In a set of Wednesday meetings that began with a full public commentary session, the UC Board of Regents reviewed incoming budget updates, heard comments on development projects and assessed academic equity.
During the board’s open session, several members of the public spoke in favor of the UC Davis California Hospital Tower project, saying it could improve patient outcomes and increase patient privacy.
“Having the UC Davis Hospital Tower project move forward will ensure that health equity is advanced,” said Executive Vice President of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council Scott Powell during the meeting. “This project is an improvement for the entire Sacramento regional healthcare infrastructure.”
UC President Michael Drake acknowledged the continuing COVID-19 crisis, a topic UC Academic Senate chair Robert Horwitz discussed in terms of increasing help for instructors and students.
Horwitz said the university response to COVID-19 was not adequate for those with families.
“Faculty soldiering on are as tired as everyone is,” Horwitz said during the meeting. “UC faculty have no sick days. We have no substitute teachers except friends and colleagues who we can call on for a favor.”
Horwitz urged the regents to extend understanding to faculty, administrators and staff who continue to run the university.
During the regents’ Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting, the committee members reflected on the importance of “principles of transfer-receptive culture.”
“One example is providing transfer students with research opportunities once they are admitted to UC,” said UC Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Brown at the meeting. “If they are to graduate in another two years, they don’t have the same period of time to find their way to faculty and find their way to research opportunities.”
Shawn Brick, executive director of student financial support, noted major state investments expanding the Cal Grant for UC transfer students.
Committee members then reaffirmed the UC system’s commitment to supporting undocumented students and examined the university’s progress as both a Hispanic and minority-serving research institution.
“In the last 10 years, eight UCs are already among the top 25 producers of Latinx undergraduates who go on to earn Ph.D.s in science and engineering,” said Sylvia Hurtado, professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
The committee concluded its discussion with a review of the support for students with disabilities, which has recently been criticized at UC Berkeley, expressing its excitement for a new systemwide work group reviewing these practices.
Following discussions of various housing and health-centered projects, the regents turned to revise their own policy at the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting.
The amendment to Regents Policy 5309 would create a Zero Interest Supplemental Home Loan Program to assist with down payments that many are unable to provide.
“As a chancellor, one of the hardest things that we have to do is to find ways to support, particularly, a down payment and this proposal would be an enormous benefit,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood. “It gives us just another tool in the toolbox to recruit and retain exceptional faculty.”
The committee concluded its meeting by taking a look at California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s January budget proposal for 2022-23.
According to Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the UC system, the proposed budget allocates $21.8 billion to higher education expenditures. Of that, $490.3 million will support core UC operations and undergraduate enrollment growth, offset the funding losses from the reduction of nonresident students and support students who were formerly foster youth and UC climate resilience and research.
“The governor’s blueprint for California is very good news for educational access, equity and opportunity,” Drake said. “His priorities reflect our shared commitment to expanding the impact of the University of California on all of California.”
The Public Engagement and Development Committee meeting opened with guest speaker CA State Sen. Bill Dodd.
Dodd expressed the importance of the relationship between the UC system and the state Legislature, adding that the Legislature already looks to the UC for guidance in the areas of “wildfire research, water and drought, transportation and technology.”
“These are things that we have got to be looking to our higher education systems to really get the unbiased type of research that we need to make these incredibly important policy decisions,” Dodd said.
Following the conversation with Dodd, Vice President for National Laboratories Craig Leasure said UC national laboratories support the national security of the United States and contribute to the nation’s global competitiveness, pointing to important projects fielded by the laboratories such as the Human Genome Project.
Anna Armstrong, Sebastian Cahill, Aditya Katewa and Veronica Roseborough contributed to this report.