Costing a combined $229.2 million, plans to replace Evans Hall were approved by the UC Board of Regents Wednesday, along with plans to renovate UC Berkeley’s Bechtel Engineering Center.
The regents approved budgets of $136.8 million for the 78,000-square-foot Academic Replacement Building, which will partially replace the seismically deficient Evans Hall, and $92.4 million for a two-story addition to Bechtel. Much of the funding for the projects will come from state and philanthropic sources.
“Replacement of this building is one of the campus’s highest priorities,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ at the meeting. “This is a critically important investment to enhance the student experience and is necessary to support the academic success of a growing and increasingly diverse student body.”
The projects are intended to address deferred maintenance and seismic concerns in both buildings, according to Christ. The Academic Replacement Building, drawing high costs per square foot due to inflation and the number of proposed classrooms, will be fully electric to meet the requirements of the UC Policy on Sustainable Practices.
Construction is anticipated to begin summer 2023, with a planned timeline of two years.
In addition to approving funding, the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee also began preliminary discussions on its 2023-24 operating budget proposal. Key considerations included an increase in California resident undergraduate enrollment, expanding access, ensuring affordability and balancing operating and capital needs.
“The budget plan also needs to address UC faculty and staff compensation,” said David Alcocer, UC Office of the President, or UCOP, associate vice president of budget analysis and planning, at the meeting. “People-related costs are about two-thirds of our overall core budget, which is not surprising given how central a role people play in creating and transmitting knowledge in a safe and secure environment.”
The committee is expected to present its budget plan at the next regents meeting in November.
During the board’s public comment session, several individuals urged the university to set actionable plans to reduce carbon emissions and electrify campuses. Some said funding more climate change research will not help and highlighted the gap between the university’s research and policies.
Board chair Regent Richard Leib then outlined four focal points for the upcoming year: expand university capacity to accommodate 32,000 additional students using satellite campuses, increase access for first-generation and low-income students, improve climate change work and focus on the innovation, transfer and entrepreneurship sectors.
According to Leib, current work on climate change mitigation needs to increase to match the additional funding provided by the state for climate change research.
UC President Michael Drake added that access to health-related resources for students and vulnerable communities is a priority, along with COVID-19 protection policies.
“Staying up to date on flu and COVID vaccine remains the best protection we have against these diseases,” Drake said at the meeting. “We know the people who are unvaccinated, for example, are much more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die than those who receive at least a primary vaccination series.”
According to Drake, masking and vaccination levels on UC campuses are setting an example for the nation.
UC Academic Senate chair Susan Cochran noted the pandemic’s negative effects on faculty connectedness, retention and diversity. She added that a newly formed joint working group will make policy recommendations to remedy faculty-related issues moving forward.
“We need to rebuild an inclusive, supportive culture for both instruction and research excellence at the UC,” Cochran said at the meeting.
Leib then announced the resignation of Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley and the appointment of four new regents: Elaine Batchlor, Carmen Chu, Ana Matosantos and UC Berkeley Foundation Board of Trustees member Mark Robinson.
During the Public Engagement and Development Committee meeting, associate vice president for UC federal governmental relations Chris Harrington gave updates on federal bills that may affect UC campuses. Harrington noted that President Biden’s student debt relief plan will provide up to $20,000 in debt relief to federal Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for others with federal government loans.
Harrington added that students are well positioned to take advantage of this plan as the university holds their FAFSA information and is working to ensure that debt relief information is widely available.
State legislation of note followed, with UC associate vice president and director for state governmental relations Kieran Flaherty giving information on bills the university supports surrounding reproductive rights. The university has requested signatures on five bills supporting reproductive rights, including a bill that could prevent law enforcement from arresting or participating in the arrest of anyone performing or obtaining an abortion in the state.
“We weren’t just out there making some sort of symbolic statement,” Flaherty said during the meeting. “We were really able to identify how this impacts the university, our providers and our patients.”
Flaherty also brought up a budget trailer bill that the state legislature passed for higher education, which allocates $389 million for affordable student housing. According to Flaherty, $100 million of this will be allocated to campus.
The Academic and Student Affairs Committee discussed various programs relating to transfer students, academic opportunities for freshmen and UC involvement in state-driven efforts against climate change.
During the meeting, regents accepted the CCC-UC Transfer Task Force’s final report, which aims to strengthen post-secondary transfer to a UC school specifically from a California Community College, or CCC. The report includes a series of recommendations addressing increased educational access, better data usage and more robust financial aid.
“The recommendations are certainly not exhaustive of the work that might be done to improve transfer from the CCC to UC, but they do include targeted and realistic actions that both institutions can take to better facilitate and support students,” said Michael Brown, provost and executive vice president for UC academic affairs. “There’s never been a greater opportunity for California to be a national model for inclusive success of transfer students.”
The committee also discussed transfer and freshmen pilot programs, such as the UC Dual Admission pilot program, which allows freshmen who have not completed their UC admissions requirements to apply simultaneously to CCC with conditional admission to a UC campus. The LIFTED program, a collaboration with prisons and community colleges to offer a bachelor’s degree to students transferring from state prisons to UC campuses as juniors, was also highlighted.
The committee eventually pivoted to discuss the $100 million climate action research state grant program led by Theresa Maldonado, UC vice president for research and innovation.
“When you look at all of (the UC campuses) collectively, the expertise is rich. From science and engineering, economics, policy, education and so on,” Maldonado said at the meeting. “We also collectively have unique facilities and test beds that we could leverage … to look at solutions to address climate change.”
The regents rounded out the day’s meetings with the Governance Committee’s discussions on salary increases and hiring diversity. After approving a pay raise for the deputy laboratory director for operations and chief operating officer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the committee heard a presentation on diversity in systemwide executive searches.
The proportion of woman-identifying, racially and ethnically diverse candidates rose by 5% over the past two years, according to the report. Regent John Pérez noted the poor representation of Latinx candidates in the recruitment pool, criticizing how the low numbers can still be “characterized as an improvement.”
The September regents meeting will conclude tomorrow with committee reports to the board and a joint committee meeting that will hear a campus update from Christ.
Lily Button, Vani Suresh, Rae Wymer, Ananya Rupanagunta, Maria Young and Aditya Katewa contributed to this report.