UC Regents September 19-21 Meeting Recap

By UC Santa Barbara, Daily Nexus

Regents discuss updates to Community Safety Plan 

The Compliance and Audit Committee discussed the progress made on the UC Community Safety Plan on Sept. 20.

The Community Safety Plan — published in 2021 — outlines reforms to campus policing and safety. It is centered around four principles, as listed in the plan: Community and Service-Driven Safety; A Holistic, Inclusive and Tiered Response Model for Safety Services; Transparency and Continuous Improvement through Data; and Accountability and Independent Oversight. 

“Over the past few months, I have visited all 10 campuses and met with key stakeholders and leadership to learn about the unique nature of each community and to better understand the progress each location has made,” University of California Systemwide Director of Community Safety Jody Stiger said at the meeting, presenting the update on the Community Safety Plan. 

All campuses except UC Berkeley, UC Merced, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco have now fully established Police Accountability Boards (PABs), Stiger said, and all campuses have begun the accreditation process through the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement. According to Stiger, all campuses are expected to have up-and-running PABs by the end of fall quarter. 

“Some campuses have found it challenging to fully implement their police accountability boards,” Stiger said. “We’re working to better understand the challenges and possible solutions, for example, some campuses have offered financial incentives for police accountability board participants.”

The plan also enforces a tiered response model to have sworn police officers respond to calls less frequently. Stiger said 135,00 calls across the UC system in 2022 were handled by non-law enforcement personnel out of roughly 500,00 calls total.

UC Davis Police Department Chief of Police Joseph Farrow said all UC campus police chiefs are on board with the changes ushered by the Community Safety Plan. 

“When the plan first came out, the interpretation was a learning curve for us as we moved forward. Some of the tasks seemed daunting at the beginning, but I can tell you today that all 10 chiefs are on board,” Farrow said.

UC allots $83 million to California climate action seed, matching grants

Members of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee discussed the ongoing state funding for UC climate action research and innovation at the Sept. 20 UC Board of Regents meeting. Of the total funding, $83 million was awarded to California university-based researchers for Climate Action Seed and Matching Grants.

The California State Budget Act reserved $185 million to the UC in July 2022 for the sole purpose of Climate Action Initiatives. Of this budget, $100 million was designated specifically for higher education universities to create research-driven innovations that address the state’s specific needs.

In a two-year partnership with the Governor’s Office and the California Legislature, the UC encouraged entrepreneurship and action with an emphasis on inclusive and equitable solutions to catapult the UC system ahead in the fight against climate change.

During the committee meeting, UC President Michael V. Drake’s desire to see the UC “at the forefront in understanding the climate crisis and implementing practical solutions to build a more equitable, resilient and healthy world,” was expressed in a statement read aloud by Provost Katherine S. Newman.

Of the $100 million allotted for research, $15 million was designated for a UC Climate Innovation and Entrepreneurship (INE) program that distributed grants on March 1 earlier this year. UC Vice President for Research & Innovation Dr. Theresa Maldonado elaborated on how exactly the funds were distributed.

“15 $1 million INE grants were awarded to the 10 campuses, two California-based Department of Energy national labs, agriculture and natural resources, UC health and the natural reserve system,” Maldonado said.

The other $83 million was allocated to the California Climate Action Seed and Matching Grants competition. A request for proposals (RFP) was made by Maldonado’s office and approved by the governor’s office. It was then posted in Dec. 2022, inviting research applicants from any four-year, higher education university in California, resulting in over 500 requests for funding.

Maldonado detailed the step-by-step process of choosing the grant winners during the Regents meeting. First, the 500 requests were reviewed by Maldonado’s office, resulting in 52% of the applicants being chosen to submit completed proposals. Of the 216 proposals submitted, 120 out-of-state experts were recruited to manage six thematic panels in June responsible for the peer-review process that lacked conflicting interest.

“After a rigorous peer-review process, we selected 38 proposals for [the] award. $56 million went to 34 seed grants and $27 million went to four matching grants. Collectively, these projects involved 12 UC locations, 11 Cal State University campuses, two private universities and over 130 community, industry, tribal and public agency partners,” Maldonado said.

The grants, which are given over a two-year period, cover 51 out of the 58 California counties. The projects funded cover a wide range of issues and incorporate both technology- and people-based solutions to the climate crisis.

According to the climate action initiative discussion, “the projects will mitigate wildfire risks, combat soil degradation and erosion, address water management in the state and create land stewardship partnerships led by Indigenous communities,” among other things. 

Following the selection of the grant winners, the strategic growth council gave extra funding to 10 projects that they believed had the best plans for community engagement.

“Each of the selected projects received $20,000 supplements to develop trainings on best practices in community participatory research in the field of climate change,” Maldonado said.

Two of the project leads — UC Santa Cruz sociology professor and Interim Director of the Center for Labor and Community Dr. Miriam Greenberg and San Diego State University research ecologist and Co-Director of the Institute for Ecological Monitoring and Management Megan Jennings — who received the additional funding from the competition were present at the Regents meeting to share their research with the committee.

Greenberg presented a summary of her $1.6 million seed grant award research regarding the wildland-urban interface (WUI).

“Our hypothesis in this project is that [the housing] crisis is playing an increasing role in driving WUI growth as people are priced out of urban areas and into relatively more affordable WUIs,” Greenberg said.

Jennings discussed her $7.1 million climate action matching grant – Collaborative of Native Nations for Climate Transformation & Stewardship.

“We’ve proposed a community-based approach that leverages our local networks and successes to create a transformable model of Indigenous land stewardship to increase climate resilience,” Jennings said.

Regents discuss approach to NEEL partnership for Winter Quarter 2024

The UC discussed the National Education Equity Lab as its partner in providing college courses online to high school students enrolled in Title I schools nationally during its Sept. 20 Regents meeting. 

The UC plans to make these initial courses available by 2024, making it the first public research university system to collaborate with the National Education Equity Lab (NEEL). 

NEEL is a national K-12 nonprofit that works to provide online, credit-bearing college courses to high school students. These courses are developed and organized by university faculty and co-facilitated by high school teachers and university fellows. The program helps its enrolled high school students experience a glimpse of college academic life through tutorials, discussions and other methods of academic preparation and support. 

“Students in the lab are high achievers whose abilities in education cannot be maintained or matched by their high school environments, whether due to lack of courses, budgetary restrictions, little to no collegiate visits during the year or other access-related impediments,” UC Online Executive Director Rolin Moe said during the meeting. 

“For these students, exposure to the potential of university education in a space with multiple levels of personal and academic scaffolding create an environment in which their abilities can thrive,” he continued. 

The UC aims to curate its approach to this partnership in helping first-generation and low-income students as well as those from underrepresented communities prepare for college curriculums. Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Katherine Newman spoke to this initiative as part of the greater effort toward UC enrollment goals. 

“With the goal of increasing enrollments and completions by more than 200,000 by the 2030 academic year, identifying scalable ways to more readily engage historically underrepresented populations can help us meet those enrollment goals as well as satisfy our desire to achieve equity and inclusion,” Newman said in the meeting. 

The UC plans to offer two courses in partnership with NEEL in the 2024 winter and spring term. Faculty members from the UC will be establishing the syllabus, developing course materials and conducting the classroom. The courses will complement existing online courses available to high school students for completing A-G UC course requirements. 

UC Artificial Intelligence Council presents to Regents

Members of the UC Artificial Intelligence Council spoke to the Regents at a Sept. 21 board meeting about the council’s goals for the 2023-24 fiscal year, and presented an overview and recommendations of the Presidential Working Group on Artificial Intelligence.

UCLA professor of radiological sciences, bioengineering and bioinformatics Alex Bui outlined four points of focus for the upcoming year.

The council will focus on developing third-party risk impact assessment for procurement of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technology, documenting AI-enabled technologies in use within UC’s operations and developing training and engagement toolkits addressing the use of AI-enabled technology in high-risk areas.

Bui also emphasized various challenges the UC currently faces regarding implementing AI, one of which is the consistency of AI practices across the UC.

“One of the challenges with AI being deployed so quickly is that each campus is coming up with its own policy, and what we have is a patchwork, right now, of guidance and best practices across the UC,” Bui said. “What we would like to be able to get to is a more uniform set of guidance that the UC campuses can all consider.”

Alexander Bustamante, the Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance and Audit Officer in the Office of Ethics, Compliance and Audit services, spoke about the Presidential Working Group on Artificial Intelligence.

The working group was established in August 2020 to address ethical concerns that come with implementing AI into the UC.

“While AI holds potential and the UC is increasingly turning to it to support greater efficiency, effectiveness, equity and operations, it simultaneously poses ethical, privacy, safety, equity and security risks for UC,” Bustamante said.

Bustamante outlined the working group’s recommendations, which include establishing a standing AI council to advance the group’s principles and standards, integrating AI principles into procurement and oversight procedures, developing risk and impact assessment tools and creating a centralized database for higher-risk AI technologies.

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Oct. 5, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.