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UC Board of Regents finance committee approves 32 percent fee hike

By Laura Belyavski, Daniel Schonhaut, and Samantha Masunaga

Nov. 18, 2009 11:12 p.m.

Students stood on chairs and screamed from their seats.

“Cowards!” one student yelled.

“How do you sleep at night?” another said.

More than 20 police officers formed a line between the public and the UC Board of Regents, which met Wednesday to discuss a proposed 32 percent undergraduate fee hike.

Police declared the scene an unlawful disruption, and tearful students were forced to leave the room or face arrest.

Police closed public seating for the remainder of the meeting.

Minutes later, the proposed fee increase was voted on and approved by the board’s Committee on Finance. Student Regent Jesse Bernal cast the only opposing vote.

The full Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the proposal today at Covel Commons.

An approval would result in a $585 fee increase for winter quarter and an additional $1,334 fee hike for fall 2010, bringing annual student fees to $11,287.

The Committee on Finance also approved fee increases totaling $1,445 for graduate and professional school students.

University of California President Mark Yudof called the decision a last-case option.

“We have half the amount of money we had in 1999,” he said. “We have to face the facts ““ those days are over.”

The UC system has already laid off 2,000 workers, cut programs and instituted furloughs, Yudof said.

Faced with an approximate $1 billion deficit and an $813 million decrease in state funding, “we all have to be realists,” he said.

Yudof blamed the situation on the state legislature, which he said has neglected to provide the UC with sufficient funding.

He encouraged students to join the UC in a spring march on Sacramento, which would be a collaborative effort with the California State University system and the California Community Colleges.

The fee hike will not repair the UC’s financial situation in the long term because of the possibility of further cuts in state funding, Yudof said.

“I don’t know what will happen next year,” he said. “There could be substantial additional layoffs.”

The board also approved the 2010-2011 budget, including a proposal for the restoration of $305 million in state funding.

The meeting was fraught with outbursts and interruption; 14 protesters were arrested throughout the day.

In the morning, eight protesters were handcuffed and led out of the room by police.

Later that day, six more protesters were escorted from the room after they stood with linked arms and sang “we shall overcome” during discussions of the fee increases.

The meeting resumed after these students were removed. A few minutes later, many people stood in silence with raised fists.

It was not until after a student interrupted the meeting to ask for a chance to speak that protests again became more active.

The student was denied the opportunity to address the regents, and protesters began to shout their demands.

The demonstration resulted in a recess for the UC Regents Committee on Finance.

During this time, Student Regent Jesse Bernal and Student Regent-designate Jesse Cheng spoke to the students, trying to mediate affairs.

“One of the things I know not to do is ever underestimate the students,” Cheng said. “I told them it’s their moment, and they have the right to decide what to do ““ I have no right to tell them what’s right or wrong.”

However, Cheng said he had regrets about his role in the mediation, referring to a student’s proposal that he join forces with the students in the general public section, an act that would have resulted in a symbolic loss of his vote.

“I don’t know if I handled that situation the best I could have,” he said. “Students weren’t in the room when the fee increases happened, and I really regret that.”

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Laura Belyavski
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