- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
University of California staff are an integral part of a system with a high purpose. Every staff member plays a role in supporting the University's mission: Educating the best and brightest from all backgrounds, ethnicities and incomes, conducting research that touches the lives of people across the globe, and providing critical public service across California in areas such public health, agricultural science, nutrition and youth development.
Our future depends on the support of the elected leaders in the state and our nation's capital. This is an area where you, with your first-hand knowledge of the University's value, can play an important role.
In addition to being a UC staff member, you are a constituent of your government representatives. They want to hear from you. You have a unique perspective of UC ANR and your community. You can share honest communications with these leaders to gain support that is crucial to the future of the University of California. If you would like to add your voice to the voices of many others in support of UC, join the UC Advocacy Network, UCAN. (https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/support-uc/ucan)
UCAN was launched last year to engage staff, faculty, students and alumni who want to advocate for the future of UC. More than 17,000 people have already chosen to get involved, and there is significant room for growth, said Meredith Turner, associate director of Advocacy and Institutional Relations.
“We have hundreds of thousands of employees, nearly 2 million alumni, and thousands of students,” Turner said. “There is a huge group of people who could join this community.”
When you “opt-in,” you will occasionally receive email alerts about issues vital to UC. The emails provide basic background on the topic. You choose whether to click “take action,” which brings you to a webpage with more information and a form where you can fill in your name, email and home address. The form contains a suggested message for your local government officials, but you can edit the message and personalize it, if you wish.
The UC Advocacy Network was recently engaged in the debate over the federal “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” which passed Congress and President Trump signed into law in December 2017. The proposal contained provisions that could have harmed the financial security of UC students and their families and threatened the university's ability to carry out its research, education, health care, and public service missions. The issues in question were a proposal to repeal the Student Loan Interest Deduction and the Qualified Tuition Reductions (Section 117(d)). The latter makes it possible to provide graduate students with a non-taxable tuition reduction while they pursue their degrees and work as research or teaching assistants.
UCAN issued a call to action, asking its network of advocates to tell their representatives in Congress how damaging such provisions would be to higher education in the U.S.
“The issues are so complex, it can be hard to see how it will translate in your life,” Turner said. “We break it down and explain how the law will impact the University's mission directly.”
The final bill preserved both the Student Loan Interest Deduction and the Qualified Tuition Reductions.
Each year, UCAN participants are called to amplify UC's governmental relations staff communication with state senators and assembly members about the state budget.
“We advocate greater state investment in the University,” Turner said. “This truly affects everyone connected to the University – it impacts staffing levels, the resources staff have to work with, the ability to hire faculty, repair classrooms. This is the perfect opportunity for people to participate in advocacy.”
The UC ANR Staff Assembly encourages all staff to visit the UCAN website and join the movement.
“Advocacy is most impactful when you're passionate about an issue,” Turner said. “We let people pick what they are most concerned about and have them advocate for it.”