On its final day of virtual meetings this week, the UC Board of Regents discussed university donations, alternatives to college entrance exams and the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As discussed during the Public Engagement and Development Committee meeting, the UC system received a total of $2.9 billion in donations over the past fiscal year, according to UC Office of the President, or UCOP, Senior Vice President of External Relations and Communications Claire Holmes. Almost half of this money was given in support of health sciences and medicine at UC medical centers and campuses.
John Cash, Marts & Lundy consultant, noted that the majority of donations are restricted to research and department support, and less than 8% of the money was donated for student support. He added that just more than 8% of the donations are to campus improvement efforts.
“Many people are under the impression that donors love to give to buildings, that’s really not true,” Cash said at the meeting. “Raising capital dollars is very, very challenging.”
As for UC Berkeley, Vice Chancellor for University Development and Alumni Relations Julie Hooper reported that $4.1 billion has been raised in the “Light the Way” campaign, which launched last year and aims to raise $6 billion.
The “Light the Way” campaign aims to raise $400 million in scholarship support, according to UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ.
“Often our graduate students really suffer from shortages in basic needs, and a robust graduate scholarship program is essential in both being competitive for the best graduate students and making sure their needs are well attended,” Christ said at the meeting.
Christ added that UC Berkeley has received two philanthropic housing gifts — one that will fund an apartment house for graduate students, and one for a transfer student resident hall.
During the public comment portion of the general board meeting, several called upon the UC system to withdraw involvement from the Thirty Meter Telescope project and make Election Day a noninstructional academic holiday.
In the Compliance and Audit Committee meeting, Alexander Bustamante, the UCOP chief compliance and audit officer and senior vice president and chief, presented the Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services annual report.
“Our continued vigilance on cybersecurity issues is of importance,” Bustamante said during the meeting. “I think foreign influence is one, as I’ve flagged in the report, and also the COVID-related issues, as well. It’s just a changing regulatory landscape, and we just need to stay on top of it.”
Bustamante added that there has been an increase in workplace harassment reports, which indicates the public is aware of the university’s communication systems.
During the afternoon board meeting, the regents discussed the aftermath of their decision to suspend the use of the ACT and SAT in UC admissions until 2024. A committee was formed in May to examine three options: create a new admissions test, leverage another existing test or cease using standardized testing entirely.
The committee concluded that developing a new test is not feasible within the time frame, but the Smarter Balanced assessment, which is already taken by all public school students in California, could be modified into a useful admissions tool.
UCOP Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Brown stressed that no concrete plan currently exists. If the modified Smarter Balanced test is deemed viable after further research, the UC system will decide on how to use it, if at all.
Some representatives from the committee expressed the desire to create a “low stakes” assessment, which could determine eligibility for the UC system as a whole, but not for individual campuses.
“We want to try to create avenues into the university that are not biased against certain subgroups, certain populations within us,” said UC President Michael Drake at the meeting. “And I think this assessment is a part of that.”
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Carrie Byington, executive vice president of UC Health, presented an array of statistics and stressed the importance of pandemic safety as vaccine distribution continues.
All UC campuses are in counties with COVID-19 rates classified as “widespread,” and Byington said the health department is working to make it safe for students to return to campus.
Byington recommended people wear two masks when indoors, a surgical mask below and a cloth mask above and add a face shield in situations where it is difficult to maintain distance.
At the end of the meeting, the board honored the contributions of Regent George Kieffer and Regent Charlene Zettel, who are retiring from the board when their 12-year terms expire March 1.