Remarks to the Board of Regents

January 21, 2015

UC President Janet Napolitano's remarks to the Board of Regents at its January 2015 meeting, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chair Varner.

I would like to join the Chair in welcoming our newest regent, Gareth Elliott, to the Board.  Gareth, welcome to the UC community. We look forward to working with you.

I’d like to begin by previewing three agenda items that we will discuss today and tomorrow.

Later this morning, during the Committee on Educational Policy, the Board will hear a presentation on Phase Two of the work undertaken by the President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault. 

The Task Force acted with swift, deliberate purpose in meeting the timeline the members were given. I am pleased to report that they will meet all four of the milestones they were charged with reaching by January. Among other developments, every campus has now established a full-time, student advocacy office that has a common job description and charter.  We have implemented response teams on campus that do case management of reported sexual misconduct. We also have implemented response teams on campus that focus on policy, education, and prevention with both the UC community and local agencies to ensure consistent and appropriate treatment of these issues on all UC campuses. A system-wide website now has been launched. And in concert with that system-wide web effort, all campus websites now share uniform, easily accessible information. 

These are important steps in ensuring that UC policy on preventing and responding to sexual assault and sexual violence is consistent across the entire University of California. I look forward to a productive discussion on the Phase Two implementations. And I would like to thank the members of the President’s Task Force, and in particular Regent Reiss.

The second agenda item is E5, which will also take place during the Committee on Educational Policy. 

This item is an Update on the Proposed Federal Rating System. I will provide a brief overview of the proposal and go into greater detail on the University’s position on the proposed system at that time. For now, let me say that UC shares the U.S. Department of Education’s objectives for strengthening higher education in this country, specifically with regard to access, quality, accountability, and student success. While a rating system by itself is only a tool for students and their families to use, we at UC are committed to working with the Department to ensure that what is produced makes sense. 

The third agenda item is H1, an Update on Student Behavioral Health, which we will discuss during the Committee on Health Services tomorrow.

As Dr. Stobo will share at that time, UC student demand for mental health services exceeds the resources we currently have available on our campuses. As a result, when the Board voted recently to increase the Student Services Fee, I allocated at least 50% of the increase to support student mental health services. I did so because it is imperative that UC students receive the mental health support they need—especially when they seek it out. And I look forward to our discussion on this important topic.

I would now like to update you on a few of the initiatives we have launched since I began my presidency.

The first is the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative. As part of our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2025, the University switched from a third-party electricity supplier this month, and began to provide electric power directly to five UC campuses, three UC medical centers, and other small accounts throughout the University.

In so doing, UC has become, in effect, a utility. The University will possess greater control over the type of energy purchased; provide the University community with greater price transparency; and potentially cut UC power bills by as much as 10% this year alone.

Two weeks ago, I also announced the creation of the President’s Sustainability Student Fellowship/Internship Program. Each campus—in addition to ANR and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—will receive $7,500 to fund non-need based student awards. The goal is to ensure continued, robust student participation in the University’s sustainability efforts.

Similar to the fellowship program for the Global Food Initiative, the awards will be administered locally. Each campus, as well as ANR and LBNL, will have the flexibility to allocate the award to undergraduate or graduate students involved in research, engagement, or other activities supporting the Carbon Neutrality Initiative at that location.

Much progress has also been made with the UC Global Food Initiative. Last month, the selection committee for the GFI student logo design contest named UC Davis senior Ren Bautista as the winner. Ren’s submission was one of nineteen. It features a head of cabbage in the soil; the soil may also be seen as an open book, which symbolizes UC research and education. A blue ring that surrounds the image represents the world, and underscores the global focus of the GFI. Ren is a civil engineering major, and was awarded $2,000 for winning the contest.

We have also funded the Global Food Initiative’s first phase of projects.  This first phase included several projects focused on developing best practices, and the necessary toolkits to implement those best practices. Once those toolkits have been deployed successfully throughout the University, they can be offered to schools and communities nationwide.  These projects include, among many others, developing zero waste dining facilities, examining food security issues at UC; and working with local school districts to develop healthy and sustainable dining options for K-12 students.

In December, as part of our efforts to support faculty research more broadly, I launched the President’s Research Catalyst Awards program, which will be administered out of my office. This is a new program that will fund $10 million of high priority, multi-campus research efforts in the next three years. 

The outcomes of this research are expected to benefit California, and stimulate public support for the University’s research mission. The first recipients, whose proposals were selected from a pool of nearly 200, are exploring topics ranging from the California prison healthcare crisis, to understanding how climate change will affect California ecosystems. And I am pleased to share that the application process for the next round of funding begins later this winter.

Looking ahead, I would like to share two items of business that pertain to the Presidential Initiatives.

In the next month, I will meet with the Academic Senate’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools—or as it is commonly known, BOARS—to discuss further improvements to the UC transfer pathway. I suspect Regent Oakley can provide us with some insight here. I recently sent a letter to all first-year students at California’s community colleges who have expressed interest in completing a four-year degree. I encouraged them to begin the process of considering and planning now for a potential transfer to UC.

At the end of February, I will travel to Ensenada in Baja California for the inaugural meeting of the Advisory Board of the UC Mexico Initiative. Chancellor Wilcox has been a key leader in this effort. As I have said before, there is much that UC and Mexican institutions of higher learning and the Mexican government can achieve together. Areas of collaboration range from addressing problems of mutual importance, to supporting meaningful student and faculty exchanges that create new knowledge and enrich students’ educational experiences. We look forward to a productive meeting in Ensenada that will further advance these objectives.

Before I conclude, I would like to share a new and important development at the Office of the President. 

As part of the Office’s strategic organization review, we have created the new position of Vice Provost for Diversity and Engagement. We did so because it became clear that a senior leader needed to assume day-to-day oversight of the critical issues of diversity and inclusion, at all levels of the University of California.

Current Vice Provost for Educational Partnerships Yvette Gullatt will fill this new position. Yvette is a deeply respected and much valued leader in Academic Affairs. She has a long history of successfully working to increase the participation of under-served populations in higher education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. As Vice Provost for Diversity and Engagement, Yvette will continue to oversee the engagement activities handled by our current Educational Partnerships team, in addition to managing her new responsibilities coordinating diversity and inclusion efforts across the University.

Before closing, I would like to say a few words about the UC Budget, and the current state of the University.

For the 11th straight year, California resident undergraduate applications to UC hit a record high. And for the first time, Latino students constituted more than a third of those applicants.

UC, as I have said before, is an amazingly resilient place. Despite years of public disinvestment, its research and academic reputation have been largely sustained. Entire swaths of the California economy—from biotechnology to the wine industry—have sprung from UC research. UC graduates lead the creativity and innovation activities upon which California prides itself.

But the fact remains that we cannot continue to do these things without additional revenue. We are already educating thousands more California students than our current level of state funding supports. And we are constantly exploring ways to identify innovations that will cut the costs of a UC education.

Nor are these new undertakings at UC. As we will discuss during the presentation on the Commission on the Future later today, we are not starting from scratch in this arena. Since 2010, the Commission’s recommendations have informed our work to educate more Californians despite the constrained resources of the last few years. I keep the Commission’s report on my desk. I consult it. It is a living document. Russ Gould, as Chairman of the Board at the time of the Commission, should be lauded along with my predecessor for launching this valuable and forward-looking work in a time of true crisis. 

So we at UC look forward to ongoing, productive discussions regarding the University’s budget with Governor Brown, as part of the select advisory committee we are discussing later today. We also look forward to working with Speaker Atkins, with President Pro Tem De Leon, and with all members of the legislature. And we are hopeful that this collaborative process will ultimately result in a budget that not only strengthens the University’s core research and public service efforts, but also ensures that the next generation of Californians has the same higher education opportunities as those in the past.

As the nation’s public research universities contemplate their future, they should look to the University of California as their lodestar, informing their path forward. It has ever been thus, and it should ever be so.

Chair Varner, this concludes my remarks.