Thursday, May 21, 2020

Listen to the Regents Sessions of May 20, 2020

The Regents met on May 20 by teleconference due to the coronavirus crisis for a marathon seven-hour session. Links to the audio are further down in this blog post.

After a closed session to select a new chancellor for UC-Merced, Juan Sánchez Muñoz, the full board met to hear public comments. Comments basically were similar to the comments at Finance and Capital Strategies the previous day. Topics included safety of UC health care workers, labor relations, student needs, the Hawaiian telescope, SAT scores for admission, and greenhouse gas.

Regents chair Pérez's remarks included reference to actions at Berkeley during eh 1918 Spanish flu and reference to the current UC budget crisis. UC president Napolitano previewed later discussion of criteria for reopening campuses in the fall and said there would likely be a "hybrid" approach, i.e., some courses in-person and others online. A decision is expected by mid-June. She also referred to the budget crisis. Faculty rep  Bhavnani referred in her remarks to the discussion scheduled for the following day on use of SAT-ACT scores for admission and alluded to the fact that the Senate's committee to analyze that matter had supported continued use while the UC president is recommending something else. President Napolitano then introduced Juan Sánchez Muñoz (who has a PhD from UCLA).

At the Health Services Committee, there was a background briefing on the coronavirus crisis but not much on the budget impact on the UC health centers (a topic discussed later). Provost Michael Brown discussed the rapid conversion to online instruction at the Academic and Student Affairs Committee. After a break, the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee discussed on UC budget crisis. At that session, Chancellor Christ of UC-Berkeley said that if the crisis lasted more than a year, a tuition increase would be necessary. But Regent Makarechian opposed tuition increases and preferred finding efficiencies.

There was reference to the fact that apparently the number of accepted students indicating they would enroll at UC was well below typical levels at this point. UCLA Chancellor Block indicated that the success of having staff working from home suggested that perhaps UCLA didn't need to lease as much office space in Westwood as it was doing. There was some talk about borrowing to cover operating costs as a way of cushioning the negative budget effects of falling revenue and increased expenses. Interest rates are very low now, it was noted.

It was said that campus enterprises such as housing which are self-supporting had been negatively affected, but that "stress testing" indicated that none were likely to default on past debt (which would have to be avoided by subsidy from general campus funds). Finally, UC-San Francisco Chancellor Hawgood noted that his campus received very little support from the state and was mainly supported by hospital revenues and research funding. His campus had been hurt by the impact on revenue and cost but with regular patients gradually returning there was an expectation of a return to normal in maybe a year and a half or so.

The board approved certain temporary changes in UC tax-favored retirement savings programs to take advantage of the CARES Act. Chair Pérez was angry at UCOP staff for not providing data he requested on who would benefit from such changes. (Although these programs are generally available to all regular employees, it is well known that higher income persons are more likely to take advantage of them.) Apparently, there could have been an earlier approval of the changes (some kind of special process of approval before the May Regents meeting), but the back-and-forth between Pérez and the staff ended up delaying the item to the May meeting. Staff promised to get the data and the changes were approved. (It appeared that staff took the view that Congress in its wisdom had approved a goody so, whether it was equitable or wise, why not let those employees who could take advantage of it?)

UC President Napolitano discussed the general principles for deciding on campus reopenings in the fall and again suggested that a hybrid approach is likely. Some concern was expressed by Regents about the potential - with people back on campus but various social distancing rules in effect - there could be incidents of overly-aggressive policing. (Recent reports of confrontations with police had triggered these concerns.)

The Governance Committee approved a plan for dealing with changes of misconduct (sexual or otherwise) by Regents. The proposed plan involved creation of a three-regent panel to oversee any investigation and ultimate decision-making by a neutral outsider. A retired judge was cited as an example of such a decision-makers. There was debate about the use of a three-regent panel and whether the public would view such a panel as potentially biasing the outcome. But the plan was approved. There was also approval of a scholarship for student regents so that there would be no economic disincentive for serving.

You can hear the session at the links below:

or direct to:

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