UC Merced students, alumni, leaders and supporters were in Sacramento today to advocate for full state funding for the University of California and to promote the unique opportunities and challenges that face the rapidly growing campus.
Chancellor Dorothy Leland led the group through the first “UC Merced Day” in Sacramento, a new biennial counterpoint to the traditional UC Day.
The chancellor joined with students to generate legislative support for the UC, which now educates 90,000 more students than it did in 2000, but with the same level of state funding. The UC announced today that it is postponing discussion of a tuition increase in hopes that the ongoing state budget negotiations will result in more funding to address critical issues such as unprecedented enrollment growth and increases in instruction and student services.
The UC’s financial pains are felt acutely at its youngest and fastest-growing campus.
“UC Merced is growing into maturity in spite of a severe recession followed by years of insufficient state investment,” Leland said. “That we are now thriving is a testament to the pioneering spirit and tireless dedication of our campus community, but we need additional support from the Legislature and the governor if we are to continue our upward trajectory into the future.”
The Merced group also included former UC Regent Fred Ruiz, who has been a strong advocate for the appointment of regents who hail from or have strong ties to the Central Valley.
The Board of Regents, appointed by the governor, has 26 seats — no current regents are from the Valley, and there are five vacancies. Ruiz, also a UC Merced Foundation Board member and longtime supporter of the campus, asked legislators today to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to strongly consider nominees from one of the state’s most underrepresented region.
“By appointing a UC regent from the Valley, the governor would not just check a demographic or geographic box,” Ruiz, a regent for 12 years before stepping down in 2016, wrote in the Sacramento Bee earlier this year. “He would signal that in our vast, diverse state, it is possible for the next generation of academic and economic leaders to succeed regardless of where they are from.”
The highlight of the day was a luncheon — co-hosted by Assembly Member Adam Gray and Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairman Jose Medina — with members of the California Latino Caucus.
The group also met individually with legislators from throughout the state, including Assembly Members Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Susan Eggman, Kansen Chu, Frank Bigelow, Rocky Chavez, Randy Voepel, Joaquin Arambula, Monique Limon, Catharine Baker, Al Muratsuchi, Jim Patterson and Heath Flora; Senators Ricardo Lara, Steve Glazer, Andy Vidak, Mike McGuire, Jean Fuller, Richard Pan, Anthony Cannella and Anthony Portantino; and leaders and staffers in the areas of education, immigration, energy and the environment.
Joining Leland and Ruiz were UC Merced Foundation Trustees Jack Oswald, Daryl Hatano, Kevin Dasso, Ross Gentry, Vikram Lakireddy, Monya Lane and Ralph Ochoa; UC Merced Alumni Association President Keith Ellis; former ASUCM President Domonique Jones; current ASUCM External Vice President Teresa Wachira; and current students Ian Delaura, Michael Ponce and Gabriela Panciu.