The UC Board of Regents received public criticism for the lack of student votes in its voting process and discussed standardized tests and artificial intelligence on the last day of the session on Thursday.
The board heard public comments from 20 community members during the meeting, raising awareness on issues ranging from the university’s recently approved salary increases and budgets for the faculty to their investments in development on indigenous Hawaiian land.
Many thanked for the support of the Board of Regents and UC President Michael Drake in increasing the planned salary scales for the faculties for the coming fiscal year.
“This change is helping us financially healthy and bringing UC closer to truly being a employer of choice,” said Arlene Bañaga, senior delegate of UC Berkeley’s Council of UC Staff Assemblies, during the meeting.
Gwen Chodur, president of the UC Graduate and Professional Council, early Wednesday morning raised the preliminary agreement between the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) and the UC Office of the President (UCOP) regarding ongoing claims, including one fair assessment of workload, higher pay and employment stability.
Despite celebrations held yesterday in place of the planned strikes under this agreement, Chodur claimed that UCOP is still arguing that student researchers, fellows and interns are not doing the same job as other faculty members and therefore unionizing them and having the same Right.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the pepper spray incident at UC Davis, according to Chodur, in which students who protested during the Occupy movement were sprayed with pepper spray by the UCPD.
“UCPD is still damaging and preventing colored students and marginalized identities from thriving,” said Esmeralda Quintero-Cubilan, president of the University of California student association during the meeting.
During the public comment session, Quintero-Cubilan urged the UC to “demilitarize and debilitate” UCPD as a form of harm reduction for marginalized students.
Current and former UC students also urged the regents to support Amendment 5 of the California state, which would expand student votes on the UC Board of Regents and allow two voting student positions on the board instead of one voting and one non-voting.
“Inclusive governance means ensuring that the decisions you make on behalf of this great education system are made with the input of those who would be most affected,” said UCSC alumnus Colm Fitzgerald during the meeting.
The regents also faced criticism of the UC’s continued support and investment for the Thirty Meter Telescope on the island of Hawaii, as at many previous meetings of the Council of Regency.
After the public comment session, the regents received an update on COVID-19 in the UC system.
According to Carrie Byington, executive vice president of UC Health, 99.15% of UC students and 97.2% of UC employees are currently fully vaccinated, which is the system-wide vaccination mandate.
When asked for suggestions for students traveling during the upcoming Thanksgiving break, Byington advised colleges to strengthen the testing infrastructure and ensure that all students are tested upon their return to campus.
The regents also discussed the results of the Presidential Working Group on Artificial Intelligence, a group that was formed to develop responsible principles for the use of AI in the operation of the university and to assess the possible risks.
Brandie Nonnecke, founding director of UC Berkeley’s CITRIS Policy Lab, said the university received a record number of applications last year, sparking discussions about the possible use of AI in the admissions process.
Nonnecke, however, provided a “cautionary story” in which it was found that an AI system used in the University of Texas admissions office at Austin discriminated against applicants from underrepresented groups because the algorithm based its decisions on historical records that were deep had rooted distortions.
The working group recommended the institutionalization of a number of principles, including transparency, reliability, non-discrimination, and mutual benefit and prosperity.
The final point of discussion at the regents’ morning session concerned the abolition of standardized test requirements for UC recordings.
In January 2021, President Drake requested that the Academic Senate investigate the possible use of Smarter Balanced scoring in place of the ACT and SAT used in previous years.
The Academic Senate’s Smarter Balanced Study Group concluded that it is not recommending the Smarter Balanced assessment for the UC student admissions process, said Mary Gauvain, co-chair of the group and chair of the UC Academic Senate.
“Moving (the Smarter Balanced Assessment) from low-stakes to high-stakes assessment would lead to the development of test centers, which would exacerbate inequality,” Gauvain said during the meeting.
President Drake noted the recent surge in applicants from diverse backgrounds, which he attributed to the removal of the standardized test requirement.
Student regent Alexis Atsilvsgi Zaragoza added that UC is becoming a national trailblazer and role model for other universities in terms of admission requirements.
At the following joint meeting of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee and the Financial and Capital Strategies Committee, UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood presented the UC Governing Council with a detailed overview of how the UCSF campus is planning its long-term institutional goals with its financials.
During the presentation, Hawgood highlighted the campus’ top three capital projects, its success in philanthropy, its community investment program, and a new educational partnership with UC Merced.
The presentation was part of a series in which the regents take a closer look at each campus.
“I think there is a lot to celebrate and a lot to look forward to,” said Regent Lark Park at the end of the meeting.
Contact Lydia Sidhom and Alexander Wohl at [email protected].