The UC Board of Regents kicked off its second day of meetings Wednesday on UCLA’s campus to discuss topics concerning academic affairs, governance, equity and public engagement.
The day started with a full board meeting, which included a 30-minute public comment period. Stakeholders were given time to express concerns, either in person or remotely, on a variety of subjects including nurses’ contracts at UCLA, the UC system’s war-related investments and low admissions rates across several of the UC campuses.
Among the speakers was UC Berkeley senior, university affairs chair for the UC Student Association and campus Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert, who spoke about academic burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are at risk of losing so many students to burnout and to drop out if the UC doesn’t adapt its policies to promote a more healthy school life balance,” Weichert said during the meeting. “Our current path doesn’t promote academic excellence; it promotes academic exhaustion.”
To finalize the first meeting of the day, the regents heard remarks from UC President Michael Drake, who spoke about the passing of former UC Santa Cruz chancellor and campus professor emeritus Karl Pister. Drake also spoke about maintaining comprehensive reproductive healthcare and abortion services for students in light of the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The Public Engagement and Development Committee met next to discuss philanthropic support, campus foundations and alumni engagement.
“Each of our campuses has an associated foundation that’s dedicated to the advancement of the campus and has a mission to promote philanthropy,” said Heather Kopeck, UC Office of the President director of development policy and advancement relations, during the meeting. “Campuses have really made concerted efforts to focus on student support.”
According to incoming chair and trustee of the UC Berkeley Foundation Board Bettina Duval, the UC Berkeley Foundation is focused on recruiting younger and more diverse trustees. Duval added that the foundation is on track to surpass its $6 billion goal for the year, and noted the top three categories for where donations go are student support, academic support and faculty support.
Patricia Nguyen, director of systemwide alumni engagement, introduced the alumni-focused discussion to the committee. Nguyen emphasized the importance of alumni, but also noted the potential for the UC system to better support the younger and more diverse alumni community.
“UC has an opportunity to approach alumni engagement differently, flexing our innovative and equity-minded spirit,” Nguyen said during the meeting. “Today’s presentation offers an invitation to think deeper and differently about how we engage our alumni and the role of our 10 alumni associations.”
Members of alumni associations from UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and UC San Diego agreed, noting the importance of building meaningful relationships with alumni and answering regent questions.
The committee ended with a brief update on state-governmental relations from Kieran Flaherty, associate vice president of UCOP State Governmental Relations, who emphasized strong state revenues and “aggressive” goals for education.
The Academic and Student Affairs Committee began its meeting by approving amendments to the UC system’s undergraduate financial aid policy.
Among the reforms included an emphasis on part-time work, rather than taking out loans, as a pathway for students to pay their cost of attendance.
“I applaud these efforts in attempting to make sure that students minimize their loan debt as they graduate, because it sets the students back in life,” said UC Regent Jose Hernandez during the meeting. “It was five years before I was able to plan for buying a house, plan for retirement, all these things because I wanted to get student debt out.”
Following the action items, the committee discussed its status report on the Advancing Faculty Diversity program, or AFD.
According to Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Programs at the Office of the President Susan Carlson, 33.6% of the AFD hires made since the program’s launch were members of underrepresented groups, compared to 18.7% of total hires. She noted that all of the AFD hires brought a “demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The committee also discussed how the UC system could best support first-generation college students, who make up two-fifths of the total undergraduate population.
John Matsui, the co-founder of the Biology Scholars Program, spoke on how the program avoids a “one-size-fits-all” approach on navigating UC Berkeley to encourage first-generation students to think differently about managing their success.
The meeting concluded with a review of the final report produced by the Mitigating COVID-19 Impacts on Faculty Working Group. The report proposed five recommendations for UC campuses to implement and sustain over the next five years to support faculty through challenges they have faced during the pandemic.
“I am really grateful that there’s been so much proactive work going into this,” said UC Regent Lark Park during the meeting. “I don’t think we thank our faculty enough for the heroism in trying to keep things together for students.”
During the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee meeting, the regents discussed projects and long range development plans for several UC campuses, the fiscal year 2022-23 UCOP budget and the UC system’s debt policy.
Among the approved projects includes the Ocean Road Housing Project at UC Santa Barbara. UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said this project would add 540 “critically needed” for-rent and for-sale units to faculty and staff. UC Regent Richard Leib emphasized the need to put “conditions on the development regarding affordability” as negotiations continue.
UC Davis Chancellor Gary May presented the proposed Sacramento Ambulatory Surgery Center, or SASC, advocating that the development would address a shortage of operating surgery capacity.
“The project will meet four primary objectives for us: moving outpatient surgical cases from the main hospital to free up inpatient resources, enhancing ambulatory surgery capacity to accommodate existing demand and expected growth, enabling expansion of complex surgical lines and therapies and, finally, enhancing patient experience,” May said during the meeting.
David Lubarsky, vice chancellor of human health services and chief executive officer of UC Davis Health, said construction on the 262,000-square-foot center will begin in October and is scheduled to open in March 2025. According to Lubarsky, the center will consist of 12 major operating rooms, five minor procedure rooms, 60 prep recovery bays, a 23-hour stay unit and seven outpatient clinics.
For the Kresge College Non-Academic project at UC Santa Cruz, which seeks to upgrade and provide more campus housing, Chancellor Cynthia Larive requested from the regents an additional $28.5 million, which is 14% of the current project budget.
UC San Francisco Chancellor Sam Hawgood sought the regents’ approval for a new 875,000-square-foot hospital at the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center, the renovation of existing space and the demolition of the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute to make way for the new hospital. The budget for the new hospital and the renovations is over $4 billion.
“My hope … is that we find ways to even make a fraction of that investment in places like Merced or Riverside that desperately need the same kind of medical support,” said UC Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley during the meeting.
Pradeep Khosla, chancellor at UC San Diego, provided updates on rental rates for the Pepper Canyon West Housing project, noting that its rates were 33% below market within a three-mile radius of campus and 25% below market for all neighborhoods.
UCOP’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022-23 is $1.035 billion, a 2.9% increase from the previous year. This change is due to the systemwide program investments, in order to enhance the pension administration system and the Retirement Administration Service Center.
“This budget proposal is fiscally conservative and reflects the priorities of UCOP and the campuses,” said UC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rachael Nava during the meeting.
The regents rounded out the day with the Governance Committee addressing the future of in-person meetings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leib said it is important for certain people, particularly those making presentations, to be physically present at board meetings. He noted how presenting over Zoom can become “awkward” and make it difficult for the audience to interact or start discussions.
“People should be here unless they’re not central to the discussion,” Leib said during the meeting. “Sitting here, listening to people make full presentations and they’re doing it on Zoom, is just not the right way to go.”
While other regents agreed with Leib, UC Regent Jonathan Sures raised the question of what would happen in the case of another wave of COVID-19 cases. Drake responded and noted that any policy would take the pandemic into consideration.
Committee members then turned to the topic of attendance for regents and advisors. Leib said there should be an expectation for regents to attend meetings in person unless they had a clear medical excuse.
“If someone is just not interested in coming because of concerns of COVID but they’re not suffering from COVID or anything like that, it seems to me we should try to have people here,” Leib said during the meeting.
Anna Armstrong, Aditya Katewa, Aileen Wu, Vani Suresh and Zachary Khouri contributed to this story.