UC Regents meeting met with raucous protests over hidden surplus funds

A University of California Regents meeting this morning in San Francisco turned chaotic when dozens of angry students and union workers showed up.

They were protesting tuition hikes and were upset about a recent state audit which found that UC officials squirreled away $175 million in surplus funds.

The group was cheering and clapping loudly during the beginning of the meeting, making it impossible for board members to conduct business.

UC Police told demonstrators they would have to leave or face arrest.

"Take back the tuition hike and put the money where it should go!" yelled Luster Howard of AFSCME Local 3299, who works at the UC-owned Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

He and the other protesters moved outside the building, located at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, to continue chanting and carrying signs.

"It's an atrocity.... they're acting like it's really not a big deal and it's all a big misunderstanding!" cried Howard.
One UCLA student, Frida Ramirez Aldapa, drove up to the Bay Area last night to participate in today's demonstration. Ramirez Aldapa was born in Mexico and is undocumented. She believes UC officials can't brush off the audit..

"If they have their stash of money and they have their tuition hikes, it really should be free tuition honestly," said Ramirez Aldapa. "As undocumented students we serve a lot - like either we eat or we buy text books, you know?"

"This is a public university and we have to protect that public trust," said Lt Governor and ex officio Regent Gavin Newsom, who said that the tone of the audit was too harsh but that it was long overdue.
"This one of the most opaque institutions I've ever participated in, it is also one of the most extraordinary institutions on planet Earth," said Newsom. That's why the Lt. Governor said it's critical that the UC Regents maintains transparency.

UC President Janet Napolitano has disputed the audit's findings, saying the surplus is actually $38 million and the rest of the funds will provide aid for victims of sexual violence and students like Ramirez Aldapa, who are in the United States illegally.

Still protesters say the UC now has enough money to pay workers like Howard more and better support students who face homelessness and hunger.

"You have to really really consider your food choices," admitted Taylor Chanes, a UCI 4th year student. "And like what you're eating... a lot of times like, choosing not the greatest options like Top Ramen. It's expensive. Most of my education is covered by grants but it's still not enough. Every year our monthly rent goes up $100."
Chanes said she's worked at the campus Starbucks to try to make ends meet.

While most of today's fireworks were outside with students, tomorrow there promise to be more fireworks, inside, as the UC Regents hashes out its budget.