The UC Regents aren’t held in high regard by most students. Their visits are protested at almost every campus. And the slogan they have earned, "Fuck the Regents," while not being entirely comprehensive, clearly reflects disdain for the governing body.
During their visit last week, the UC Regents, as the decision-makers for our university, should have spent more time actively listening to concerned students. Forty minutes of legally mandated public comment, spread over two days, is not enough time for students, faculty, staff, and community members to discuss four years of conflicts and successes (not to give the false impression that discussion actually would occur). The fact that the Regents weren’t even on stage and had to turn in their front-row seats to see speakers says a great deal about the grim reality of their visit. It makes it hard to believe that they came to listen at all. Overall, the visit came off as a sham, a forced formality. Few students felt that their voices were actually heard.
This conversation is particularly needed in the context of controversy surrounding the Long Ranage Development Plan (LRDP) and the future of UC Santa Cruz. Their visit would have been a prime time to hold a forum to hear public concerns and to consider about compromises.
While students may have been unruly in their protests, the reason of their protest should not be ignored-students were upset by the rigid formalities and did not think that their voices would be heard. And based on what happened in the two public comment sessions, this seems like a completely accurate characterization.
In the face of the message that students tried to get across_-even if though it wasn’t communicated effectively-the police response was tasteless to say the least. Pepper spraying students is not a simple disciplinary action and should never be resorted to except in cases of real emergency, as it can prove fatal for people with respiratory problems.
The police action was metaphoric of what happened: students try to express themselves, the anger of not being heard boils over and the administration reacts violently by actively stopping the dissent and fully silencing student voices.
Further proving this conflict of interest, the second public comment session was closed off to the public. Barring concerned members of the city and campus community from sitting in the music recital hall to listen to the dicussion highlights the divide between students and the Regent body.
Furthermore, prior to the visit, the Regents’ campus tour was kept relatively hush-hush and not adequately announced to the campus community. Many people only learned of the event through word-of-mouth.
Student protesters were riled up for a reason-the Regents are not accountable to us. Students don’t know what they look like, what their backgrounds are or why they were selected for their posts.
Of the 26 Regents, 18 of them are appointed by the governer for 12-year terms. Many have no background in educational institutions, only experience in business. The university is not a business and should not be run by business leaders. In an ideal sense the university should be a utopia of intellectual dialogue, a place that nurtures minds.
But when the university is run by people who think only of finances, the quality of education is put on the backburner to fiscal concerns. Education suffers when profit becomes priority.
The Regents must be accountable for their decisions primarily to the student bodies, university faculties, and university staff. If the Regents are not selected democratically, they undermine the democracy of our public educations, further privatizing the university under the control of the governor’s cadre.
The UC Regents must take a lesson in public relations from Acting Chancellor Blumenthal. Though he came into his position through unfortunate circumstances, he has stepped up as a true leader and is an accessible member of the community. His presence at the rally at the Quarry plaza before the Regents’ visit even earned him a round of applause and student appreciation. It also demonstrated his dignity and courage.
A chancellor who values students enough to hold office hours to discuss campus issues is someone students can trust. The Regents wouldn’t even let students attend the second public meeting of their visit.
Next time the Regents visit they should keep this in mind. If they want a warm welcome they need to be accountable, accessible and open to input from the body they allegedly represent. They should cancel the sham public comment sessions and open the floor to meaningful dialogue about how to improve the university, the community, and better serve the needs of the student body.