UC Board of Regents Presidential Search Committee Hosts Town Hall on Campus

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UC Board of Regents Presidential Selection Committee forum at the UC San Diego Faculty Club to get input from students and staff about what they want to see in the next UC president.
Ethan Edward Coston / The Triton

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The Presidential Search Committee for the next UC President hosted a town hall at the Faculty Club on Tuesday for the campus community to provide input. UC Board of Regents Chair John Perez convened the search committee after UC President Janet Napolitano announced last September that she would resign effective August 2020.

In order to increase input and transparency, the search committee has hosted town halls on multiple UC campuses and held meetings with groups such as the UC Student Association (UCSA), labor unions, and faculty groups. Speakers at UC San Diego primarily focused on the need for a UC President who will take action to address the climate crisis, undocumented students, and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Climate Crisis

At least five speakers, including students and professors, advocated for a UC President who will work to address the ongoing climate crisis. Although praising current UC President Napolitano’s record on climate change, the speakers advocated for a leader that will enact a detailed and transparent climate action plan.

Under Napolitano, the UC system made the commitment to become carbon neutral by 2025 and announced last September that it will divest its endowment and pension fund from fossil fuels. Climate activists have pushed the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to clearly detail how carbon neutrality will be achieved and for further action in the form of a UC Green New Deal.

Yuval Baharav, a representative from UCSD Green New Deal, highlighted the need for a UC President who will prioritize education centered around the climate crisis across all disciplines instead of relegating it to a select few classes.

“Whether we’re trying to be engineers or computer scientists, the issues of climate impacts almost every single industry,” Baharav said. “Our education should prepare us and enable us to deal with these issues in a way that is socially just and proactive and innovative.”

Undocumented Students

Four student speakers advocated for the next UC President to be a committed ally to undocumented students. These speakers praised the legal services and support provided by the University.

The speakers demanded that the UC system open Undocumented Student Resource Centers, similar to UCSD’s, at each UC campus. They identified the benefits of accessibility to legal and basic needs assistance for undocumented students at UCSD.

Multiple speakers shared that the Undocumented Student Services Center served as a campus refuge from the pressures in a political climate hostile to undocumented students.

Speakers also highlighted the need for campus administrators who will explicitly speak out against xenophobia. At least two of the speakers were on campus during xenophobic chalkings that plastered public spaces and resource centers with anti-immigrant messages before new admit days.

One speaker said that the chalking campaigns made her feel unsafe at UCSD. The lack of explicit condemnation from university administrators deterred her from accessing campus support services such as Counseling and Psychological Services out of fear that she may be targeted for her immigration status by a university employee.

“I felt like there was no where I could go to. I wondered if I should drop out of UCSD … I felt like I was undeserving because of all of the hate and all of the negative attention focused on undocumented students on campus,” said Seyeong Min, an undocumented UCSD student.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Multiple speakers throughout the evening advocated that the next UC President needs to have a comprehensive understanding of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Two undergraduate speakers discussed the need for improved disability services at UCSD. UCSD alum Jack Jafek described the atmosphere at the Office of Disability Services as untrusting and lacking compared to the services provided at other UC campuses.

First-year transfer student Syreeta Nolan said that, although UCSD provides resources and programming for many marginalized communities, she has struggled to receive accommodations and find community as a student with an invisible disability. Nolan shared that she had to develop a plan to participate during this year’s on-campus housing fire drill after a representative from Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH) told her that she should not participate.

Speakers also advocated for a UC President who advances policies that protect against harassment and bullying on campus and in the workplace, while also compiling the data and information needed to inform policy and accountability supporting the university’s traditionally marginalized communities.

Notably, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, who was investigated internally and sued by a former employee for workplace harassment, stepped out right before Alison Black, who sits on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, spoke about the need for workplace protections against bullying and harassment from high level management and administration. Khosla was absent for the entire second half of the town hall.

Closing

According to Board of Regents Chair John Perez, the information shared during the town halls across the UC campuses will be used to inform how the committee will evaluate the candidates and shape onboarding for the next president.

UC Student Regent Hayley Weddle told The Triton that the current search process has been more expensive than previous search processes. Weddle also said that the search committee is interested in hearing from anyone and invites folks with additional input to email UCPresidentSearch@ucop.edu.

The Chancellor’s Office did not respond to questions before publication about why the Chancellor was absent for the latter half of the town hall.

Mo Al Elew is a Senior Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him @solomune.