You have, no doubt, seen the near constant barrage of news stories critical of the way UC has been managed — the latest being articles about the state legislature withholding funding from UC in the recently passed state budget because of behavior turned up in a recent state audit such as a large hidden reserve fund, interference with the auditor’s survey, and executive compensation far in excess of compensation for similar positions at the state. The budget also redirects nearly $350 million from UC’s core mission as the legislature tries to gain direct control of UCOPs budget. And before that it was articles decrying the Regents’ spending over $250 a head on dinner
parties for themselves.
These articles demonstrate the eroded level of trust the state legislature and the people of California have in UC. We believe a large part of that erosion is because of the closed and insular method by which Regents are appointed — a method that is in direct contradiction to what is specified in California’s Constitution.
For six years, we have been writing letters to Governor Brown asking him to obey the Constitution when nominating Regents, letters to the UC Regents asking them to follow their own bylaws and not accept improperly nominated Regents and letters to the California Senate asking them to use their authority of approval of Regents to enforce the Constitution.
Three weeks ago, Governor Brown again nominated Regents without following the consultation process mandated by the Constitution. Our past efforts on this issue at least paid off this time with several newspaper articles noting the Constitutional violation (http://bit.ly/2rtynSE, http://bit.ly/2sHyi1Z, http://bit.ly/2sMxsk1).
Yesterday we sent another letter to the Senate, calling on the Senate Rules
Committee to enforce the California Constitution by immediately rejecting (without prejudice) the Governor’s nominees. Regent terms begin as soon as the Governor nominates them, so these improperly nominated Regents can vote on issues at the upcoming Regent’s meeting unless the Senate Rules Committee acts quickly to reject them.
We also requested that the Constitutionally-required advisory committee
be more than a pro forma process and that the Senate declare that it will only consider Regent nominees that have been vetted through an open public process, in a series of meetings held around the state and conducted in accordance with the Bagley-Keene Act (proper public notices of meetings with opportunities for public comment).
A more representative Board of Regents would have likely done a better
job of assuring accountability of the UC Office of the President and given a higher priority to vigorous efforts to restore high quality, accessible, and tuition-free higher education to the people of California as envisioned in the California Master Plan for Higher Education. A recent report that we and other organizations released through the Reclaim coalition, The $48 Fix, shows that this goal is achievable in California, yet there has been no discussion of restoring the Master Plan by the current Board of Regents. The fact that it is dominated by wealthy interests for whom the steadily increasing costs would not be a practical problem may help explain the lack of urgency in building the confidence of the public and policymakers needed to restore
tuition-free education at UC.
You can read our full letter to the Senate Rules Committee here.