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Despite Angry Protests, UC Regents Raise Administrators' Salaries

 
Board asks state for more funding, while Cal faculty demand changes in police tactics

Regents of the University of California, meeting for the first time since campus police used pepper spray and riot batons to disperse student protests at Berkeley and Davis, listened to nearly three hours of public complaints about those incidents and tuition increases before chanting protesters disrupted the meeting and drove them from the room.

The Regents then reconvened in a smaller room down the hall from the protesters, where they voted to raise the salaries of nearly a dozen university administrators and lawyers by as much as 21.9 percent.

"I am very sorry that a small group of students, about 20, decided to disrupt our meeting," said Sherry L. Lansing, the board chair.

Lieut. Gov. Gavin C. Newsom, one of the six Regents who attended the meeting on the campus of UC San Francisco, was the only one to accept a request from the estimated 50 student and faculty protesters to continue the discussions after the Regents closed the official meeting to public comments.

The demonstrators took turns railing against a litany of student and faculty complaints, including mounting student debt, poor job prospects after graduation, low wages, and alleged police brutality.

When protesters asked Newsom to sign a petition calling for state lawmakers to close corporate tax loopholes, among other initiatives, he declined, explaining that he had "an absolute aversion to pledges."

"You have my support for every specific principle,” Newsom said. “I think it's a lot better than any signature." Newsom said he and Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. were discussing several possible tax reforms that might generate more revenue for the state’s beleaguered educational system.

Only a few students were permitted to attend the regents’ meeting after it reconvened. The restriction prompted an outcry from protesters.

"They don't support free speech," said Pablo Gaston, a graduate student at UC Berkeley. "They are clearly keeping us out."

Before they left the small room, the regents voted unanimously to ask the state to increase the university’s funding for the 2012-13 fiscal year to $2.7 billion from $2.3 billion.

The regents also approved salary raises for 10 administrators and managers, including a 9.9 percent increase for Meredith Michaels, vice chancellor of planning and budget at UC Irvine, whose annual salary will increase to $247,275 from $225,000.

Six campus attorneys also received salary increases. The largest increase, 21.9 percent, went to Steven A. Drown, chief campus counsel and associate general counsel at UC Davis. His yearly salary will rise to $250,000 from $205,045.

Mark G. Yudof, the university system president and a regent, said the raises were necessary to attract and retain talented employees.

As the meeting began Monday morning, Yudof reiterated the board’s support for peaceful protests and its “antipathy to tuition increases."

Hundreds of people at four different UC campuses, including UC Davis, UC Merced, UCLA, and UCSF, sought to address the board either in person or by teleconference. Over and over again, students called for an end to tuition hikes and an increase in spending on higher education. Some also called for the reform of Proposition 13 and increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

The regents repeatedly tried to assure the protesters that they were philosophically opposed to tuition increases.

"None of us want to raise tuition," Lansing said. "It was never our intention to consider such an increase now. We strongly believe that the state should make our great university affordable for all Californians."

Many of the demonstrators applauded when the Assembly Speaker, John Perez (D-Los Angeles), who is also a member of the regents, described himself as a "believer in the Master Plan," referring to the California Master Plan for Higher Education, passed by the legislature in the 1960s, which calls for providing affordable, high-quality education for all Californians.

“It’s appalling that we have gone down the route of charging for education-related services,” Perez said, while also acknowledging the recession's effects on the state's budget. “It’s a reality, given the economic conditions, that we have to charge what we charge.”

Many of the speakers identified themselves as members of labor unions representing graduate students at the universities. They called on the regents to sign a pledge written by ReFund California, a coalition of labor groups, to “make the 1 percent fund public education.”

"We want the regents to sign a pledge that they will support closing tax loopholes and roll back Proposition 13 to provide more funding for education," said Jia Ching Chen, a graduate student in urban planning at UC Berkeley and a member of Refund California, which presented a copy of the pledge to Yudof on Monday.

UC President Mark Yudof Receiving ReFund California Pledge

Meanwhile, on the Berkeley campus, at one of the largest Academic Senate meetings in recent years, the faculty voted overwhelmingly to condemn the violent response to recent campus protests, but stopped short of a vote of no-confidence in Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau and other campus administrators.

The Academic Senate approved, by a vote of 336-34, four largely symbolic resolutions drafted by the faculty expressing indignation for harsh police tactics, calling for revised police practices, and demanding official apologies from top administrators. One of the resolutions would prohibit campus police from being "deployed preemptively with riot weapons and tactics in response to non violent demonstrations."

Another resolution said the handling of the Nov. 9 protest on the Berkeley campus "has greatly diminished confidence in the campus's leadership."

In a brief appearance before the faculty meeting, Birgeneau said he was sorry for sending a letter in which he sought to justify police tactics, in which he contended that linking arms was "not nonviolent" behavior on the part of the protesters.

"I suspect that we are all either embarrassed or angered by the events of Nov. 9," George Breslauer, executive vice chancellor at UC Berkeley, told the faculty.

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