Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Listen to the Regents Sessions of May 19, 2020

The Regents meetings began yesterday via teleconference with sessions of the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee, the Investments Committee, and Basic Needs committee. As we have noted, the March meetings of the Regents largely ignored the fiscal impact of the coronavirus crisis on UC. The May meetings won't be able to do that. Audio links to the Regents meeting of May 19 are provided below.

In Finance and Capital Strategies, the issue of moving ahead with projects in the face of the current uncertainty did come up. However, the various capital projects were approved on the grounds that in the long term, thing would go back to normal and the momentum of the various trains couldn't/shouldn't be halted. Only one project seemed to raise controversy and that was a hospital project at Davis that was initially on the consent calendar but was pulled off for discussion. The controversy involved seeming conflict with UC's policy on avoiding contracting out. In the case of the Davis project, the problem seemed to revolve around the fact that the project was a partnership with another entity that was undertaking design, construction, and finance. In the end, the project was approved by the committee (it will require full board approval) with some dissent.

Finance and Capital Strategies was the first committee on the agenda and so it contained the public comments period. The comments, however, were really more appropriately addressed to the full board. Not surprisingly, several of the comments reflected concerns about job security at UC, given the fiscal issues facing the university and the expiration of the no-layoff policy on June 30. Other topics included safety of health care workers especially nurses, bank divestment related to fossil fuel, the Hawaiian telescope issue, and research on fetal tissue.

The Investments Committee featured Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher who had to deal with the big decline in the stock market and its impact on the portfolio of the endowment, the UC pension, and other funds. As you might imagine, his presentation had aspects of lipstick on a pig. Obviously, the drop in the market was a Bad Thing for the portfolio. He had a chart indicating that the big drop occurred with calendar 2020 up through May 18 so that over a full 12 months, things were more or less unchanged. Of course, the target rate of earning for the pension is currently 6.75%, so anything less is not helpful.

The Basic Needs committee looked at efforts to help students during the current crisis at the federal, UC, and campus levels. Note that an initial report by telephone featured some audio problems. These were corrected and the report was repeated with clear audio.

As usual, yours truly has archived the meetings. You can hear the sessions at the links below:

or direct to:
Finance and Capital Strategies

Investments Committee

Basic Needs

UPDATE: Below is the Daily Cal's summary of the May 19 sessions:

The UC Board of Regents committees on finances, investments and basic needs met virtually Tuesday over Zoom to discuss the UC system’s financial needs and burdens on students. The Finance and Capital Strategies Committee opened the meeting, discussing plans regarding Evans Hall. A proposal to defund four UC Berkeley projects and allocate the money toward replacing Evans Hall was approved by the committee at the meeting.
“While these four projects are important, they are not as critical and their programs are not as student-facing as those in Evans Hall,” the agenda states.
UC Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher announced at the Investments Committee meeting that all $125 billion worth of UC assets is now free from fossil fuel investments, including the UC system’s endowment, pension and working capital pools. The UC system has also invested $1 billion into “promising clean energy projects,” according to a press release.
“Today we remain convinced that continuing to invest in fossil fuels poses an unacceptable financial risk to UC’s portfolios and therefore to the students, faculty, staff and retirees of the University of California,” Bachher said in the press release.
During the Special Committee on Basic Needs meeting, Ruben Canedo and Tim Galarneau, co-chairs of the UC Systemwide Basic Needs Committee; Yvette Gullatt, UC interim vice president of student affairs; and Shawn Brick, UC director of student financial support, discussed in a presentation resources available during the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation also touched on the financial and food burdens students are facing.
“Basic needs centers and hubs have been identified as essential services and first responders,” Canedo said during the meeting. “We do not have the staffing or financial capabilities to serve as first responders to all of the increasing demands of our community.”
Kate Klimow, a staff adviser to the regents, asked at the meeting whether basic needs centers and other resources available to students would be available to UC staff. While staff members may not seem included on paper, Canedo said, they will not be turned away. Brick spoke on the financial relief students have received in light of the pandemic. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act provided $130 million for UC students. Undocumented and international students, however, did not have access to this money. Individual UC campuses have initiated their own plans to help these students access institutional aid, according to Brick.
The committee also discussed recommendations for the future regarding basic needs in the UC system, postponing many of them for discussion at its September meeting.
“Having discussions about basic needs to other committees — those dialogues are happening, and it’s important to land on a firm pathway to what basic needs will look like moving forward,” said Hayley Weddle, student regent and chair of the Special Committee on Basic Needs, during the meeting.

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