Friday, March 21, 2014
Listen to the Regents: March 19, 2014 morning session
The meeting began with a public comment period. Some speakers came from the usual anti-Napolitano crowd. There was a an anti-fossil fuel speaker, warnings of a grad/TA strike in the spring, statements by AFSCME 3299 that there would be a hospital strike next week in part over demands by UC for additional layoff authority, and statements about the campus climate report discussed below (and in a prior recent entry). See also:
After a demonstration, UC president Napolitano reported on various initiatives including one involving higher ed institutions in Mexico and another with the City of Oakland. Various efficiency initiatives were mentioned. Progress was reported in labor-management relations with unions other than 3299. Agricultural research will from now on report directly to the UC president. Finally mention was made of an initiative regarding "food security" without an explanation of what that initiative would entail. Faculty rep Bill Jacobs noted that articles have been appearing saying that universities were unchanged since the 11th century when they were created. He noted the silliness of such statements. And he emphasized the research function including the large amount of contract and grant funds raised by faculty. The emphasis, he said, cannot just be on undergrad costs.
The Committee on Educational Policy voted to change the level of fundraising in which the Regents would be involved from a trigger of $50 million to $250 million. Much of the session was devoted to the newly unveiled campus climate report. We have discussed this report in a recent blog entry. The issue of low response rates was raised. Responses by UC reps were not satisfactory. There were statements that with bigger samples, you get smaller confidence intervals. While that is true, the issue is response bias when you have a voluntary survey with low response rates. Note that the 27% response rate was below the target of the consultant of 30% (as was mentioned in passing) but that the response rate for individual questions was below 27% as some respondents did not answer all questions. This is a big problem with the survey - which apparently no one from UCOP wanted to discuss. There was a request from the Regents to compare the proportions of the population with the proportions of respondents in the sample. Such data are not available for some items, e.g., religion. But they are available for such items as basic counts of undergrads. So why were such available comparisons not in the basic UC and campus level reports?
The Committee on Finance discussed the UC budget. It was noted that the Legislative Analyst wants to go back to a "workload" methodology which contradicts the governor's more-or-less block grant approach. The Leg Analyst in fact would provide more money than the governor is offering but some would come from a tuition increase (so the state contribution would end up less than the governor's proposal). That observation, plus a recent downgrade by Moody's of UC's debt ratings led to complaints by some Regents about the extended tuition freeze the governor wants.
A new telescope project was approved. The Committee had some discussion of the Robinson-Edley report on handling student protests. It was asked why this topic should come before the Finance Committee and the answer was a mysterious statement that the subject involved "law." Finally, there was a discussion of a refinancing by UC of certain debt of Oakland Children's Hospital that merged with UC-SF. Some Regents noted that when they approved the merger, there were assurances that there would be no added risk to UC. Now it appeared that through the refinancing, in effect there was some risk and more debt at a time that UC debt ratings were being downgraded. What often happens when Regents are unhappy is that they ultimately go along with whatever the proposal happens to be. That was the scenario this time; ultimately they approved the refinancing.
Below is a link to the audio of the meeting: