The governing board of the University of California met for its March meeting via teleconference from Tuesday to Thursday. The Board of Regents discussed the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak and the use of standardized testing in admissions during the meeting.
Special Committee on Basic Needs
- Aidan Arasasingham, government relations committee chair of the UC Student Association and a third-year global studies student at UCLA, addressed the need to protect students from housing and food insecurity amid the COVID-19 crisis. He urged the UC to act on key basic needs interventions, such as paid administrative leave for UC workers and legal support for students who live off campus and want to leave campus but are unable to terminate their leases.
- Arasasingham added he thinks the UC should also ensure health care and Counseling and Psychological Services remain accessible to students.
- Pamela Brown, the vice president for Institutional Research and Academic Planning at the UC Office of the President, delivered a report on food and housing insecurity and academic results. Brown said students who reported food insecurities also said they have competing family responsibilities, feel depressed and are unable to focus on their work.
- Alumni Regent William Um proposed improving UC’s food pantries in response to the food insecurities caused by COVID-19. Um said the UC could allow its students to access food pantries on any of its campuses and potentially partner with other California universities to make more food pantries available to UC students.
- Nataly Morales, a graduate student at UC Riverside, and Clare Glavin, a third-year political science student at UCLA, said they are opposed to raising tuition. They said that tuition is already high and that, as a graduate student and out-of-state student, respectively, they do not receive enough financial aid. Regent Chair John Pérez announced he was removing the vote on the tuition increase from the regents’ agenda because of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
- Uriah Blackwell, a fourth-year African American studies and environmental science student at UCLA, and other activists and students called on the regents to divest from the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They argue that building the TMT will desecrate the sacred land of Mauna Kea and cause violence against the indigenous people who live there.
- Aidan Hill, a 2020 Berkeley mayoral candidate, asked the UC Regents not to build housing on People’s Park located in Berkeley. Maxina Ventura, a People’s Park activist, said the park is a historical site and is an open green space that can provide shelter for people in need and can be used as a meeting place in times of emergency.
- Liz Perlman, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, and Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME Local 3299, said they are planning to retrain workers to help in the health care system to aid in dealing with COVID-19. UC President Janet Napolitano said she and the UC Office of the President have been in discussion with union leaders about this idea.
- Paul Jenny, interim executive vice president and chief financial officer for the UC, said the UC is not currently planning to provide students enrolling for spring quarter refunds of mandatory fees and tuition. However, the UC will continue to assess the current rates of tuition, he added.
Compliance and Audit Committee
- The committee approved the external audit plan for the year ending June 30.
- Alexander Bustamante, senior vice president and chief compliance and audit officer at the UC Office of the President, and Matt Hicks, systemwide deputy audit officer, presented an update on the systemwide audit of admissions. The audit began its second phase Feb. 14. Its first phase sought to assess the admissions process and find gaps, and it resulted in 34 recommendations to further reduce the possibility of admissions fraud.
- The second phase of the audit found inadequate documentation for admissions decisions and approvals, insufficient efforts to verify application details, access to system data by those who were not pertinent to the process, and a lack of follow up with admissions via a centralized system, in particular with special talent admissions.
- Bustamante and Hicks plan to have implemented the corrective measures for phase two by July. The state audit on the matter is set to be released in August.
Public Engagement and Development Committee
- The committee recommended endorsement for UC Berkeley’s fundraising campaign, called Light the Way. The campaign will prioritize the creation of 100 new faculty positions, 300 graduate fellowships and various projects to enhance the undergraduate experience at UC Berkeley.
- The committee also recommended endorsement for a measure to authorize bonds to continue funding for stem cell research. If the measure is successful in collecting enough signatures, it will appear on the November ballot in California.
Academic and Student Affairs Committee
- The committee voted to defer its entire agenda to the May meeting since the chair was absent.
Finance and Capital Strategies Committee
- Paul Jenny, interim executive vice president and chief financial officer for the UC, called on each UC campus chancellor to consider ways to protect their universities from significant financial hardships that will likely come from an economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
- The committee discussed the possibility of expanding UC hospitals and allowing beds to be used for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in order to compensate for the currently limited hospital space in California.
- With the current state of financial turmoil, the committee decided to postpone decisions regarding funding for projects until its May meeting, choosing instead to focus on a plan of recovery for the UC following the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Audrey Dow, senior vice president of The Campaign for College Opportunity, said the organization is opposed to the continued use of the ACT and SAT in admissions decisions. She added that the tests only tell how much privilege or test preparation students have been able to afford.
- Christina Manzano, a doctoral student in the physics and astronomy department at UC Riverside, said she uses the telescopes on Mauna Kea in her research. However, she added that, as an astronomer, she does not think the Thirty Meter Telescope is essential for advancing science. She urged the regents to divest from the TMT project.
- Alex Vermie, a research analyst from Teamsters Local 2010, which represents about 12,000 UC workers, said the union welcomes UC President Janet Napolitano’s decision to provide two weeks of paid administrative leave to workers in light of the coronavirus outbreak. However, he added that the program needs to be expanded because the crisis is likely to last much longer than two weeks.
- UC Student Association President Varsha Sarveshwar, a fourth-year political science student at UC Berkeley, said the UC needs to prioritize the financial well-being of students during the COVID-19 outbreak by providing on-campus student workers with paid administrative leave and providing emergency loans and other financial support for students who have been laid off for off-campus work.
- Sarveshwar added that the UC needs to acknowledge that the abrupt shift to online learning is difficult. She said she doesn’t think it makes sense to continue with the A-F letter grading system, adding she believes the UC should allow students to switch classes to a pass/no pass grading option until the end of spring semester or quarter.
- Connor Strobel, president of the UC Graduate and Professional Council and a sociology doctoral student at UC Irvine, said graduate students’ research have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Strobel said many students cannot access labs or meet in person, and thus may not graduate on time. Strobel asked the UC to extend funding and housing guarantees for students who can demonstrate an impact on their research or an inability to progress toward their degrees.
- Michael Brown, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and Sylvia Hurtado, an education professor at UCLA, presented information about the UC’s history with admissions tests. Regent Michael Cohen suggested the board invite experts in the field to provide counteropinions on admissions tests when the board discusses the tests further at its May meeting.
- Student Regent Hayley Weddle said she hopes student leaders’ voices are considered in the regents’ decision-making process on admissions tests. She also requested that the regents hear data from institutions that have gone test-optional.
Contributing reports by Genesis Qu, Saumya Gupta, Marilyn Chavez-Martinez, Olivia Tran, Seth Freitas and Ellie Sherwood.