SCA 21, authored by Senators Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) and Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) and ACA 24, authored by Assemblymembers Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) and Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), would remove the Regents autonomy and allow the Legislature to enact statutes affecting UC policy, similar to authority granted over the California State University. If approved by two-thirds of the Legislature, the measure would be put before the voters for final approval.
“My colleagues and I stand together in introducing SCA 21 and ACA 24. What these measures will do is rein in the arrogance of UC. For too long with the rarefied air that they breathe and the high rent district that they live in, they’ve been totally out of touch with the people of California.”
“Time and time again they have demonstrated that they don’t understand transparency, they don’t understand accountability. They don’t understand anything about the struggles of the people of California are going through.
There has not been public oversight of that institution for too long.”
“Enough is enough; it is time for the UC administration to stop acting like a private institution. Only five other public universities in the country have a similar status, with UC receiving the greatest level of autonomy. This completely outdated model results in the Regents thinking they are above the law. They continuously violate the public trust and disrespect students and taxpayers.
What this legislation will do is to provide some voice, some people’s voice in the operation of UC.”
Co-sponsor Senator Roy Ashburn, a Republican, could not attend the press conference due to the graduation of his grandson from nursery school.
In a written statement he said:
“The people of California are sick and tired of how Sacramento spends their tax dollars. There can be no better evidence of this than the results of the recent special elections. The voters want us to do our job by stopping wasteful expenditures as blatantly demonstrated by the UC Board of Regents. SCA 21 will force the UC Regents to open up their books and justify how they spend every tax dollar by removing their autonomy and making them subject to the rule of law.”
As he pointed out, even as the Regents approved fee hikes for UC students, they also approved various exorbitant compensation packages to their top executives. He cited the example of incoming UCSF Chancellor who received a $450,000 salary on top of a University provided house, auto allowance, relocation expenses, etc. He also cited the incoming UC Davis Chancellor who received a salary of $400,000 which marks a 27% increase over her predecessor.
“This raise would have easily paid for the tuition of ten students for two semesters.”
Assemblymember Brian Nestande another Republican agreed with his colleague:
“At a time when the University has raised student fees and is considering cutting the pay of its lowest-paid workers, it is simply wrong to be giving the two new chancellors more gold-plated benefits. If students have to tighten their belts, then everyone in the UC system must also tighten theirs. If UC’s leadership does not get this, then perhaps it is time for the Legislature to review the autonomy that our state Constitution grants them.”
Assemblymember Anthony Protantino, Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee:
“ACA 24 and SCA 21 will fill the need for greater accountability and oversight of the UC Board of Regents. If enacted, these Constitutional Amendments will provide the appropriate amount of oversight by making the Regents directly accountable to the public. This will ensure the decisions they make are in the best interest of students and the State.”
Senator Gloria Romero who chairs the Senate Committee on Education:
“For too long the UC has operated as an independent Fiefdom. Audits of the UC during the last few years read more like AIG or Enron than what we expect from the University of California. This is a system that clearly has lost its sense of public accountability.”
“In a statement last week regarding the budget revise, President Yudof said, “The choices are stark, and everything is on the table.” Well, Mr. Yudof, you are correct: everything is on the table and it starts with the UC being forthcoming and accountable to the public.”
Joining the legislators in support of this constitutional amendments were representatives from ASUCD, UC Davis’ student government body, AFSCME, UPTE, UC-AFT, CNA, and the Service Employees Trades Council.
Talia MacMath, a Senator at ASUCD:
“Affordability, accountability and accessibility are the pillars on which the University of California stand. Senator Yee’s actions today mark a sincere, necessary, and appreciated step towards guarding the integrity of these commitments. It seems too easy for the UC Regents who have already laid claim to their college degrees to make decisions without consequences. To think of the desires of the administrators and not the needs of students. When students are faced with the reality of the situation we cannot help but feel discouraged and frustrated. We find ourselves asking who is the university really here to help and why when we ask questions of our governing body, are they not answered. I recently attended a regents meeting to express my concern for students across the UC Campus and I found out why our questions were not answered. They’re not even heard. Only half of the regents could find the time to show up to the abbreviated public comment period and of those, they seem more interested in finishing their lunch and chattering with their neighbors than hearing the concerns of students.”
Willie Pelote who is executive director of AFSCME gave an explosive speech.
“The legislature has taken the first step forward to hold one of its own bodies accountable to the people in the state of California. I want to applaud the bipartisan support—this one where you don’t see one party or the other. This is bipartisan support coming forward to say that the University of California that’s out of step with the way that the people of California expect for a government to perform and they are going to what is required and what is necessary to bring them back into compliance by opening up the process and providing the transparency that is needed and making sure that the university of California operates the same way as any other prestigious institutions that educate the people of California. That no one is above the compliance that is required them that they operate when they receive taxpayer dollars.”
He pointedly continued:
“The last time I remember you had someone there that was in touch with everyday human beings was when Dolores Huerta was appointed by Gray Davis. It says something clear when you appoint people who have more money than the lord himself and make decisions everyday in a secret way. They do not feel obligated to do things in the public.”
He also referencee Ms. MacMath’s complaint about the regents lack of attentiveness to student concerns.
“You heard the young lady said that when it was time for the public to have a meeting before the regents, the regents felt it was more important to speak to their neighbors than less attentively to the people when it was time for them to have a say. It’s time for that to change and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Julian Posadas, Executive Vice President AFSCME Local 3299 and food service worker at UC Santa Cruz:
“We applaud Senator Yee for introducing this legislation that will make UC more accountable to California taxpayers. Studies have shown that when executives are allowed to control funds without accountability that everything that they do is vote themselves big raises. This has clearly been happening at UC for far too long. Senator Yee and other legislators have not been able to cut into UC executives excessive pay, secret meetings, and misplaced spending priorities because UC’s constitution that shields the university from having to answer to everybody. “
SCA 21 and ACA 24 would require an eventual vote of the people. It would repeal the independent provisions of UC as administered by the Regents and place it under legislative control.
“Existing provisions of the California Constitution provide that the University of California constitutes a public trust and requires the university to be administered by the Regents of the University of California, a corporation in the form of a board, with full powers of organization and government, subject to legislative control only for specified purposes. These provisions require that corporation to have all powers necessary or convenient for the effective administration of its trust.
This measure would repeal on January 1, 2011, the constitutional provisions relating to the university and the regents and would require the university and the regents to be continued in existence subject to legislative control as may be provided by statute. The measure would require the Legislature to enact legislation to implement these provisions.”
“We’re not going to take over the UC, all we’re saying is that we want to have a voice, the people want to have a voice. Parents come to me and say I can’t afford to send my kids to UC, they want to go to UC, they’re qualified to go to UC, but I can’t afford that anymore. What can you do? And for me to throw up my hands, I can’t do anything. That’s not doing my job. If there’s any message to be taken away from the election, it’s to do your job and this is what’s going to allow us to do our job.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting