Thursday, September 24, 2015
Listen to the Regents Meeting of Sept. 17, 2015
The day started with the public comment period which was largely, but not entirely, geared to the tolerance/intolerance proposed resolution (which ultimately was rejected by the Regents). Most speakers spoke either pro or con on the issue of instead adopting the "State Department" definition of antisemitism. There were some other issues raised such as treatment of UC lecturers.
The meeting continued with a request to endorse a UCLA fund raising campaign (which is already underway). The topic then turned to a presentation about training of students and others concerning sexual assault on various campuses. However, issues of adjudication - which blog readers will know have been troublesome at UC and other institutions - were raised, notably the recent case in which an external court overturned a decision at UC-San Diego on due process grounds. The presenters kept referring to the lesser internal standards they use ("preponderance of the evidence," "more likely than not"). The problem is that external courts see a public institution dishing out what can be significant penalties and expect something more, particularly when the incidents tend to be without witnesses by their nature. President Napolitano said UC is working on the problem and is appealing the UC-SD decision.
When the intolerance resolution came up, Provost Dorr can't feel very good about the outcome. Possibly, she developed it all by herself without awareness of the president or anyone else. But that would be remarkable given the controversy. So someone more likely knew that when the resolution - which apparently went through drafts that had some circulation among the powers-that-be - was to be aired at the Regents, it would flop. Was Dorr hung out to dry? Or was she a good soldier taking a bullet for the commander? (President Napolitano remained remarkably aloof and mainly got by with the notion that the resolution was merely a preliminary work in progress and how healthy the discussion had been. All we know is that Dorr came up with a resolution that was so general that it was basically Pablum. And nobody warned her of the likely result.
It also seemed clear that the Regents were unlikely to adopt the State Department definition of antisemitism since the legislature had shied away from it. Assembly Speaker (and ex officio regent) Atkins said that the definition was not appropriate for an academic institution because of academic freedom concerns. It had to be known by someone in UCOP, at least at the top, that what the Regents wanted was something that specifically responded to the complaints of antisemitic acts, perhaps with more general tolerance/intolerance language included. Below you will find a YouTube set of excerpts from the Regents' comments which generally point to the Pablum/non-specificity issue. There is included the odd comment by Regent Blum that his wife - U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein - would somehow take on UC if the Regents didn't do the right thing. The comment was not the high point of his career at the Regents and maybe not the high point of his marriage, either. And it wasn't clear what the right thing was that she had in mind. What he had in mind, based on his comments, was that it should include punishments as well as principles. Regent Makarechian endorsed Blum's call for punishments. In any event, the outcome was the formation of a task force to be headed not by Dorr but by Regent Island with yet-to-be-defined participation of students, faculty, chancellors, and Regents, to come up with an alternative resolution. (We reported on this development in an earlier post based on news accounts.)
After the tolerance/intolerance resolution was put to sleep, there was a review of budget issues for 2016-17. No numbers. But it was said that the budget proposal would assume the pension contribution for next year (even though the legislature didn't agree to it). In another context, inflation adjustments to tuition, Speaker Atkins reminded the Regents that while the governor may have agreed to the adjustments, the legislature was not part of the deal. Several Regents raised concerns about rising professional degree tuition. There was also a presentation about changes in methodology and assumptions for the UC pension. Somewhat surprisingly, revising down the assumed future rate of earnings on the pension portfolio from 7.5%/annum to 7.25% provoked virtually no reaction even though it raises the accounting estimate of the unfunded liability. (As we have noted, the earnings will turn out to be what they will be and the liabilities will turn out to be what they will be; changing the accounting doesn't change the future. But changing the accounting can change how much we fret about the future.)
The remainder of the meeting was basically housekeeping.
A link to the audio of the full meeting (including the skips, repeats, and distortions from the original) is below:
Excerpts from the tolerance/intolerance/antisemitism discussion are below: