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Friday, September 24, 2021

Senate constitutional amendment to limit budgetary autonomy of UC Regents

BRIAN NGUYEN / AGGIE FILE

SCA 14 would implement changes in 138-year-old governing system of UC Board of Regents

On May 23, California State Senator Ed Hernandez proposed Senate Constitutional Amendment 14 (SCA 14) with the primary objective of curbing the budgetary autonomy of the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) and implementing changes to the UC Board of Regents.

According to a press release from Hernandez’s office, the reports from the state audit following the UC tuition hikes created a need for more accountability in how the university system is governed.

Some of the proposed changes include more faculty, student and staff representation on the Board of Regents as well as the presence of the Chancellor of the Community Colleges. Furthermore, SCA 14 would reduce the appointed members’ terms from 12 years to four years and set a limit of three terms.

The press release added that constitutional authority of the UC system was last amended in 1976. At the time, the state’s population was around 20 million people and the annual tuition for in-state UC students was $630 (about $2,700 in today’s dollars). The state population has since doubled and tuition prices have risen to $13,500 for California residents.

“California has grown and changed since 1976,” Hernandez said in the press release. “It is only natural that we have a conversation about how the University of California’s governance can best reflect and adapt to those changes.”

In regards to budgetary practices, if SCA 14 passes, UCOP will have its budget allocated by the state legislature.

Duane Wright, a graduate student in the UC Davis Department of Sociology and a member of the UC Student Workers Union (UAW Local 2865), expressed his support for countering the unchecked power of the UC executives while still maintaining concerns regarding transparency within the UC administration.

“As a defender of public education, I support efforts to counter the unchecked power of UC executives,” Wright said. “However, I also know that Sacramento has been complicit in the privatization of the UC and has often looked away while the administration does what it wants.”

Wright said that he hopes to see some changes integrated into the university system as a whole.

“It has always been students and workers who have been the fiercest fighters for accessible quality public education, and I want to see reforms in the UC system that would increase student and worker power within decision-making structures of the university,” Wright said.

According to the LA Times, a number of regents have spoken out against legislative control of the UC, emphasizing that the 10 UC campuses developed into the nation’s top public research university under an autonomous regents system.

The article also included concerns from Regent John A. Pérez, a former Assembly speaker, who asserted that UC budget practices should be handled by regents rather than legislators.

“The level of depth that’s required to right-size this and to deal with the complexity is appropriately, both constitutionally and functionally, with this board,” Pérez said at a UC Regents meeting.

Ricardo Vazquez, the UCOP director of media relations, echoed the same sentiments with regard to maintaining financial autonomy, expressing that amending the state constitution based on the audit findings would be a mistake.

“We continue to believe that the UC Board of Regents is best placed to provide fiduciary oversight to the Office of the President, which includes appropriating the Office’s budget […] UC’s constitutional autonomy has ensured that the university’s mission, vision and values emanated from its students, faculty and staff, free from political or sectarian influence,” Vazquez said via email.

Vazquez also noted that UCOP is currently implementing all of the state auditor’s 33 recommended changes.

If SCA 14 passes with a two-thirds vote from the state legislature, it will be scheduled to appear on the November 2018 ballot.  

 

Written By: Kimia Akbari — campus@theaggie.org

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