Student Regent Cheng Searches for Successor

Nolan Thomas/UCSD Guardian

UC Irvine senior Regent Jesse Cheng is the only student guaranteed a vote on the UC Board of Regents, meaning he has a say in everything from tuition to health care in the UC system.

This is because Cheng — who is majoring in Asian-American studies and minoring in education, is the current Student Regent. He was at UCSD last week for the regents’ meeting, and has also been promoting the designate position for the 2011-12 academic year.

At the Jan. 19 meeting, Cheng spoke in support of a new holistic admissions policy, which will ensure that UC applicants’ family background and community service work are evaluated in addition to GPA and SAT scores.

“That item was brought out of the crisis we faced last year,” Cheng said. “And people [said], this is the direction we need to go in now … and we’ve just started to see the fruits of those actions.”

On Jan. 21, as part of a 10-campus tour to recruit the next student Regent, Cheng hosted an open forum at the Student Leadership Chambers on the fourth floor of Price Center East.

“We’re very excited to be touring around the [UCSD] campus,” Cheng said. “We’re going to be talking to a number of student groups, the student government here … and just be doing a general discussion and try to get to know the campus, trying to tease out what the issues are and what we can do to support students in the fights and struggles that they have.”

The forum was for students interested in applying for his position.

Cheng said about 10 people attended the forum and two to three students showed interest in applying. He said application numbers have been declining, with just 56 last year. Cheng anticipates 60 this year. Most in attendance asked about the benefits of the job and what it was like to work with the regents.

“They asked if the student Regent is listened to, respected, if the regents care what the person says,” he said. “[For the next student Regent], we are looking for quality over quantity — for students who want to create change in people’s lives.”

The application is due on Feb. 17 at the chancellor’s office. The only requirement is to be a UC student in good academic standing.

The term of the next student Regent, , which is a two-year commitment, will start on July 1. Members are non-voting members for the first year, and then serve in full capacity the second. Benefits include free tuition for two years, a parking pass, staff, a travel budget and an alumni base.

Cheng shared his experience on the board on KSDT radio.

“[The regents] listen [and] our voices are heard,” Cheng said. “We have good partnerships with a number of regents on numerous issues. We’re always included — we have unlimited access to UC Office of the President and UC documents and data.”

Cheng said he and his staff have sideline meetings with the UC Office of the President and lobby in Sacramento about once a month.

“It’s been a good experience, a very difficult one,” he said. “[Not] difficult in the sense that we are going through real difficult times, but difficult in the sense that we are going through real difficult times and we are facing really difficult questions.”

When asked how he feels about working with the UC Regents, he said he understands the situations the regents deals with.

“[They are] a group of generally good-natured and strong people, intelligent people, [who] are facing questions that no one really has the answers to,” Cheng said. “As a student Regent, you’re kind of put in the middle, right, of where we definitely advocate a very particular position, we represent students and a very particular interest.”

He also offered advice on working with the most powerful decision makers in the UC system.

“You should know how to work the room,” he said. “It’s hard work but good work, but you’re fighting for people’s lives, you’re fighting for your community.”

In his remaining time as student regent, he will be working for the undocumented student community in particular.

“It’s an extreme struggle, especially for marginalized communities during that time [and] especially for people that are more vulnerable during this time, those are the first ones to go,” Cheng said.

Cheng was accepted to Teach for America in Baltimore to teach high school students in social science.

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