Isla Vista Beat Reporter
The University of California Board of Regents held the final session of its monthly meeting at UC San Francisco on May 21 to discuss matters such as the California state budget and student food security, as well as hear testimonies on issues such as mistreatment of subcontracted workers and gun divestment.
The board spent much of the session reviewing Governor Jerry Brown’s latest revision of the California state budget. The revision dictates a two-year freeze on UC tuition for in-state students, while it reserves the right to increase tuition for out-of-state students by up to 8 percent for those two years.
Despite the freeze, student service fees are set to increase by five percent for the 2015-2016 school year and each year thereafter, to fund increased mental health services and other unspecified programs on all 10 campuses. Furthermore, the UC will receive base budget increases of four percent annually over the next four years, which is expected to culminate in a total $507 million increase in state appropriations by 2019.
One point of contention during budget negotiations was the Regents’ proposed enrollment of 10,000 additional students, an objective the state refused to fund. The finalized budget should be signed by the governor by the start of July.
The board has created a new transfer plan as part of the budgetary framework as well. Transfer “pathways” will be created for the top 20 most popular majors across the UC system, each designating specific courses for community college students to enroll in to better ensure their successful transfer to a UC in the major of their choice.
Additionally, over the next year the Regents plan to decrease unit requirements for the top 10 majors on UC campuses to encourage more students to complete their degrees in three years. As a result of these adjustments, by the 2017-2018 school year the board projects that one-third of incoming UC students will be transfers from community colleges. The framework is part of UC President Janet Napolitano’s UC Community College Transfer Initiative.
Another topic of central focus was Napolitano’s UC Global Food Initiative. Three student co-chairs of the GFI Food Pantries and Food Security Subcommittee presented to the board on this matter, highlighting food security problems in the UC system alone that UC Student Regent and subcommittee co-chair Sadia Saifuddin claims often force students—herself included—into such dire financial choices as purchasing a textbook instead of a meal. She cited 1,300 unique visits to the UC Berkeley food pantry as evidence to this end.
“As students enter our campuses, we don’t realize that this is a problem, because we think that as soon as you enter the university, you have a certain amount of privilege so that you are not suffering from food insecurity or homelessness,” Saifuddin said. “But that’s not true. We have students who come from all walks of life.”
Saifuddin and her fellow co-chairs proposed several systemwide reforms to address the problem of student food security for both current and future generations. Firstly, they called the Regents to repackage financial aid packages to prioritize student basic needs, housing, and food security, as opposed to strictly academic costs. They furthermore recommended the implementation of campus food development centers to ensure continuance of their efforts, and requested that any partnerships with private entities necessary to fund the project be forged only with businesses that uphold values of sustainability and affordability.
“The first thing to do is eradicate stigma around poverty and homelessness, so our students can feel as if they belong at the UC, regardless of where they come from or what challenges they face in life,” Saifuddin said.
During the public comment portion earlier in the meeting, UCSB alumna Allie Clements presented the Regents with a petition calling them to review UC investments for holdings in the gun industry, and to publicly divest from any they should find. Should they not find holdings, the petition requests that the board still issue a public statement against such investments. Bob Weiss, whose daughter, Veronika Weiss, was killed in the May 23 tragedy last year, attended the meeting to voice his support for the movement.
“If this body is invested in the gun industry, you’re in the gun business,” he said. “And if you’re in the gun business, I’m in the gun business. And I don’t want to be in the gun business.”
Several other speakers presented during the forum to urge the board to support California Senate Bill 376, a measure to require the UC to pay subcontracted workers the same amount they pay career workers on their staff. According to AFSCME 3299 union president Kathryn Lybarger, workers paid by contractors hired by the UC are currently paid 53 percent less than UC employees and cannot afford basic expenses like food for their families or vaccinations for their children.
“They do the same job as career UC employees like me,” Lybarger said. “They work alongside us, full time and often for years on end, and they even work under the same UC supervisors.”
Sexual assault survivors Alejandra Melgoza, Lexi Weyrick, and Melissa Vasquez, who spearheaded the “nowUCsb” campaign and staged the 13-hour sit-in at UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang’s office on May 15, could not attend as planned, due to three consecutive flight cancellations on the day of the meeting.