Updated: U.C. Regents Finish Meeting Interrupted by Protesters

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Monday November 28, 2011 - 06:49:00 PM

A University of California Board of Regents meeting held via teleconference at four UC campuses wrapped up this afternoon after being briefly interrupted by protesters who criticized recent police actions in Davis and Berkeley and rising tuition costs. 

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

The perceived threat followed criticism that UC Berkeley police were overly aggressive and beat protesters with batons when 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 the Davis, Los Angeles, Merced and San Francisco Mission Bay campuses. 

No proposed tuition hikes were on the agenda, but some regents addressed the recent incidents at Davis and Berkeley and student concerns about rising costs. 

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, saying the state has reduced its contribution to the UC system by nearly a billion dollars in the past few years. 

About 150 people at the four campuses signed up to speak during the 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 and other staff, was one of about two dozen speakers at the San Francisco meeting, telling the regents "The buck stops with you ... and it's time for you to pay." 

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

However, that sentiment did not satisfy the protesters at the San Francisco meeting, who started prolonged chants, prompting the regents to take a recess at 11:40 a.m. 

While most of the regents left, Newsom stayed and joined protesters who then held a "People's Regents Meeting" in the room, during which they called on Yudof to resign, as well as the chancellors at Berkeley and Davis, and proposed new ways of appointing regents. 

Newsom said the protesters "restored my faith and confidence in this state and country" since "there were not a lot of people showing up at these meetings" until the Occupy movements started spreading across the country in recent months. 

Newsom eventually joined the rest of the regents in a separate room this afternoon to finish the meeting, which included a discussion of alternative funding sources beyond tuition from students and taxpayer support and approval of an expenditure plan for the upcoming budgetary year.