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2009-2010 was a turbulent year for the UC and its Regents

By Iris Chen

June 28, 2010 1:34 a.m.

In the midst of the country’s economic issues, the UC Board of Regents made critical decisions this past academic year regarding the budget and the role of the UC system in California.

The governing body of the UC system, the Board of Regents, consists of 26 members: 18 appointed by the governor for 12-year terms, seven ex officio members, and one student regent appointed for one year.

There are also two non-voting members, the chair and vice chair of the Academic Council.

The chairman, whose yearlong term begins every July 1, presides over six two-day meetings a year. Currently, the chairman is Regent Russell Gould, and the vice chairman is Regent Sherry Lansing.

Of all of the issues raised during the 2009-2010 academic year though, the most prevalent issue under Gould and Lansing’s term occurred on Nov. 19, as the board approved a 32 percent increase in student fees, with Student Regent Jesse Bernal casting the only opposing vote.

“Taxpayer money is sharply down, so we had to make up that gap (by increasing student fees),” said Peter King, spokesman for the UC Office of the President.

To express their anger at the mid-school-year fee increase, student protesters surrounded the area between Covel Commons, Bruin Café and Sproul turnaround.

“(The protests) have put pressure in Sacramento to re-evaluate their priorities (and see) that higher education is important,” King said.

Winter quarter fees rose by 15 percent, or $585, for undergraduate students and 2.6 percent, or $111, for graduate students.

As for the upcoming 2010-2011 academic year, both undergraduate and graduate students will pay an additional 15 percent in fees, bringing the total increase in fees to $1,334 by fall.

To aid lower-income families, the board expanded the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which now ensures complete financial coverage for students from families that earn less than $70,000 annually.

Aside from the budget issues, the board, in partnership with Los Angeles County, also planned to reopen the Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital by the end of 2012. The hospital will be run by a private, nonprofit corporation.

“In a very hard year, this is one of the really positive stories (as) it shows the mission of the university, and this is serving the public (and) playing an active role in making this iconic and valuable hospital in L.A.,” King said.

The board continued its interest in the UC hospitals on Jan. 21, when the regents agreed to allocate $3.1 million as pay in addition to base income for the senior management of UC medical centers.

This decision was made in accordance with the Clinical Enterprise Management Recognition Plan, which assigns worker salaries based on performance.

Diversity became a key issue in March when several UC campuses experienced racial tensions in such forms as the “Compton Cookout” at UC San Diego, in which a fraternity event commemorated Black History Month through outwardly racist stereotypes of the black community.

In March, a swastika carving on the door of a UC Davis dorm room also led to increasing tensions throughout the UC system.

In response to these incidents, the regents proposed implementing a holistic approach in the application process to all UC campuses, increasing scholarship funds for underrepresented students and increasing diversity-focused and similar outreach programs, especially through the newly created UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion.

Student Regent Jesse Cheng said the March meetings were a landmark moment for diversity on campuses, since the regents had never had to deal with such personal issues in terms of campus climate. It allowed the board to finally recognize the pain of underrepresented students, he said.

Upon the May release of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised proposal to restore $305 million to this year’s budget, to restore Cal Grants and to add $51 million for enrollment growth, the board discussed ways to increase efficiency in spending and reduce a $250 million budget gap.

The regents also altered the UC registration fee to become a system-wide student services fee.

On May 24, the board proposed that the UC medical staff oversee the California prison health care system, allowing the state to save more than $4 billion in the next five years, prompted by a request from the governor.

“Our role, by invitation of the governor, is to explore ways that can improve care and reduce prison health costs, which are a drain in the state budget,” King said.

Currently, there has been no definite decision on the UC’s future role in prison health care.

As for next year, Cheng said the UC will still see the same budget issues but will be more prepared for them.

He said he expects the protests will be more sophisticated next year and encourages students to stay engaged and vote along the lines of higher education.

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Iris Chen
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