The UC Board of Regents kicked off its first day of meetings Wednesday at UCSF Mission Bay to discuss topics including climate change goals, budgeting and the recent Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The day began with a full board meeting, which included about an hour of public comment. Stakeholders were given the opportunity to address various issues online and in person, including campus decarbonization and access to affordable healthcare for UC workers.
Among the speakers was UC Berkeley senior James Weichert, university affairs chair for the UC Student Association, who expressed his concerns about how the Roe v. Wade decision would impact UC students.
“I strongly urge the regents to act quickly to safeguard access to abortions for all UC students,” Weichert said at the meeting. “In particular, I want to draw attention to out-of-state students, who may now face legal prosecution in their home state for seeking reproductive healthcare services here in California.”
After public comment, the regents voted on Merhawi Tesfai, a first year doctoral student in social welfare at UCLA, as the next student regent.
During the committee meeting for Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services, or ECAS, committee Senior Vice President and chief compliance and audit officer Alexander Bustamante opened with a summary of agenda items. The items included approval of the Compliance Plan and Internal Audit Plan for fiscal year 2022-23.
“It is important we focus our limited resources on the highest risks throughout the system,” Bustamante said at the meeting. “This requires ECAS to perform risk assessments with its auditing compliance partners throughout the system to identify the high-risk areas.”
According to Matt Hicks, an ECAS systemwide deputy audit officer, the audit plan is composed of more than 300 internal projects. Hicks emphasized that the plan includes processes to review admissions decisions with conflicts of interest, cybersecurity controls and ongoing implementation of previous audit recommendations.
Additionally, ECAS chief of staff Irene Levintov outlined five areas of the Compliance Plan, including export control, research, healthcare, privacy and general compliance. In the plan, ECAS identified high-risk issues that it hopes to address.
Following the presentation, UC regent Hadi Makarechian questioned how ECAS would better implement the internal auditing process. He noted that in the past, sexual misconduct and cybersecurity issues had gone unaddressed, causing an excess of half a billion dollars spent on damages.
Bustamante responded by stating the investigations process will be streamlined in the future, echoing an earlier statement made by systemwide director of investigations Molly Theodossy regarding how the investigations committee will replace “policy verbiage” with plain language explanations for people to report incidents.
During the Public Engagement and Development Committee meeting, the board discussed community service and engagement programs involving the University of California.
Charles Nies, vice chancellor for student affairs at UC Merced, presented positive results from the 2020-22 UC Merced pilot program of the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps. According to Nies, the program aims to open debt-free pathways for UC students by providing them with meaningful work in education, food security or climate justice.
California’s chief service officer Josh Fryday called the program a “win-win-win-win,” stating that students, universities, communities and the state of California all stand to benefit from the college corps. Nies reported that the students’ efforts have surpassed initial goals, and Fryday noted that with “national eyes” on the program, it has just received approval for additional funding through 2026.
“We created this College Corps with the idea and the vision that higher education really can be and should be at the very center of this broad vision for our entire state,” Fryday said at the meeting.
The Finance and Capital Strategies Committee unanimously approved the interim financing for the construction of The Gateway, campus’s new academic building.
While the construction remains in campus’s budget, Chancellor Carol Christ advocated for an increase in funding due to inflation of construction costs. According to Christ, The Gateway’s current budget of $550 million will be fully funded by donations, but needs $230 million in financing by the UC system until all remaining donations are made.
The 2022-23 state budget update presented historically high levels of investment with more than $1.1 billion in new investments and $360 million in permanent funds and enrollment growth funding.
“By any standard (it is) an extraordinarily successful budget outcome with a really remarkable degree of alignment between what the Regents requested and what the administration and the legislature ultimately approved,” said Nathan Brostrom, UC executive vice president and chief financial officer.
Included in $754.2 million worth of one-time investments was an initial $83 million investment, the first part of a three-year investment in campus’s clean energy project.
Enrollment funding reached almost $100 million, including $16.3 million in recognition of UC enrollment growth that has outpaced recent budgets. An amount of $31 million was provided to offset the reduction of nonresident enrollment at Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego campuses, and $51.5 million was dedicated to enrollment growth in 2022-23. The reduction of nonresident enrollment is projected to be part of a multiyear plan to reduce nonresident enrollment to 18%.
The Academic and Student Affairs Committee members unanimously approved a measure amending Regents Policy 2110 on augmented review in undergraduate admissions.
The amendment would codify the removal of standardized testing from the admissions requirements for entrance into the UC system. Furthermore, it will combine seven separate policies on admissions into one Regents Policy on undergraduate admissions.
In addition, two provisions were added that would ensure that non-California residents who are admitted to the UC system have, on average, a higher level of academic achievement than resident students.
In a review of a report on undergraduate admissions, the chair of the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools Madeleine Sorapure reported key findings that demonstrated a 13% increase in total applications in 2021.
“In 2021, UC also admitted more California residents than ever before,” Sorapure said. “The increase in applications in 2021 may be partly attributable to the elimination of standardized tests.”
She added that 16.2% of California high school graduates were admitted, which exceeded the state’s mandate that the UC system should enroll students from the top 12.5% of state high school graduates. The report further found that the 2021 cycle represented the highest enrollment ever of first-generation, underrepresented and low-income students, with each of these communities representing more than a third of the total student-body population.
The report also found that transfer applications and graduation rates were at their highest levels ever.
During discussion of the 51% yield rate for admitted students, UC regent Lark Park questioned what the academic senate is doing to raise the rates for Black and Indigenous applicants. Sorapure and faculty representative Robert Horwitz emphasized that such programs are mostly specific to campus.
However, UCLA director of undergraduate admissions Gary Clark proposed that the senate may pressure faculty to run more individual programs to raise this yield rate.
“We do coordinate programs for our admitted students from underrepresented backgrounds and have programs where our faculty on campus help to coordinate programming for admitted students and their families,” Clark said at the meeting. “I just want to reinforce how extraordinarily helpful that is.”
Amber X. Chen, Kavya Gupta, Lance Roberts, Chanyoung Chung and Rae Wymer contributed to this report.