A student walks near a sculpture at UC Merced. The UC Regents have asked the… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
SAN FRANCISCO — Two UC campuses received important endorsements Thursday for long-stalled projects: a new medical school at Riverside and a major classroom building at Merced.
The UC regents included a proposed $15 million to help run the medical school and $45 million for the Merced building in their 2013-14 budget request to the governor and Legislature. The regents said they were more optimistic than in the past about their chances since state tax revenues are improving.
Meanwhile, about 60 student protesters — demanding that any new UC revenue be used to freeze tuition or roll it back — blocked an intersection for several hours near the UC San Francisco facility where the regents were meeting. One person was cited for vandalism after allegedly banging and damaging a car trying to get past, according to San Francisco police.
Inside the meeting, a dozen chanting protesters briefly disrupted the regents' discussion. They were escorted out by police without arrests.
UC Santa Cruz freshman Jeanne Baldzikowski said she regretted skipping school for the street rally "knowing I'm paying for the classes, but maybe I will have to skip a lot of classes in the future if I can't afford them."
Last year, national accreditors refused to allow the UC Riverside medical school to open because it lacked state funding. But the accrediting agency reversed itself last month and granted preliminary approval after Riverside administrators garnered $100 million in private and public money. The school, which is to enroll its first 50 students next summer, will need about $15 million extra annually from the state to expand and win full accreditation, UC officials said.
The youngest among UC's 10 campuses, 7-year-old UC Merced, said the lecture hall building will increase overall classroom space by 50% and help enrollment grow from its current 5,700 to 10,000 by the decade's end. With a room shortage, increasing numbers of classes are taught as early as 7:30 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Funding was denied in past years but the outlook improved recently after Gov. Jerry Brown approved $4.7 million for its design and planning; now the request for construction will be on Brown's desk.
State financing for the Merced building is "absolutely our highest priority for construction," said Patrick Lenz, the UC system's vice president for budget and capital resources. In all, UC is seeking $788 million in state funding for 39 projects, including some renovations and seismic improvements.
The regents also approved an agreement for UC Davis Medical Center to help run the 202-bed Dameron Hospital in Stockton and took preliminary steps to help boost income from UC patents and investments in start-up firms based on UC faculty members' inventions.