The UC Board of Regents reconvened Thursday to further discuss university issues such as the ongoing academic workers’ strike, UCLA’s possible transition to the Big 10 and general community safety plans.
During a period of public comment, university students and faculty alike urged the regents to address the issue of unlivable wages for university academic workers and insufficient access to affordable student housing.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 president Kathryn Lybarger was one of several commenters who used the opportunity to discuss the grievances of academic workers and the ongoing universitywide strike.
“The UAW strike will end when you as the regents address the growing crisis of poverty on campus,” Lybarger said during the meeting. “We cannot afford to live on what you pay.”
UC Student Association president Alex Niles echoed the sentiment, calling for a properly funded staff at university-affiliated programs for disabled students. Niles further noted the important contributions of graduate student workers who are strained by financial uncertainty.
UC Graduate and Professional Council president Hayden Schill noted the ongoing concerns about graduate worker wages, adding that a failure to meet the basic needs of graduate student workers causes the entire UC system to suffer.
“Graduate students who come from minority and marginalized backgrounds, students who are parents, these are the people who suffer the most in (graduate) school if the UC fails to provide a living wage for their work,” Schill said during the meeting.
During the meeting, Associated Students at UC San Diego president Sky Yang also addressed the issue of inaccessible student housing, urging the regents to set a date for a four-year student housing guarantee at either individual campuses or throughout the UC system.
In the second session of the board meeting, the regents discussed UCLA’s potential transition from membership in the Pac-12 to membership in the Big 10. They emphasized the well-being of student athletes, and how they will be impacted should the shift occur. UC institutional research and academic planning vice president Pamela Brown presented survey data from student athletes at the meeting.
“We have a storied tradition of outstanding athletics, but (also) outstanding student athletes that have been leaders and have been very successful in athletics and beyond athletics,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block during the meeting. “We want to maintain that tradition of outstanding opportunities for students.”
Survey results revealed that when asked about the proposed move to the Big 10, 38% of student athletes responded that they would need more information while 35% thought it would be a good idea. It was noted that the survey had a 20% completion rate, with only 111 UCLA student athletes responding out of the more than 600 individuals it was emailed to.
Student regent-designate Marlenee Blas Pedral addressed the lack of respondents, noting that UCLA had only received feedback from four football players despite the decision impacting them the most.
UCLA’s Big 10 membership would result in a significant budget increase for UCLA’s athletics program and greater resources for improving student athlete experiences. Block noted that there would be an estimated $10 million increase in funding per year; the money would be allocated to services such as academic support, increased charter flights and improved nutritional options for athletes.
Block noted that students seem excited about the greater exposure and competition that would result from the transition. Regent chair Richard Leib announced that the regents will have a special meeting Dec. 14 at 2 p.m., to discuss the transition further.
Ongoing plans for university community safety were also discussed during the board meeting. UC President Michael Drake provided updates on the implementation of the community safety plan that was announced last August. He noted that campuses are in the process of introducing inclusive and tiered responses for community safety.
“We are making a philosophical change at a foundational level and we are understanding that we need to help destigmatize asking for help [and] reducing barriers to resources, especially in times of crisis for our students,” said UC Riverside assistant vice chancellor of well-being and safety Denise Woods.
Ananya Rupanagunta also contributed to this report.