Earlier this month, the University of California Regents met for their bi-monthly meeting. In addition to outlining their own propositions and plans for the immediate future, the regents also heard some of the short term concerns presented by an assortment of students and UC employees.
The main concerns of the students related to the University of California’s involvement with the fossil fuel industry; staff concerns over low pay and job security; and, perhaps the most provocative topic at the conference, tuition increases.
On the first day of the meeting, questions and appeals from the audience members followed a brief introduction of the UC regents.
Many students were upset with the University of California’s continued dealings with the fossil fuel industry. Eight students from Fossil Free UC took the floor to share their concerns over the UC’s involvement with environmental affairs, urging the University of California system to divest its funds from the fossil fuel system. The organization also brought forth a petition with over 600 signatures calling for the divestment of fossil fuels.
According to the Fossil Free NGO’s website, the fossil fuel divestment movement is calling on the organization to withdraw money from and stop investing in the fossil fuel industries. Many students believe that the University of California severing its ties with the fossil fuel entities is essential, as it marks the transition towards utilizing cleaner sources of alternative energy. They also argue that divesting in fossil fuels allows the UC to unshackle itself from special interests and thus more fully commit its resources to bettering campus prosperity.
Many pleas were made to UC Regent Richard Sherman, asking him to spearhead UC efforts in divesting from fossil fuels. As chair of the Investments Subcommittee, he wields considerable power in regards to managing which projects the University of California decides to invest in.
The second major concern at the board meeting was over job security. Many employees and further employees of the University of California’s support staff and hospital system were there to voice their displeasure at their mistreatment at the hands of the University of California.
Veteran UC Irvine hospital unit service coordinator Monica DeLeon addressed the regents, stating that last year UCI had laid off 200 members of its hospital support staff. She also contended that UC Irvine rakes in $70 million annually as profit for the health care services they provide.
Former UC hospital employee Vanessa Garcia also expressed her outrage at the unfair treatment, fuming over how her mother’s (also a caregiver) working hours were cut and emphasizing how essential she and her fellow support staff members are to the hospital’s operations.
Teamster Local 2010 vice president-elect Mary Higgins spoke on behalf of the clerical and other UC-affiliated labor unions. Her primary concerns were over whether the bargaining units would be able to maintain their current benefit plan over a 401k and whether or not the workers she was representing would be paid a fair wage.
These frustrations over fair labor compensation manifested later, when many members of the audience began to chant “pay us enough to eat.” This in turn prompted an intermission on the part of the regents, as they attempted to settle the assembled.
The item that garnered the most reactions was Item F4, regarding the 2017-2018 budget. Much of the necessary revenue would be sourced from tuition increases.
Vice-President Nathan Brostrom’s proposal was that the annual tuition be increased by 2.5 percent, or $280 a year. His reasoning is that it was necessary to modernize facilities and accommodate the expected influx of students.
Students were less than pleased. The morning of the second day of the conference, many of them barred entry of the regents into the building, prompting the police to attempt to disperse the crowd.
Additional concerns were expressed regarding sexual misconduct on the part of one of the members of the UC Regents and fears over the election’s results. A young woman alleged that Regent Norman Pattiz had sexually harassed her and called for higher standards of conduct. Most of the post-election fears were held by the LGBTQ communities, who were concerned over possible discrimination from supporters of the Trump presidency.
The board meeting closed with UC President Janet Napolitano stating her pride at being a Californian and stressing the importance of a diverse, liberal education.
“As the principles make clear, the University strives to foster an environment in which all are included, and all are given an equal opportunity to learn and explore,” Napolitano said. “The University of California will continue to pursue and protect these principles now and in the future, and urges our students, our faculty and staff, and all others associated with the University to do so as well.”