The UC Board of Regents convened Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss funding and investments, listen to wage concerns, address mandatory compliance training and more.
The Investments Committee met Tuesday and began with a public comment period, during which union workers discussed concerns regarding poor allocation and living conditions.
Kathryn Lybarger, President of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME 3299, emphasized campus staff vacancies and said the low pay does not attract workers. She further alleged that many workers are not able to afford housing, leaving them deprived of “basic living standards.”
“Today, out of about a thousand service workers at Cal, only 100 can afford to live near campus,” Lybarger said. “That’s just 10%. Nearly 70% of our members can’t afford a one bedroom near where they work.”
Lybarger said Regent dollars should be used to pay UC workers, instead of investing in allegedly “speculative real estate industry,” particularly referencing UC relationships with Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, Inc., or BREIT.
Several other community members also urged the committee to stop Blackstone, and to “invest in” UC workers instead.
Several community members also discussed labor conflicts at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort, which is owned by the UC Pension Fund, according to Unite Here Local 11.
According to worker Jose Preciado, some workers have been working at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort for 10 to 30 years, still allegedly earning only $22 an hour. He explained how rent is too high around the Orange County area, making it difficult to afford housing. He hopes for a contract with livable wages.
“We cannot anymore afford the luxury of living in the communities where we work,” Preciado said in Spanish. “We don’t have time for our families anymore since we have sometimes a two hour one-way commute to go to work.”
Chief Investment Officer and Vice President for Investments Jagdeep Singh Bachher later explained areas of investment that the committee will focus on.
He mentioned that the committee has $163 billion in assets as of Tuesday’s market.
Major future investing concerns, he noted, include artificial intelligence, climate change and deglobalization.
Regents committees continued discussions at UCLA on Wednesday.
During the board’s open session, United Auto Workers, or UAW, academic workers brought concerns of allegedly late and incomplete payments for graduate student workers following last fall’s strike.
According to Gwenevere Frank, a graduate student at UC San Diego, they and 60 other colleagues are now being allegedly threatened with expulsion after protesting underpayments and late wages.
UC still owes Frank $9,000 in late wages, they alleged. UC workers also expressed complaints about low wages.
“I’m living check to check to check,” said Tabetha Jones, a worker at UCLA. “I cannot live on this salary. The average cost of living near UC campuses is higher.”
The Academic and Student Affairs Committee, which also convened Wednesday, began with a discussion on climate action initiatives, focusing on UC projects funded by the 2022 state budget, which devoted $100 million to climate action research, according to committee provost and executive vice president Katherine Newman.
Twelve UC locations received grant money, as well as the Collaboration of Native Nations for Climate Transformation and Stewardship, or CNNCTS, who will use it to promote indigenous involvement in climate adaptation efforts.
The committee then turned to discuss educator workforce crisis in state K-12 systems.
The university is working on the expansion of programs to address the issue, including teacher residency programs and statewide teaching credential pathways, according to Tina Christie, Dean of the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies.
“We are deeply committed to ensuring that California’s public school children are in classrooms with highly qualified and diverse educators so that they may become our next generation of UC students and scholars,” Christie said.
The university’s 2030 capacity plan hopes to add 23,000 more students by the end of the decade, Newman said.
The committee meeting concluded with a presentation by Rolin Moe, executive director of UC Online, about UC partnering with the National Education Equity Lab to provide online college courses to high school students.
The Compliance and Audit committee met later Wednesday to discuss a series of issues on campuses regarding mandatory training compliances with a focus on UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and UC Los Angeles.
Mandatory trainings include ethics and compliance briefing for researchers, sexual violence and sexual harassment trading for staff and supervisors, as well as cybersecurity awareness, according to Alexander Bustamante, senior vice president and chief compliance and audit officer for UC. He added that out of all 10 campuses, the three campuses present had the lowest compliance rates.
Sharon Inkelas, campus’s special faculty advisor to the chancellor on campus welfare, said the main focus for campus has been shifting back to a “pre-pandemic” culture where mandatory training was an “unquestioned part of the job.”
As of September 2023, only 88% of campus employees are compliant, Inkelas said. To improve this rate, she noted plans to make compliance training a prerequisite to benefits such as sabbaticals and leadership positions.
Inkelas also addressed campus efforts to work with students and establish staff training around disability accommodations, adding that there have been instances of “misunderstanding” among faculty and staff over accommodations.
The committee also discussed updates to the UC community safety plan. UC-wide director of the safety plan Jody Stiger noted that all campuses will establish police accountability boards by the end of 2023.
The Governance Committee, which ended Wednesday’s meetings, began with the approval of the closed session minutes, as well as the appointment of a new UC executive vice president of health, David Rubin, who will receive a starting salary of $960,000. A hiring bonus of $192,000 was also approved.
The committee also approved the amendment of the senior management group outside professional activities, requiring group members to report on activities with non-U.S. entities, even when not compensated.
The committee closed the meeting with approval of the dates for the 2025 Regents meeting.