For the first time in decades, no one from the San Joaquin Valley is serving on the University of California’s 26-seat governing board – perpetuating local concerns that some of the state’s neediest areas are not well-represented.
“This is another example of the governor essentially dismissing Central California as a flyover area,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno. “It’s inexplicable to me to have the region utterly ignored like this, with an appointment of this magnitude. It raises all kinds of questions about whether this region is really getting its due.”
Patterson plans to take the issue to the San Joaquin Valley Caucus – a bipartisan group of legislators formed in 2015 – and says that Gov. Jerry Brown would not neglect other big cities in such an appointment. None of the 18 governor-appointed members on the UC Board of Regents are Valley residents, with most based in the greater Los Angeles area. The other regents are ex officio members, which include the governor himself and the state superintendent of schools, plus a student representative.
I cannot imagine what would happen if you ignored L.A. or Sacramento or other major metropolitan areas.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson
“It’s either an oversight, which demonstrates a terrible disregard for the region, or it’s done on purpose. Either way, we need to be pressing back,” Patterson said. “This region deserves the same kind of attention as any other region. I cannot imagine what would happen if you ignored L.A. or Sacramento or other major metropolitan areas.”
Fred Ruiz, co-founder of Dinuba-based Ruiz Foods, was the last Valley representative on the board, but was not re-appointed when his term ended in 2016. While Ruiz, 73, said the decision was voluntary, he urged that another Valley resident be appointed – sending a list of about 20 potential candidates to Brown’s office this year.
But when Brown appointed four new members to the board on June 2, none were from the Valley.
“People in important places have a tendency to ignore the area, and this is especially true in education,” said Ruiz, who served on the Board of Regents for 12 years.
Ruiz called the Valley “underrepresented and vulnerable,” and said that the decision is especially concerning since the UC system’s newest campus, UC Merced, is in the region.
Regardless of where appointees were born – or currently live – we expect them to represent the entire state and its students.
Evan Westrup, spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown
“For us not to have a regent from the Valley at a time when we have a brand-new campus, I think it’s going to hurt a lot,” Ruiz said. “It will set us back five to 10 years in terms of business coming to the Valley and reporting back to the rest of California that, ‘Hey, this is a good place to be.’ ”
UC board members serve 12-year terms, and the next chance for a Valley appointment would be in 2018 when William De La Pena’s and Bruce Varner’s terms expire. Members can be reappointed to another 12-year term.
There is a selection advisory committee, but it apparently never meets. Six of its members told the San Francisco Chronicle that they have never been consulted about an appointment. Other criticisms of the board makeup include a lack of diversity and for appointing the state’s wealthiest executives like Peter Guber, co-owner of the Golden State Warriors.
People in important places have a tendency to ignore the area, and this is especially true in education.
Fred Ruiz, former UC regent
Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, said the problem extends beyond the UC board.
“I continue to be disappointed by the lack of Central Valley representation on state boards and commissions, including the UC Regents,” Arambula said in an email. “I believe that Valley residents deserve to be represented and bring an important perspective to the many challenges the state faces.”
A spokesman for Brown defended the governor’s mindfulness of the Valley and pointed to more than 50 appointments, such as Secretary of Health and Human Resources Diana Dooley of Hanford and Caltrans director Malcom Dougherty of Fresno.
“Regardless of where appointees were born – or currently live – we expect them to represent the entire state and its students,” said Evan Westrup, the spokesman for Brown.