POSTED BY HANK REICHMAN
The following is the text of a letter sent today to Senator Kevin de León, President Pro-Tem of the California state Senate, by the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA), an AAUP partner organization:
June 19, 2017
Senator Kevin de León
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 651-4924
Re: Request that the Senate insist that the California Constitution be followed when nominating Regents to the University of California
Dear Pro Tem de León,
On June 10, 2017, the San Francisco Chronicle published a front page story, “Are governors ignoring law when appointing UC regents?” reporting that Governor Jerry Brown recently nominated four people to the Board of Regents of the University of California without following the process specified by Article 9 Sections 9d and 9e, which requires consultation with a broad-based committee whose purpose is to ensure that the Regents are “broadly reflective of the economic, cultural, and social diversity of the State.” As the San Francisco Chronicle stated in its June 12 editorial “Follow the law, Gov. Brown,” “California’s Constitution is not a list of suggestions for our elected leaders. In a society subject to the rule of law, its provisions must be followed.”
With the ongoing controversies about the Board of Regents and the UC Office of the President that the Regents oversee, having an effective Board of Regents committed to high quality, accessible, and affordable higher education in California is more important than ever.
We are particularly concerned that the majority of the Regents and of Governor Brown’s latest nominees continue to be dominated by an economic, cultural, and social elite that is not broadly representative of the diversity of the State. In addition, some Regents, including some now nominated, have been invested in privatized higher education and so could benefit financially by the failure of UC in particular and public higher education in general.
If the University of California, as a public institution, administered by the Regents as a public trust, is to further the aspirations of outstanding students from all populations in our state, then the Regents need to be more representative than they currently are of all Californians and the interests of the public.
A more representative Board of Regents would have likely done a better job of assuring accountability of the UC Office of the President and given a higher priority to vigorous efforts to restore high quality, accessible, and tuition-free higher education to the people of California as envisioned in the California Master Plan for Higher Education. A recent report that we and other organizations released through the Reclaim coalition, The $48 Fix, shows that this goal is achievable in California yet there has been no discussion of restoring the Master Plan by the current Board of Regents. The fact that it is dominated by wealthy interests for whom the steadily increasing costs would not be a practical problem may help explain the lack of urgency in building the confidence of the public and policymakers needed to restore tuition-free education at UC.
Therefore, we respectfully request that the Rules Committee enforce the California Constitution by immediately rejecting (without prejudice) the Governor’s nominees. Regent terms begin as soon as the Governor nominates them, so these improperly nominated Regents can vote on issues at the upcoming Regent’s meeting unless the Senate Rules Committee acts quickly to reject them.
We also request that the Constitutionally-required advisory committee be more than a pro forma process and that the Senate state that it will only consider Regent nominees that have been vetted through an open public process. Meetings should be conducted in accordance with the Bagley-Keene Act, including proper public notices of meetings with opportunities for public comment. The rejection of the current slate should not preclude these candidates from being considered in the future via the proper advisory committee process.
Geographical diversity is important. On June 13, the Modesto Bee expressed concerns about the uneven geographic distribution of the current Regents, and that the current slate of nominees does not remedy this problem. For this reason we urge the Senate to require that the advisory committee not simply meet in Sacramento, but hold meetings around the state to collect input and suggestions.
Such a discussion would also provide an opportunity to hear from California students, their families, and other interested parties on the future of UC and what needs to be done to reclaim the California Master Plan for Higher Education.
Thank you for your consideration.
On behalf of the Board of the Council of UC Faculty Associations
cc: Senator Anthony Cannella (Vice Chair)
Senator Toni Atkins
Senator Tom Berryhill
Senator Connie M. Leyva
Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California
Jim Chalfant, Chair of the UC Systemwide Academic Senate