University of California officials said Thursday they are optimistic that federal officials will extend exclusive UC management of two national nuclear-weapons and energy-research laboratories rather than seek competitive bids.
William R. Frazer, a senior UC vice president, told members of the Board of Regents meeting at UCLA that the university and the Department of Energy have a better understanding of each other's positions after meetings this week. That bodes well for extending the pact, Frazer said.
Despite heavy student and faculty opposition to UC involvement in weapons research, university officials said they want to continue oversight that began half a century ago of the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories. But officials have said they would refuse to enter competitive bidding to operate the labs, which UC President David P. Gardner said the university does as a public service.
University officials have also said they will not agree to accept financial liability for environmental accidents or health and safety problems, as DOE has suggested.
UC's current five-year contract to operate the labs in Northern California and New Mexico expires in the fall of 1992. Frazer said it could take months before the details are worked out.
UC receives about $12.5 million for operating the two labs, as well as the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, a DOE center near the UC campus that does not perform weapons research. UC officials have said they would bid to keep the Berkeley lab because it is integral to that campus.
The regents appeared pleased at Frazer's news and will take formal action today on a resolution opposing competitive bidding or accepting liability.
Gardner said UC has run the labs at the federal government's behest. "We do it at no profit and therefore we should do it at no risk," he said.
The regents also discussed reports showing the system's progress in attracting minorities and women as students and teachers.
Regent Meredith J. Khachigian of San Clemente said that although there has been an increase in tenured women faculty--up 135% from 357 in 1979 to 839 in 1990--more needs to be done to increase the number of women among the 2,500 UC faculty members.
"While the increase is certainly dramatic, we're not talking about a lot of people here," said Khachigian.
The regents also expressed concerns about the decline in the number of African-American, Latino and American Indian freshmen who entered the system last fall, after years of increases.
But Frazer said there is little more that can be done beyond existing efforts because the problem is due in large part to the drop in the number of such students graduating from high school.
More worrisome, said UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, is the growing tensions between ethnic groups as UC campuses become increasingly diverse.
"Our campuses are places of very great stress that has been created as a result of that diversity," Young said.
Young would not discuss specific incidents, but he called on the regents to explore ways to help college students from different backgrounds live and work together harmoniously.
In other matters, officials said the state budget passed Thursday by the Assembly will require an additional $12.5 million in cuts to the UC system. UC has already cut $295 million from its proposed $2.4-billion budget.