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Protesters sound off at regents’ meeting; UC budget gets early OK

Times Staff Writer

As students protested noisily outside over falling diversity numbers, University of California regents meeting at UCLA on Wednesday also faced a brief, relatively rare insurrection inside from several of their own members over control of the university’s budget and priorities.

The regents ultimately gave preliminary approval to a $3.3-billion, state-funded operating budget for 2007-2008 -- up 8% from the previous year -- but put off the controversial issue of whether to raise student fees.

UC officials said they would consider fees in January, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger releases his state budget proposal. Student fees were frozen for the current school year, and several regents said they hoped they could avoid an increase for next year.

But the unanimous vote followed unusually tough questioning by several regents of Larry Hershman, UC’s vice president for budget.

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Several expressed concern that the $31 million in the proposed budget for academic preparation programs was too low.

Regent Eddie Island said the state- and UC-funded programs, which help prepare elementary and high school students for university coursework, were important to UC’s efforts to boost racial diversity on its campuses.

As he spoke, students and activists who were outside protesting the declining number of African American students at UCLA could be heard inside the meeting room.

“Students everywhere we go are talking about how we’re not doing enough on this issue,” Regent Odessa Johnson said, as she urged more funding for the programs, which has declined from $85 million in 2000-2001 to $31 million last year.

Regent Richard C. Blum, who is expected to become regents chairman in January, also criticized the budget process, saying the board should be consulted during the budget’s preparation.

He said the regents had been “blindsided” by UC’s recent executive compensation controversy and said they needed to be much more involved in setting the university’s spending priorities.

The regents have taken a number of steps in recent months to improve oversight of compensation and other matters, following the revelations over the last year that the university had given millions in undisclosed or questionable pay to senior managers.

In continuing fallout from that controversy, UC officials announced late Wednesday that UC President Robert C. Dynes had asked that he not be considered for a raise this year.

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As a result, Dynes, whose current salary is $405,000, will not be eligible for a raise of up to 4% and will likely make less than at least one chancellor, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who will earn $416,000 annually if his raise is given final approval in today’s meeting.

Parsky said the regents did express full support for Dynes’ continued leadership of the university.

Earlier, students and community leaders addressed the regents, urging them to boost enrollment of underrepresented minorities at UC campuses and to challenge Proposition 209, the 1996 voter-approved initiative that bars public colleges from considering race in admissions or employment.

Several expressed special concern about the dwindling numbers of black students at UCLA, where this year’s freshman class includes only about 100 African Americans in a class of about 4,800.

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“Color is diminishing from this campus,” said the Rev. Brenda Lamothe of First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, who said she has a daughter at UCLA. She said many church members were urging their children to attend college elsewhere.

rebecca.trounson@latimes.com


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