The UC Board of Regents reconvened Thursday to discuss closing UC Berkeley’s libraries, UC’s investment assets and health care access.
The meetings began with a public comment period in which students and faculty at all UC campuses raised concerns about access to affordable medicine, protecting trans and queer students, and expanding climate protection policies to all UCs.
However, the most prominent voices during the public comment period came from UC Berkeley students and faculty, urging the regents to take immediate action to prevent the closing of the George and Mary Foster Anthropological Library, which is slated to merged with Main Gardner Stacks Library by January 2024
“Closing the anthropology library sends a message of reversed priorities and sets a position antithetical to the values of public education,” said Shelby Medina, a doctoral student in anthropology at UC Berkeley.
Many have expressed frustration with the library’s closure due to a perceived lack of funding, claiming that the athletic and administration budgets have not been cut to the extent that library budgets have been.
Following the close of public comments, UC Student Association President Alex Niles spoke briefly about the housing issues facing UC students.
Committee Chairman Richard Sherman then called the Investments Committee to convene, handing over the responsibility to Jagdeep Bacher, Chief Investment Officer and Vice President of Investments.
Bachher opened up a discussion about where UC stands in terms of its investment assets.
“We are not asset managers; we are risk managers,” Bacher said. “Before we look for returns, we want to understand the risks to best invest the university’s capital.”
Citing how the nature of risk has evolved over the course of the pandemic, Bacher noted a 20% annual return on private equity investments over the past thirty years. That return allowed UC Investments to concentrate on companies “in the UC ecosystem,” such as UC-related technology companies, Bacher added.
Another major investment strategy for UC is in real estate, especially properties near and around UC campuses, according to Bachher.
Over the past eight years, Bachher’s team has invested in eight assets totaling $1.2 billion in gross asset value solely as investments to provide returns for retirees and those in the UC fund.
Bacher added that a future priority for the investment team is to form a UC-based real estate team to avoid the 20% fees that private firms collect on returns. Instead, with an in-house team, UC can charge a 10 percent fee to its investors, which it can then reinvest to “advantage our clients,” Bacher said.
The Investment Committee concluded with the fourth annual report on diversity, equity, inclusion and affordability within UC Investments by Arthur Guimarães, associate chief investment officer for the University of California system. Guimarães announced a focus on investing in companies with “diverse ownership” — or those with more than 25% diverse staff members — that created a 120% increase in majority-owned Latin American businesses in UC’s portfolio.
Overall, the number of majority partners with different ownership has increased by 79% since 2019, according to Guimarães. This committee meeting ended with a note that the UC Investments team remains male-dominated, as well as ideas for developing the Toigo Fellowship, a sponsored investment club providing a space for students who are women and of color to develop investment skills and business – based career opportunities.
After the Investment Committee, the Compliance and Audit Committee met briefly to approve the external audit plan for the year. The plan, which aims to verify the university’s compliance with certain federal requirements and provide opinions on the university’s financial statements, was approved without discussion or questions.
The Community Engagement and Development Committee also met to discuss current community engagement programs, community access to protection against COVID-19, federal funding budgets, transfer program requirements and student outreach within the UC system.
The first outreach program discussed was Unidos en Salud, which works to mitigate disparities in access to low-barrier health care for Latinos and other excluded communities. This program works with access to all health care, but also focuses on protection against COVID-19, including testing and vaccines.
“A key part is getting the word out to the community, public health science, and the media, and you’ll notice that I put the community first,” explained Diane Havlir, USF professor and faculty leader for Unidos en Salud. “Whenever we had new data, we immediately shared it with the community and public health. we didn’t—science can move at a glacial pace—and publications, we didn’t wait for that process. We immediately shared data.”
Illustrating the work Community Construction Outreach is doing to promote local hiring for construction projects at UC, Benita Benavides, Assistant Director of the UCSF Community Construction Outreach Program explained that access to construction work is critical because of its “low barrier to entry.” .
At the meeting, the Board of Regents discussed transfer associate degree requirements and the TAG program, with UC President Michael Drake advocating for streamlining the transfer process without leaving behind historically excluded groups and students at low-transfer colleges.
To improve student outreach and equity, Community Engagement and Development Committee Student Monitor Celine Aradon advocated for increased funding for disability services, basic needs, housing and the Cal Grant.
“It is vital that there is an increase in the provision of funds, services and basic needs. Students should not attend school worried about food, housing, or whether they will receive the appropriate accommodations that will allow them to participate in their classes and succeed,” Aradon explained.
The two-day meeting of the Board of Regents concluded with an open board summary and report approval of all that was discussed and recommended by each committee.
Natasha Kay, Kat Schock, Vani Suresh, Laurel Spear and Lauren Mandel contributed to this article.