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UC Regents approve spending plan, meet with students

Members of the University of California Board of Regents, meeting by teleconference at four separate campus locations, on Monday, Nov. 28, approved a spending plan for the coming year, then met informally with some of the student protesters who temporarily shut the meeting down.

The board meeting, held at UCLA, UC Merced, UC Davis and UC San Francisco, included 90 minutes of public comment, rather than the usual 20, in an effort to accommodate the large number of speakers. Many students were there to decry police use of pepper spray on demonstrators earlier this month at UC Davis and students being jabbed with police batons during protests at UC Berkeley.

President Mark G. Yudof, following the public comment period, announced that he has appointed former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso to head the task force that will review the UC Davis incident. Yudof noted that Reynoso, a farmworker’s son and the first Latino to serve on the state Supreme Court, “has dedicated his life to protecting civil liberties.”

The president earlier in the meeting reaffirmed his commitment protecting the rights of students, faculty and staff to protest on UC campuses.

“UC students and the UC administration are on the same page with respect to peaceful demonstrations, and to First Amendment rights,” Yudof said. “I intend to do everything in my power as president of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest. I’ve said many times that free speech is part of the DNA of this university. And non-violent protest has long been central to its history.”

Many of the speakers called on the regents to do more about rising tuition — a key issue behind the student protests. They also asked the regents to sign a pledge to reform California’s tax code so that the state would have more money in its coffers for public higher education.

“Over the past month, students, faculty and others have come together to bring attention to the disinvestment in higher education and put forward solutions,” said UC Student Association President Claudia Magana. “It’s up to you to do your part as regents, individually and collectively.”

Board Chair Sherry Lansing addressed the speakers directly and promised to visit each campus over the next few weeks “to continue the dialogue.”

“We hear you and share your concerns,” Lansing said. “We will march with you side by side on the steps of the Capitol to stop these tuition hikes.”

Despite the strong words of support, as regents moved into a discussion of the spending plan for the 2012-13 fiscal year, demonstrators at several locations began chanting so loudly that the meeting was temporarily suspended. Regents regrouped in other conference rooms, bringing in members of the press and re-establishing an online audio feed of the meeting proceedings, in accordance with open meeting laws.

After a presentation by Nathan Brostrom, executive vice president for business operations, regents unanimously approved a spending plan for the coming year that would allow modest enrollment growth and more instructional support for students.

The 2012-13 expenditure plan represents UC’s priorities and forms the basis for the university’s budget request to the state.

“If the state gives UC the $2.7 billion we are requesting, we can avoid the issue of a tuition increase entirely. We can begin the process of moving the university forward,” Yudof said. “If, however, there is no increase in state funding, then we must continue to do our best to pare spending and to raise other revenues.”

The $2.7 billion would be an increase from $2.3 billion this year, but still would be about $500 million less than UC received in state support four years ago, Yudof told the board. (See an additional report, including background documents, on the university’s proposed budget.)

Regents also approved an increase in UC and employee contribution rates for the UC Retirement Plan, effective July 2013. Faculty and staff will contribute 6.5 percent of their pay and UC will contribute 12 percent to the UC Retirement Plan (UCRP) beginning July 1, 2013.

After the meeting adjourned, several regents and senior administrators stayed behind to meet and talk directly with student demonstrators.

At UCLA, Chancellor Gene Block, UC Riverside Chancellor Tim White, UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake, Brostrom and Regents Lansing and Eddie Island met with the students, who sat on chairs in a semicircle.

Lansing told students that she would meet with them before the winter break and urged them to join her in protesting cuts to higher education.

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