Editorial: UC community deserves communication and action from regents amid pandemic
April 2, 2020 6:05 p.m.
Top University of California officials have watched their campuses develop innovative solutions, take proactive safety measures and thoughtfully collaborate with students for the better part of a month now.
But when it comes to taking their own action during this pandemic, the UC regents have been noticeably quiet.
UCLA made the announcement March 10 that it would move classes online, following similar announcements from other campuses like UC San Diego. Within days, all 10 UC campuses had announced the transition to online learning.
Contrary to its long history of lackluster emergency response communication, UCLA provided remote town hall discussions, collaborated with student government and created opportunities for students to voice their concerns and preferences via MyUCLA. More than that, school officials actually listened.
Their bosses haven’t done as much.
The regents have a responsibility to make themselves available to the UC community – not despite the current situation, but because of it. Beyond addressing the effects of COVID-19, there’s a systemwide shift to virtual learning, a new UC president to hire, an ongoing graduate student strike and a proposed tuition hike still on the agenda. The impact of these changes will affect students for years to come, and it is crucial that the regents do not use the ongoing chaos to sweep them under the rug in the coming months.
It’s time the UC regents take a page from their campuses’ playbooks – and that means making themselves available, transparent and open to communicating with student leaders.
The 10 campuses have done the best they can to offset this pandemic, but when the dust settles, students will be left with questions that only a systemwide entity can answer.
Individual campuses can’t make administrative decisions about the cost of online education. Nor can they make promises to their collective graduate students about cost-of-living adjustments when over 6.6 million U.S. citizens have filed for unemployment.
That’s the job of the regents – and it’s a job they’re failing to fulfill.
It’s not as though the UC lacks the resources. Backed by billions of dollars, cutting edge research and a team of highly educated individuals, it would be almost offensively easy for the regents to conduct a remote town hall. They’ve occurred in person for years, and now more than ever, these public forums could be used to facilitate discussion and provide the community – UC campus leaders, faculty, workers and students alike – with a sense of guidance during these uncertain times.
Granted, the regents have provided some information regarding COVID-19 and its implications for the UC. Those announcements have ranged from decisions to ease admissions standards to plans for using emergency federal funding. What has been missing is direct communication with the UC community that is already here. It’s a community that wants to talk, and the conversation could cost nothing more than the price of a Zoom membership.
As of now, students aren’t just hoping for a conversation with the regents – they’re owed one.
Because until they open a dialog, the University’s response will feel a lot less like the administrative decisions of a unified system, and a lot more like 10 discombobulated campuses trying their best.