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Regents wrestle with admissions, budgetary issues
The board breaks precedent on budget procedure; the Moores report sparks acrimony

03 December 2003

At a Nov. 20 meeting marked by tense exchanges both inside and outside a UCLA meeting hall, the UC Board of Regents took up the prospect of further budget cutbacks — as students staged a noisy protest against additional cuts or fee increases and in favor of a bigger voice in regental decision-making.

It is at this time of year that the university’s governing board typically approves a budget request and forwards its proposal to the state Department of Finance in anticipation of the governor’s January draft of a state spending plan. But these are not typical times. Given the state’s deep budget crisis, and anxiety as to how the Schwarzenegger administration will deal with it, UC opted to provide the state with documentation on its needs, but to delay passing a specific funding proposal.

“People in Sacramento don’t want to cut K-12, or local government, or health services,” said UC Vice President for Budget Larry Hershman. “But if you keep taking everything off the table,” public higher education becomes one of the few available targets for cuts. The two systems — UC and the California State University — are in “the vulnerable part” of the budget, said Hershman, expressing reluctance to ask regents to vote on a budget that might be “dead on arrival.”

Instead, the board approved a set of principles to guide the yet-to-be-finalized budget request. Priorities include competitive salaries for faculty and staff and continued support for outreach to encourage disadvantaged California students. (Several days later, however, the governor’s office proposed the elimination of state funding for K-12 outreach programs.) The board also entertained the possibility that UC may be forced to cut programs, raise student fees (above last year’s 40 percent hike), and/or cap enrollment growth if the state does not restore needed funding.

Student activists, who share this concern, at one point moved from the area of the room designated for the public to a restricted zone near the regents, where they were repulsed by UC police. Later, chanting by demonstrators outside the room grew so loud that UC President Robert Dynes, accompanied by Regents John Moores and Odessa Johnson, left the meeting room to talk with students outside.

“You are a powerful and noisy group,” Dynes was quoted as telling protesters through a megaphone. Then, referring to concerns about potential cuts, he added, “We’re all on the same page on this one.”

One group of student activists reportedly presented a petition, with more than 13,000 signatures, demanding the resignation of Regent Ward Connerly. Others called on the regents to hold their meetings at UC campuses accessible to students, so that they may attend and voice their concerns. (All six meetings of the board in 2004 are scheduled to be held at UCSF’s Laurel Heights facility; the San Francisco medical campus does not enroll undergraduates.)

Following the rancorous meeting of the full board, a new task force on UC admissions and eligibility convened. In often stinging terms, several regents rebuked Board Chair John Moores for releasing an analysis of the admissions process at Berkeley that they said was “incomplete, inaccurate, and [hurtful to] students.”

Regent Judith Hopkinson read from a prepared text, saying she was “too angry and too emotional to trust my memory.” Hopkinson charged that Moores’ report confused the public and hurt the 386 students admitted to Berkeley in 2002 with SAT I scores below 1000. “The analysis and resulting media coverage suggests that this particular group of students is somehow unworthy of a UC education,” she said. “On the contrary, these are students who have achieved high grades in rigorous UC-approved course work ... and once enrolled at UC succeed in their studies.”

Moores, however, was unapologetic — insisting that the admissions process at Berkeley raises questions about whether it was “legal, transparent, or fair.”

Several regents echoed Hopkinson’s theme that, no matter his intent, Moores’ report had hurt students. “At the very minimum, a regent should do no harm,” said Regent Tom Sayles, who called Moores’ actions “unacceptable.” Regent Connerly, an early supporter of the Moores study, called its potential effect on students “unfair, unfortunate, and the worst thing we could do.”

The chair also was criticized for leaking his report to the press. “Regents should think about the consequences of their actions to the university” before going public with any concern, said Regent George Marcus.

For ongoing coverage of the admissions controversy, visit www.berkeley.edu/news/media/.releases/2003/10/31_admit.shtml