Students held actions and protested today at every University of California campus in the state — all 10 of them. The protests are over proposed tuition hikes by UC President Janet Napolitano. She will be asking the Board of Regents — the body that governs the University of California — to approve 5% tuition hikes every year for the next five years to make up for UC budget concerns, which will end up a 28% increase over current tuition. They meet Wednesday.
At the same time, the pay for Chancellors (the university presidents) is being raised up to 20%, and Napolitano is resisting compliance with a new state law that requires the university to disclose spending.
Student government leaders and others organized the protests, and at least one university, actually confronted the Chancellor. The video below shows Abraham Galván, who organized the protest at the UCR, confronting Chancellor Kim Wilcox. He asks him why he won’t reject his salary increase if the tuition increase goes through. Keep in mind that the raise administrators are receiving is up to 20% on what is already “$383,000 to $485,000, plus perks,” according to the LA Times.
Here’s the video:
At first, he doesn’t answer the original question, instead saying, “Thanks for the passion. This is an important topic, and if we don’t engage, we’re not going to get the right answers.” He goes on to talk about how costs go up, and so the money has to come from somewhere, also pointing out that he doesn’t set his salary; the Board of Regents does, and according to what is competitive in the industry.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand that they’re not just upset about the raise, they’re upset about the lack of solidarity from a school leader that claims “everyone hates tuition increases, even me.” He quickly gets frustrated by shouted answers from the crowd to rhetorical questions, and leaves to shouts of “Shame!” from the crowd.
Galván tells the crowd, “You all don’t need to be disappointed by this, because to be honest, we knew this was going to happen. If the Chancellor isn’t going to be brave enough to reject his salary increase and oppose the regents on this move, why would he be brave enough to come here to speak with a couple students chanting out now and then?
Later on, they try to get answers out of the head of public relations, but he dodges questions. Nearly four hours later, students were still occupying the administrative building.
Students also want answers about the lack of budget transparency. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law, AB94, that requires the University of California to disclose financial information. So far they’ve failed to comply, as reported by SFGate:
The law, AB94, requires UC to tell the public how much it spends to educate undergraduates versus graduates, how much it spends on research, and how much money from each funding source goes to each area. State officials say they want the data to understand how much tuition UC should charge, and what the size of enrollment should be, and for basic transparency to the public.
As the Oct. 1 deadline approached, UC requested a month’s extension. On Oct. 31, UC President Janet Napolitano submitted a seven-page preliminary report explaining that accurately breaking out expenditures would be “extremely challenging” because of overlap between research and instruction, and because “funds are neither budgeted nor spent according to these categories.” It said that a final report would be submitted in six weeks, but its information “should be used cautiously.”
Now, as the UC regents prepare to debate on Wednesday whether to raise tuition by up to 5 percent a year for five years, as Napolitano is recommending, or to reject the plan as Brown is expected to argue, the question of how UC spends its money has taken on new relevance.
Refusal to comply with the law has also made it difficult for UC to get additional state funding, which is another option to cover increased costs. Governor Brown suggested a 4% increase over the next two years if tuition isn’t raised, but Napolitano said it wouldn’t be enough. There are questions surrounding the efficiency of money used by UC, and the lack of transparency hasn’t helped their case — especially because transparency has been ordered by the legislature and governor.
Caitlin Quinn, a student government member, told SFGate that “I think they should separate it out and say what they’re spending. UC should go out of their way to do this because it could help them in the long run to get more money from the state.”
I had the opportunity to speak to Caitlin Quinn and other protest leaders, and I asked her to expand on that. She told me, “Transparency will only help the UC, if they are spending money like they imply they are. The state officials I’ve talked to want to help students, but don’t trust the UC to do the right thing.”
The case could be made for higher state funding, but not while UC continues to delay budget transparency. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Napolitano has pushed compliance to after the meeting to discuss the tuition raise.
UCSD saw the biggest turnout of protesters. Maximilian Cotterill, a student government member and participant in the protests at UCSD, told me, “I think we generally agree that the state needs to restore funding to the UC — we should be talking about tuition rollbacks if anything. On the other hand I think a lot of us don’t feel that UC is being efficient or honest with their use of money. How can they simultaneously claim that there is a budget shortfall when they raise the salaries of top admin who already make $400k plus, along with substantive housing and car allowances?”
The refusal of administration to give answers is telling. Tuition hikes aren’t the only option on the table. The governor and members of the state legislature — including some who are, in fact, regents — have voiced their disagreement with the proposed raise. Four members of Congress also signed a letter to the regents in opposition of the hikes, Reps. Brownley, Bera, Peters, and Lofgren, and Rep. John Garamendi, who is a former regent, has also voiced disagreement.
Sit-in protests are still continuing at the UCR campus, with 28 determined students occupying the administrative building. Students have been told they have until 9 pm to leave, or they will be arrested.
Image of continued UCR sit-in, sent to me by organizers:
UPDATE: Protesters left the admin offices with less than an hour before the threatened deadline, after meeting with an attorney. Organizer Abraham Galván says, “The Chancellor is meeting with everyone on Friday and we will decide how to move forward there.”