UC Board of Regents allocates funding, discusses equity, sustainability

Screenshot of UC Regents zoom meeting
Catherine Hsu/Staff
At a virtual UC Board of Regents meeting Wednesday, several members of the UC community advocated for Election Day to be a UC-wide, noninstructional academic holiday, based on the assertion that coursework reinforces existing voting inequities. In further conversation surrounding inequity, some regents expressed concerns surrounding diversity within graduate programs such as a new Doctor of Pharmacy program at UC Irvine.

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At its virtual meeting Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents discussed allocations of state general funds and sustainable practices.

At the general board meeting, the regents discussed the UC system’s Annual Report on Sustainable Practices, focusing on how the UC system worked to reduce waste through reusing N95 masks or bulk purchases in the face of supply changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report on sustainable practices also prompted many UC community members to call for the UC system’s divestment from the Thirty Meter Telescope project.

“The UC’s impact extends beyond campus,” said campus undergraduate student Livia Jones-Solari at the meeting. “Sustainability is about how we can live in a way that protects rather than destroys life, how we can keep living. We cannot keep living by ignoring Indigenous voices.”

During public comment, several members of the UC community also advocated for Election Day to be a UC-wide, noninstructional academic holiday, voicing concerns that coursework reinforces existing voting inequities.

Following a closed session, the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee passed the external financing of $500 million in taxable bonds that will be available in February. The working capital created by these bonds will be used to help UC campuses stabilize during the ongoing pandemic.

The committee also debated the financial distribution tactic presented by UC Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom. State allocation of funds depends on each student’s discipline. Doctoral students will be weighted more than undergraduate students, Brostrom added.

“If you look in the health sciences and the cost of providing the faculty to do the teaching that is required for the accreditation, you’d actually find out that this funding falls well short of that,” said UC President Michael Drake. “These are extraordinarily complex issues.”

Regent George Kieffer suggested that a smaller group of regents come together to do an in-depth examination of the welfare of each campus.

The committee also moved forward the allocation of funds and approval of plans for UC Irvine’s Medical Center Irvine-Newport project. CEO of UC Irvine Health Chad Lefteris said the center is planned to have 140 beds with expansion space and reach Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold sustainable rank.

In a concurrent session with the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee approved Professional Degree Supplemental Tuition, or PDST, for a new Doctor of Pharmacy program at UC Irvine.

The Doctor of Pharmacy program “builds on the strategic direction of the campus to increase the impact of UC Irvine Health, expand graduate education in California and serve diverse communities statewide,” said UC Irvine Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Hal Stern at the meeting.

The approved PDST will support the start of the program by funding student financial aid, the hiring of faculty and staff and technology and other resources for students.

During the question period, some regents expressed a desire for the program to aim for stronger diversity targets.

“I recognize that this is a difficult major to diversify, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t reach higher,” said Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley at the meeting.

The item ultimately passed with an amendment stating that the diversity numbers in the program’s proposal are a “minimum” and that it will also incorporate aspirational numbers.

The Academic and Student Affairs Committee also saw four discussion items centering around student diversity and equity.

As part of the first discussion item, representatives from UC Irvine discussed the importance of mentoring programs in doctoral education as a way to reduce inequities among graduate students. UC Irvine Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate Division Gillian Hayes spoke in favor of expanding and increasing funding for these graduate mentor programs.

UC Irvine Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Michael Dennin also spoke to the Academic and Student Affairs Committee about the lessons learned so far from the COVID-19 pandemic about incorporating technology-enhanced learning to design “equitable classrooms.”

“I hope we’re never back to fall 2019,” Dennin said at the meeting. “I hope we go back to no concept of a single type of course.”

Following Dennin’s presentation, some regents raised concerns over the loss of accessibility gains during remote instruction when students return to in-person learning.

Student observer and UC Santa Cruz junior David Shevelev noted that certain aspects of remote instruction have allowed students with learning disabilities or work and family obligations to be much more successful academically.

“Will recordings and flexible attendance policies continue as the norm when we return to the classroom?” Shevelev said at the meeting. “Equity cannot be something that faculty simply opt into.”

Contact Catherine Hsu, Dina Katgara and Alexandra Feldman at [email protected].