Student and faculty raise concerns about confirmed UC Regent nominees
By Jeong Park
Aug. 25, 2014 1:30 a.m.
The California State Senate confirmed four nominees for the University of California’s Board of Regents Friday, despite student and faculty concerns about the appointment process and the nominees’ qualifications.
With a 29–3 vote, the senate confirmed existing regents Richard Blum and Norman Pattiz to another 12-year term on the board. Richard Sherman, who joined the board in March, was also confirmed with the same vote. Regent Monica Lozano, who completed a 12-year term in 2013, was confirmed in a separate 31–0 vote.
The confirmed board members all have a background in business. Blum is the chairman of his own business firm named Blum Capital Partners and Sherman is a chief executive at the David Geffen Company, an investment management firm.
Lozano is chair of U.S. Hispanic Media, Inc., which includes numerous Hispanic media companies, and Pattiz is a founder of radio network Westwood One and CEO of Courtside Entertainment Group, a sports and entertainment marketing business.
The confirmation came after a tense hearing by the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, in which students and faculty voiced their opposition to nominees because of concerns about the appointment process.
Before appointing an individual to the UC Board of Regents, the California constitution requires the governor to consult a 12-member advisory committee composed of leaders from the state legislature and four members of the UC, including one student and one faculty member. After the governor chooses appointments for the regents board, the state senate must confirm them. Despite the rule, there is no mechanism to ensure that a governor consults the advisory group, Senate Rules Committee members said in emails sent after the hearing.
Evan Westrup, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, said in an email that Brown consulted the advisory committee more than six months before the confirmation hearing. Brown announced his appointments in mid-January, about seven months before the confirmation.
But in a letter sent to senators prior to the hearing on Wednesday, the Council of University of California Faculty Associations said it does not think Brown adequately consulted with the committee before the appointments.
Joe Kiskis, vice president for external relations for the council and a physics professor at UC Davis, said he thinks the confirmation shows that legislators pay little attention to the voices of students and faculty.
“(Politicians) are expecting that if (the) regents are confirmed again, they will act differently,” Kiskis said.
At the hearing, students, faculty and some legislators were unhappy that all the nominees had backgrounds in business, saying they are not representative of California’s population.
“We need business leaders in the board, but not exclusively,” California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said at the hearing.
Kevin Sabo, chair of the UC Student Association Board of Directors and a UC Berkeley student, said the nominees are of the “business elite,” with many who have contributed to Brown’s campaign for governor. Sabo said he thinks regents should come from more diverse backgrounds.
According to an L.A. Times article published in January, Sherman has donated $7,500 to Brown since 2009, while Blum donated $51,800 and Pattiz donated $15,000 to Brown in the same time period.
“We need more people who reflect the population of California, not just the 1 percent of the state,” Sabo said.
Lozano said while she would like to see a more diverse regents board, the board already brings diverse perspectives by having a sitting student regent as well as having student advocates and Academic Senate members speak at the board’s bimonthly meetings.
Students said they think that the three of four regent nominees who already served a term have not led the University effectively.
“They had 12 years to discuss diversity and outreach … but there has been no action,” said Jefferson Kuoch-Seng, UCSA president and an external vice president of the Associated Students of UC Merced. “In 12 years, nothing has changed.”
On Wednesday, nominees also addressed questions from legislators related to the UC’s administration and policy, especially on diversity and enrollment.
Steinberg said he thinks the UC has been too conservative in increasing student diversity after Proposition 209 passed in 1996, banning affirmative action – the consideration of race in admissions – in the state.
“Getting sued is not the worst thing in the world,” Steinberg said, urging regents to be more aggressive in making the UC more diverse.
Blum said at the hearing that the UC is doing its best to have a more diverse student body, but a lack of state funding restricts its ability to attract students from a variety of backgrounds.
“A lot of bright kids turn us down because (private universities) offer scholarships and help that the UC can’t afford to match,” he said. “Regents can only do so much.”
Legislators also asked nominees about their thoughts on nonresident enrollment, which has grown over the past decade. The UC has used nonresident enrollment as a way to raise more funding, but many people have said they think this limits room for California students at the University.
The regent nominees were supportive of implementing a cap or a policy specifying the number of nonresident students enrolled at the UC, who now make up about 13 percent of its total undergraduate population for the 2014-2015 academic year. However, accepting fewer nonresidents would lead to less funding available for the system, since nonresidents pay about $23,000 more in tuition than residents.
Currently, there are three vacancies left in the board for Brown to fill, although he does not have a deadline to do so. If he is elected to a second term as governor in November, Brown will have six additional vacancies to fill throughout his second term.