Regents to Expand Online Classes

    The UC Board of Regents discussed major changes and improvements to be implemented throughout the next few years at their first meeting of the year last week. Held at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus, the regents’ meeting concluded that undergraduate tuition increases are unlikely for this year and that the expansion of online education and increase in diversity of faculty are priorities for this year.

    The UC Board of Regents announced the expansion of online education across the UC system. UC administrators aim to have about 10 percent of each student’s classes be taken online within the next few years and over 150 new online courses by 2016.

    Gov. Jerry Brown, who sits on the Board of Regents and attended the meeting, said that increased online courses could help community college students receive credit for transfer. The board also expressed the idea of creating an online academy to give students the opportunity to gain the equivalent of a community college degree before transferring to a UC campus, according to the Los Angeles Times.

    UC President Mark G. Yudof supported Brown’s claim and said that the UC system is ready for a new transition in contrast to the traditional classroom setting. He hopes that 10 to 15 percent of all undergraduate courses will be taken online.

    According to The Sacramento Bee on Jan. 17, Yudof will announce an incentive program within two months for professors to begin creating online courses, which will mainly be “introductory or other high-enrollment courses that can be difficult to get into.”

    However, there continues to be uncertainty regarding the implementation of online-only lectures. Various faculty, such as Bob Samuels, president of University Council – American Federation of Teachers and Raquel Morales, UCSD senior and president of the nine-campus UC Student Association, raised questions about whether online education would even save money or gain support from students.

    In response, Yudof said that new online classes would be of high quality and would not lead to layoffs. The effects of online education are still under review by university officials.

    Another major discussion at the regents’ meeting was the issue of the lack of diversity among UC faculty members. Reports show a low number of women, blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans; the faculty consisted of 30.5 percent women during Fall Quarter 2011, and of that portion, 8.6 percent are minorities.

    Although the UC system has more minority staff than other universities, such as Stanford University and Harvard University, some members of the Board of Regents expressed frustration at the slow progress of recruiting a more diverse staff. “How much more will we have to wait until the faculty looks like the students we serve?” regent Eddie Island said at the meeting.

    The report shows 76.6 percent of the faculty as white, 14.8 percent as Asian or Asian-American, 5.4 percent as Chicano, Latino or Hispanic, 2.6 percent as African-American, and 0.5 percent as American Indian or Native American.

    “It is not enough for us to say that we perform decently when compared to other elite private universities and select public universities,” Morales said. “We are a public university with a special mission to serve all of the people of our state. The diversity of our faculty should reflect that.”

    Regent Bonnie Reiss called to improve faculty diversity by analyzing a list of positions being vacated within the next few years; Student Regent-designate Cinthia Flores suggested a breakdown of staff statistics in each campus.

    The three-day meeting began with potential future audits and evaluations of current financial activity. Officials stressed the need for consistent monitoring of finances through new mechanisms, which would analyze data for suspicious transactions. Other topics on the agenda included improved health coverage to students and the prospect of adding more environmentally friendly structures across UC campuses.

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