Home>Governor>Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Overriding Supreme Court Decision to Halt Enrollment at UC Berkeley

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at his recall election rally at Culver City High School, Culver City, CA, Sept. 5, 2021. (Photo: Maxim Elramsisy/Shutterstock)

Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Overriding Supreme Court Decision to Halt Enrollment at UC Berkeley

Newsom’s signing comes after quick votes on SB 118 in Assembly, Senate on Monday

By Evan Symon, March 15, 2022 12:44 pm

A California Supreme Court ruling to halt enrollment levels from increasing at the University of California, Berkeley was overridden on Monday by Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of a bill that significantly changes the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and gives colleges 18 months to complete reviews after court orders.

The fight over UC Berkeley enrollment levels goes back over a decade. For years, Berkeley residents have been fighting to keep out the rapidly increasing number of University students because of the number of rental units which have not kept up with demand, low-income residents being forced out due to climbing prices, an increased burden on city services and increased homelessness. Between 2010 and 2020, enrollment went up from around 36,000 students to 42,327 students, with current levels now at more than 45,000. While the state and the University have been adamant about increasing enrollment to continue to keep their commitment on expanding higher education for Californians, they also ignored pleas from residents to stop the increasing enrollment, forcing residents to take legal action in the early 2020’s.

In August 2021, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman stunned the UC system by ordering UC Berkeley to cut its enrollment by 3,000 students back to 42,327. Many students already accepted, received letters informing them that, due to the legal decision, the school needed to make cuts, panicking many.

The University appealed, only for an appellate court in February to refuse to end the enrollment halt. That decision caused Governor Gavin Newsom to get personally involved. He filed a friend of the court brief and asked the California Supreme Court to stop the enrollment freeze, noting how it would negatively effect students. However, in early March, the court rejected pleas from the state, University of California, and the Governor by upholding the lower courts ruling due to the CEQA law being held over the personal feelings and beliefs over higher education access in the case. Specifically, UC Berkeley was to continue the freeze due to violating the CEQA law and the University failing to provide enough housing for students.

Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

With legal avenues not working, lawmakers instead decided to fast track a bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 118, authored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), in time to allow for the thousands more slots to reopen for acceptance letters for next years incoming freshmen. SB 118 was designed to alter CEQA, allowing public colleges and universities 18 months to complete a review after a court determines that a campus population exceeds housing. For the next year and a half, courts would not be able to force colleges or universities to decrease enrollment. The regents of California would also receive $50,000  for the 2021-2022 year to help see through the act if passed.

On Monday, the bill was quickly passed 70-0 in the Assembly and 34-0 in the Senate, with no one voting in opposition and only a handful deciding not to vote. Senator Skinner, who wrote the bill because the court’s decision would harm the futures of thousands of students who stood to not be accepted as a result.

“Jeopardizing the future of more than 2,600 students who earned a place at Cal is contrary to California’s longstanding priority to give more students, not fewer, the opportunity to benefit from our public universities and colleges,” said Skinner.

Governor Newsom then quickly signed it into law the same day, saying later in a statement that the court order would have “shut the door on thousands of potential college freshmen and transfer students, disproportionately impacting students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds” and ultimately cost them their future.

 Passage in the Legislature, signed by the Governor in one day

“I’m grateful to the Legislature for moving quickly on this critical issue – it sends a clear signal that California won’t let lawsuits get in the way of the education and dreams of thousands of students, our future leaders and innovators,” stated Governor Newsom. In a tweet, he added that “This is a clear signal that California won’t let lawsuits get in the way of the education and dreams of thousands of students, our future leaders and innovators.”

While the legislature and Governor were praised by many for allowing thousands to stay enrolled next year, others noted on Monday and Tuesday that SB 118 does nothing to help alleviate the housing situation in Berkeley and will now only make things worse. Marilyn Stein, a Berkeley apartment manager who had been personally affected by the higher enrollment, told the Globe on Tuesday that lawmakers had essentially condemned Berkeley to have only increasing housing costs and city issues due to the higher enrollment being allowed.

“This is an incoming 2,000 plus students coming into a city that has only a slowly increasing rental market,” explained Stein. “They did this to keep kids going to college which, fine. I get that Berkeley is one of the top in the nation too. But why couldn’t they allow them to go elsewhere while we figure out the problems here first? They keep linking higher enrollments with a higher homeless population here. They are essentially moving in a richer college kid willing to pay higher rent at the expense of a lower-income Berkeley resident.”

“As a landlord, I’m usually fine with higher rents. You know, why wouldn’t I be on paper? But enrollment has caused so many other problems, and I thought we might have had actual sense come in with the Supreme Court ruling. It’s not hurting students futures as much as CEQA is allowing for time to get more housing and services back up here. But apparently common sense doesn’t make any sense in Sacramento.”

The president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, Phil Bokovoy, shared those sentiments, focusing on what low-income students face as a result.

“The new legislation is ill-considered,” said Bokovoy in a statement. “Instead the legislature should be focusing on the dire situation of students who face often insurmountable problems with housing, crowded classrooms and the inability to graduate in 4 years. Low income students have suffered the most from UC Berkeley’s 50% enrollment growth since the early 2000s.”

SB 118 went into effect immediately after Newsom’s signing on Monday.

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4 thoughts on “Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Overriding Supreme Court Decision to Halt Enrollment at UC Berkeley

  1. Dictator doing Dictator actions. Gavin sees himself as the Lord of CA and what he thinks is what is best for everyone else whether you like it or not

  2. It must be good to be King.
    Also, it is my understanding author,Michael Shellenberger filed to run against Newsom.
    He is a recovering leftist who now can see what is happening, maybe he can siphon votes away from Newsolini.

    I am not voting for Newsom and will vote for anyone upright with a heartbeat at this point anyone but Newsom!

  3. Newsom is governor for life. Californians love him although they don’t know why. The majority Mexican population will vote Democrat until the state slides into the Pacific. They don’t know why either. All of them get what they deserve, good and hard, like $5+/gallon gasoline prices, out-of-control homelessness, devastating fires, lawlessness, pro-criminal policies, regulations up the yingyang, etc. etc. etc.

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