The implications of Governor Brown’s revised May budget were the main focus of the UC Board of Regents meeting last week in Sacramento. The regents discussed the prospect of a six percent tuition increase—which is nearly guaranteed given the revised budget’s failure to provide the $125.4 million necessary for a tuition buy-out. Other prominent issues included a discussion of a UC-wide report on campus protests, the future of the UC’s Blue and Gold Plan and a brief controversy regarding the approved salary of the upcoming UC San Diego Chancellor. Notably absent from the meeting was UC President Mark Yudof who was unable to attend due to his wife’s hospitalization.
The public forum period of the meeting witnessed protests in the form of chanting and shouting from protesters wearing mock prison attire. Protesters wore orange to draw an analogy between the plight of students—namely, via debt “sentences” and crackdowns on student protests—and the conditions faced by inmates. The regents were forced to declare a one-hour recess due to protesters’ refusal to stop chanting. No arrests were made and the protesters left the forum during the recess.
One of the lengthiest portions of the meeting was spent evaluating the UC’s financial position following the release of Governor Brown’s revised budget. Chair Lansing began by announcing a consensus among regents pertaining to several items: the importance of restoring Cal Grants, obtaining a tuition buyout, passing Speaker Perez’s Middle Class Scholarship Act and receiving proper funding from the state.
The revised budget allocates $52 million to the UC—$38 million short of the state’s $90 million commitment. But even accounting for the entirety of the $90 million pledge (which would be fully dispersed in 2014), the state’s commitment falls significantly short of the UC’s $326.6 million expenditure plan. Furthermore, the budget allocations did not meet the $125.4 million that would have allowed the university to freeze tuition rates for 2012-2013; a memo released by the UC Office of the President (UCOP) indicated that the failure to meet the $125.4 million would trigger a six percent tuition increase. Officials noted that the increase would be significantly higher if Governor Brown’s tax initiative failed to pass in the November ballot.
UC officials had originally been notified that the initiative’s failure would result in a trigger cut of $200 million in 2013. The revised budget, however, revealed that the $200 million had increased to $250 million. Chair Lansing revealed that the regents would continue to lobby the legislature and governor to reject the $250 million trigger cut.
The regents’ discussion of the revised budget temporarily shifted to the governor’s tax initiative when UC Student Regent-designate Jonathan Stein urged regents to endorse the initiative. Although UC President Mark Yudof had previously expressed his support of the governor’s tax initiative, the Board of Regents have thus far refrained from doing so.
The regents’ ambivalence toward the plan stemmed from concerns that it did not guarantee that any money would go to the UC. Stein argued that the lack of a guarantee was a better option than the $250 million cut that the UC stands to lose if the initiative does not pass. “If we’re the only public stakeholder that refuses to get on board, we’re going to poison [the UC regents’] relationship with [Sacramento],” stated Stein. “The governor and the legislature are simply not going to overlook their partners on the tax measure in order to do us favors despite the fact that we’re one of the only public stakeholders who refuse to get on board with them.”
The next discussion shifted to the revised budget’s impact on Cal Grants and the UC’s Blue and Gold Plan. Admitted Cal Grant recipients are able to have their entire UC tuition covered by the state, while the UC’s Blue and Gold Plan does the same for students whose family income is $80,000 or less. The budget contained an important change to Cal Grants by changing their methodology to follow that of Federal Pell Grants, meaning that the Cal Grant would no longer exclusively offer complete tuition coverage but would instead offer funds equivalent to a student’s financial need.
Officials noted that the Cal Grant changes would result in the disqualification of thousands of students—whose tuition would have been completely covered—from the Cal Grant Program, thereby subjecting the UC’s Blue and Gold Plan to higher demand (which the UC may not be able to afford). “[Cal Grant changes] would limit the upper reaches on family income that would qualify for Cal Grants…It would threaten our ability to keep going with the Blue and Gold [plan],” stated UCOP Executive Vice President for Business Operations Nathan Brostrom.
Another portion of the meeting that entailed debate was an analysis of a UC-wide report on police-administrative responses to campus protests. The report, written by UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley, was subject to criticisms from members of the public forum and UC Faculty Representative Robert Anderson. The report contains numerous recommendations for the UC to pursue such as relying solely on UC police (instead of city and county officers), decreasing police response to peaceful protests and using force only under extreme conditions.
Anderson noted that the recommendations ignored the role of faculty as conflict mediators and the importance of campus-based sanctions (as opposed to criminal charges). The latter posed a particularly time-sensitive suggestion considering the criminal charges that were recently filed against UC Davis student protesters; the students, known as the “Davis Dozen,” face charges for their alleged role in forcing the closure of a U.S. Bank branch on campus. Members of the public forum then denounced the recommendations for failing to address the root causes of protests—budget cuts, tuition and other factors—and for not suggesting a more democratic form of UC governance in place of the UC Board of Regents.
The meeting also witnessed the approval of the appointment terms of Pradeep K. Khosla as the next UC San Diego Chancellor. Khosla, whose term will begin on Aug. 1, was granted a 4.8 percent higher salary than his predecessor; Khosla’s annual salary will be $411,084 while the outgoing chancellor’s salary is $392,200. A brief debate arose between UC officials prior to voting on the appointment terms. “We’re giving a raise…[but] I just don’t think this is the right time to be doing that,” stated Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “We’re taking big cuts…and we’re going to be asking for an tuition increase and I just think the optics are wrong on this.” Supporters of the appointment, however, noted that the entirety of the pay increase would be funded by non-state sources.
The UC regents will meet again in mid-July at UC San Francisco, where they will likely examine and vote upon tuition increase scenarios. During the May 16 meeting, Chair Lansing suggested that the regents would potentially condition tuition increases on the outcome of a $125.4 million tuition buyout from the state.