UC regents discuss initiatives, academic accommodations

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Caroline Lobel/Staff
Throughout multiple meetings, the UC Board of Regents met to discuss various topics, including campus accommodations and potential programs.

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In multiple meetings Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents discussed finances, accommodations and new initiatives, among other topics.

The first meeting of the day, which included public comments from UC community members, multiple members of the Teamsters Local 2010 union, including workers in the UC system, requested that workers be able to work remotely, receive higher essential pay and be compensated for rising gas prices, among other things.

Regents and attendees also heard remarks from the co-chair of the board Rich Lieb, UC President Michael Drake and Academic Senate Chair Robert Horwitz. Both Drake and Lieb acknowledged the death of former regent Richard Blum and the retirement of former Regent Cecilia Estolano.

During his statement to the board, Horwitz acknowledged burnout present in many members of the university, and warned against conflict that threatened to “unravel social contracts” at UC schools. Specifically, Horwitz cautioned against pushing for entirely dual-modality instruction, which would allow for students to be taught fully online while others are present in class.

Horwitz said while disabled students should be able to receive the accommodations they needed, these accommodations should be considered on a case-by-case basis, not made available to everyone. He also stated the dual-modality structure would place heavy work on already thinly stretched faculty members.

“If campuses want to do (dual modality) they need to provide resources and hire more faculty,” Horwitz said during the meeting. “Otherwise, they are diverting people hired to do research, and teach and public service engagement in favor of time-consuming instruction alone.”

Afterward, the Compliance and Audit Committee met to discuss the Internal Audit Activities Report. During the discussion, systemwide deputy audit officer Matt Hicks and systemwide cybersecurity audit director Greg Loge suggested that all campuses are still in the implementation phase of the university security policy.

Multiple regents then asked for a more in-depth discussion at a later meeting that would allow them to address issues in individual campuses’ execution of the cybersecurity plan. At the meeting’s end, the External Audit Plan for the year ending in June 2022 was approved.

The Public Engagement and Development Committee meeting followed, where the regents discussed the Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, which, if passed, would appoint two students to the Board of Regents as voting members, instead of just one. 

“A second student regent would allow for additional committee participation by students … and an additional student could provide additional differing perspectives to the board,” said Associate Vice President for State Governmental Relations Kieran Flaherty during the meeting.

Flaherty said the bill is currently awaiting action on the Assembly floor, having unanimously passed the Senate on Jan. 26.

Associate Vice President for Federal Governmental Relations Chris Harrington provided federal updates regarding fiscal years 2022 and 2023. This included a $400 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, which is the largest increase in Pell Grants in a decade and adds to its effort of making the maximum award total $13,000, according to Harrington.

Harrington added that nearly all of the university’s financial priorities will see increases in fiscal year 2022, with funding allocated to agencies who are of “critical importance” to the university, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Harrington said his team is looking at fiscal year 2023 to develop the university’s priorities, expecting to bring them to Capitol Hill in the next few weeks.

During the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ asked the regents to approve funding for campus’s proposal to construct the Gateway New Academic Building.

The building would support campus’s growing Division of Computing, Data Science and Society, or CDSS, department.

“This space would facilitate collaborations to advance the campus’s signature initiatives particularly around innovative solutions for society’s great challenges including ethical artificial intelligence, technical innovation, environmental sustainability, public health and social justice,” Christ said during the meeting.

According to Christ, campus has $321 million gifted or pledged to date for the CDSS project, with $250 million coming from a single donor — one of the largest gifts ever to be given to campus.

After the item was approved by the committee, the UC regents discussed the actual expenditures and forecast for the second quarter of the UC Office of the President, or UCOP.

UCOP anticipates that the office will run 4% under budget, catching up from its current status of being about 18% under budget. UCOP added that it expects higher expenditures during the second half of the year.

The Academic and Student Affairs Committee then met to approve four different multiyear plans for professional degree supplemental tuition, or PDST, to four graduate programs. The proposals were from public health at UC Berkeley, Joint Medical Program at UC Berkeley and UCSF, law at UCLA and business at UC Riverside.

Both proposals from UC Berkeley will maintain the same amount of money as the last PDST, given the financial effects that COVID-19 left students and their families with.

Michael Lu, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, elaborated on the financial growth of the UC Berkeley programs, stating that they generated $4 million in PDST last year. He also mentioned that while PDST is vital to maintain the program, the school is more financially stable than it was three years ago.

Both Regent Lark Park and Regent Gareth Elliott questioned Lu over the diversity decline in the program, curious over what the program seeks to do differently from the previous three years. Lu responded saying the program has different leadership and more commitment to achieving diversity.

“At the end of the day, the result is what counts and that is what we are holding ourselves accountable for,” Lu said at the meeting. “We are committed over the next few years to really make the effort to improve our diversity into our faculty as well as our students.”

The Governance Committee concluded the day by approving retention compensation, or payment to incentivize top talent to remain with the university, for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory director Michael Witherell.

Contact Dhoha Bareche, Lily Button, Sebastian Cahill, Claire Judson, Kai Lock and Rina Rossi at [email protected].