Courtesy of the Aggie
Courtesy of the Aggie

The UC Board of Regents meeting was held in conjunction with a two-day joint advocacy event that allowed UC students and regents to lobby Sacramento lawmakers. UC President Mark Yudof delivered a State of the University address after nearly 13 UC medical union workers were arrested by police for holding a sit-in protest at the onset of the meeting. Another topic of concern included rising professional degree supplemental tuition (PDST), which is not addressed by Governor Jerry Brown’s May Revision of the state budget.

Assembled by multiple UC labor unions, systemwide medical workers demonstrated to condemn the stalled contract negotiations over pension reform. Unions, such as AFSCME 3299, plan to strike from May 21-22. Yudof announced that while the university administration is open to dialogue with the workers, it is seeking a legal injunction to minimize the effects of the strike.

“Let no one in this room be unaware that this is a threat to the safety of the patients,” said Yudof. “It would cost the university $10 million dollars a day, and of course it would cost the employees money—those who participated.”

Yudof emphasized that all current employees retain all their benefits under the current pension plan. He reminded the audience members, many of whom were members of the strike, that pension reform was needed for maintaining UC fiscal stability.

Riverside campus recognized through UC President’s Award

After a final call for negotiation on pension reform, Yudof then proceeded to announce the winners of the UC President’s Award for Outstanding Leadership. UC Student Association (UCSA) President Raquel Morales and Jonathan Lee, the University Affairs Committee Chair of UCSA, accepted the award on behalf of UC We Vote. UCR’s Healing Highlanders was the second recipient. The group’s founding president, Mariel Bello, along with president-elect Fabiola Escobedo, accepted the award on behalf of its efforts.

“Our student organization is very proud to receive this award [for helping] students in recovery from addictive disorders [because] students feel that they can be a part of that home,” Bello said.

Public comment period results in 13 arrests

During the public comment period, six UC medical workers delivered heated speeches regarding pension reform. According to UC spokesperson Peter King, the UC Regents were temporarily forced to evacuate the premises after a brief protest broke out, which resulted in the arrest of 13 people.

Kathryn Lybarger, President of AFSCME 3299 and one of the arrested protesters, condemned the misappropriation of resources from patient care to company executive benefits.

“We’re about to see hundreds of thousands of new patients come in to UC medical centers as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) comes on line,” Lybarger stated. “Yet on the brink of this, we are seeing decisions being made by UC executives that are only bad for patients.”

UCSF medical employee Brenda Turner also referenced the ACA, saying that it will increase the number of eligible uninsured patients, but medical centers such as UCSF will be too understaffed.

“[The UC wants] to cut 300 full-time career positions at UCSF medical center … That is going to adversely affect patient care [so] give us a fair offer and we will settle. Ninety-seven percent of our membership voted to strike because we haven’t gotten one yet.”

After the public comment period, audience members began to shout slogans and chants such as “patient care!”

UC Board of Regents Chair Sherry Lansing asked the group to settle down, giving them three warnings before she stated that they would have police clear the room. The regents were forced to evacuate the room, and the protesters were apprehended.

UCSA President communicates student concerns

After returning from recess, UCSA President Raquel Morales delivered a presentation on campus climate, the UC’s proposed financial aid policies and the possibility of increased PDST levels, which will be decided upon during the July regents meeting.

Morales referred to the recent campus climate survey, which revealed tensions among ethnic groups and low tolerance levels on a systemwide level, and questioned how effectively the regents will use the results to enact system-wide changes.

Switching topics to PDST, Morales expressed concerns about the shift from academic to professional programs. Additionally, students may be shut out of dialogue dealing with PDST since it is scheduled to be voted upon in July when most students will be out of school.

Earlier on in the meeting, UC Student Regent Jonathan Stein shared similar sentiments about PDST. “In reality, we’ve been able to hold undergraduate and PhD tuition constant and professional school tuition has continued to rise,” he said.

Governor Brown seeks faster graduation rates

After returning from a lunch break, UC Provost Aimee Dorr delivered an academic performance indicators report which depicted UC freshman graduation rates, Pell grant recipients and undergraduate satisfaction on UC campuses.

Based on the bi-annual UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUE) in 2012, 82 percent of UC undergraduates reported having a positive overall academic experience. But the survey also revealed that only 60 percent of undergraduates believe that the value of a UC education equates to the price of tuition.

UC Riverside was reported as having the second-highest percentage of Pell grant recipients behind UC Merced. “Eighty percent of our freshmen who entered in fall 2005 and received a Pell grant graduated in six years … while students who entered without [them] graduated at 84 percent,” Dorr said. Pell grants are awarded to families that earn less than $50,000 a year.

Governor Jerry Brown attempted to gain a better understanding about the solutions offered through the statistics on graduation rates. He hopes college campuses will achieve an 80 percent graduation rate within four-years

“I don’t get excited about six years. To me, four years is the norm,” Brown said. Regent Richard Blum responded that certain majors such as engineering may hold stricter and more numerous requirements compared to other majors.

Regent Eddie Island emphasized that increasing graduation rates also requires increasing faculty and class sizes. Island reasoned that the survey results should not lay groundwork for stringent graduation requirements, which may end up limiting academic accessibility for underrepresented minorities.

In UC President Yudof’s State of the University address, he presented his assessment of the UC system over his six-year term in office, which included the UC’s above-average acceptance of first generation and low-income students.

“The numbers do underscore the university’s rare and defining ability to serve vast numbers of disadvantaged students, while still producing research of world-class quality,” Yudof said. “Many universities can achieve one of these two results. But it’s quite rare to achieve both.”