to a meeting presentation by the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee. From this amount, about $1 billion was lost from UC Health medical centers and its reduced clinical operations, according to UC Budget Analysis and Planning Associate Vice President David Alcocer.

Future challenges for the UC system’s 2021-22 budget loomed at large as a result of pressure on the state budget, uncertain federal funding and increased costs from COVID-19 related activities, according to Alcocer.

While UC Berkeley met some admission targets, about 550 undergraduate, nonresident students chose not to re-enroll for the fall 2020 semester, Alcocer said at the meeting.

“We are going to be doing very aggressive outreach to those students trying to convince them to come back,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ during the meeting.

During the Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting, Regent Sherry Lansing said outreach is also important when increasing campus diversity and reaching underrepresented communities across California.

According to Brown, though the UC system impacts hundreds of thousands of people, it only reaches 5% of K-12 from underrepresented groups and 15% of California’s K-12 public schools through its traditional student support plans.

“The opportunity to spend time and effort on creating pathways to higher education are things that everyone celebrates and supports nicely,” said UC President Michael Drake during the meeting. “But when we have budgetary constraints, those are the kinds of programs that are cut.”

Brown also provided an update on the undergraduate admissions test feasibility study that was created after the regents removed the SAT and ACT from the UC admissions process in May. Brown and Regent Maria Anguiano both expressed concern regarding an equitable implementation of the test.

The goal of the test is not to “punish” students who do not perform well, and instead, it should identify areas in need of resources that better support students’ academic preparation, Brown added.

The National Laboratories Committee discussed the UC National Laboratory Fees Research Program, which has invested $170 million in research, student mentorship and partnerships between the UC system and its affiliated National Laboratories.

The National Laboratories will direct more funding toward climate change and wildfire research, according to Theresa Maldonado, vice president of research and innovation within the UC Office of the President.

“(What we) need to fully embrace is the information that the technology makes readily accessible to us and then put our minds to it and say ‘OK, how do we make a difference with what we know?’ ” said Regent Lark Park at the meeting.

Contact Emma Rooholfada, Shylie Ati, Kaleo Mark and Maria Young at [email protected].