Dozens Speak Out at U.C. Regents' Meeting

By Dan McMenamin (Bay City News Service}
Monday November 28, 2011 - 05:20:00 PM

Dozens of University of California students, employees and others spoke at a Board of Regents meeting held via teleconference at four UC campuses today, sharply criticizing recent police actions in Davis and Berkeley, as well as rising tuition costs. 

The meeting, which had initially been scheduled for earlier this month, was postponed until today because of "credible intelligence" that violence was possible at the previous meeting, which was to take place in San Francisco, university officials said. 

The perceived threat followed criticism that UC Berkeley police were overly aggressive in responding to "Occupy Cal" protests on Nov. 9. The outrage over police tactics grew when several students were pepper-sprayed while peacefully protesting at UC Davis on Nov. 18. 

Today's meeting was held via teleconference, with UC staff and students speaking at four campuses -- Davis, Los Angeles, Merced and UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus. 

Board of Regents chair Sherry Lansing said she was "personally shocked and appalled" at the police actions and said the meeting was held jointly at the four campuses "to give the UC community an even greater opportunity to be heard." 

But Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is on the board, said before the meeting started that holding it by phone was "awkward at best" and "not ideal." 

UC President Mark Yudof said at the start of the meeting that he is calling for the partial restoration of funding for the system in the state Legislature's next budget negotiations. 

"State disinvestment has placed a tremendous strain on the university," reducing the state's contribution to the UC system from $3.2 billion to $2.3 billion over the past few years, Yudof said. 

Newsom said state cuts have led to the doubling of tuition at UC campuses since 2008-09. 

About 150 people at the four campuses signed up to speak during a nearly two-hour public comment period, many of whom criticized university police, tuition hikes and the corporate backgrounds of some of the regents. 

Charlie Eaton, financial secretary for United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents about 12,000 UC teaching assistants, tutors and other staff, was one of about two dozen people to speak at the San Francisco campus. 

Eaton criticized what he called "the actions of the financial and corporate elite on the board" to raise tuition costs. 

He said police then responded to protesters at universities by "having us beaten, having us pepper sprayed and having us arrested." 

"The buck stops with you ... and it's time for you to pay," Eaton said. 

Other speakers criticized an independent commission proposed by the regents to look into the Davis incident that would be led by former Los Angeles and New York police Chief William Bratton, who is already contracted to work with the UC administration. 

Yudof said, "I don't see any conflict problem" and said "we will get to the bottom of the difficulties at Davis." 

Lansing said at the end of the public comment period that she "would like to continue this dialogue" with a tour of various UC campuses by some of the regents. 

"We hear you, and we share your concerns," she said. 

The crowd at the San Francisco meeting tried to prolong the public comment period with chants, and the regents took a recess at 11:40 a.m. 

Today's agenda also includes a discussion on alternate funding sources beyond tuition from students and taxpayer support. 


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