Talking Points: UC Student Regents Talk Policy

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Each of the student regents serves for a two-year term, one as a non-voting designate and one in full capacity as the sole student voice on the 26-member UC Board of Regents — here are some highlights from our conversation.

Guardian: What is your opinion on the recent violence and protests at UC Riverside, and do you condone the tactics of the police, such as using paintball guns filled with pepper lead?

Alfredo Mireles: I had the unique opportunity to go between the Regents and the protesters, so I was amongst the protesters for over two hours and got to meet with many of them, answer their questions and somewhat participate. We’re both angry about a lot of the same issues that protesters are, and any time there is violence between police and students, it just makes me sick. 

I never want to see any students hurt, and I’m not a policing expert so it’s really hard to condone [the police tactics]. It’s just very challenging for both sides when passion gets so high. I wish they didn’t have to use those tactics.

G: What are some of the projects or issues that are you particularly interested in working on during your tenures as Student Regent? Alfredo, I know that you’ve been involved with making the UC campuses tobacco free, but what about you, Jonathan?

Jonathan Stein: I think every Student Regent enters with an agenda, and then you get knocked off your agenda almost immediately. For example, UCSF now has this plan to make itself this quasi-independent body, and I suspect that’s going to be a huge part of the next 18 months, and that’s not something I had any intention of dealing with when I took the job. That said, my priorities coming in were to find new funding for public higher education and stopping fee increases. My second priority was campus climate issues — I don’t need to tell UC San Diego how important campus climate issues are. I serve on a system-wide Campus Climate Steering Committee and while I think individual campuses are making some gains, we still have yet to deliver on the full promises made by the administration a year and a half ago, when we had our most challenging moments. I’m also interested in making the UC a more effective political force in Sacramento.

G: As Student Regents, your job is to represent all 220,000 students of the UC system; as graduate students, how will you ensure that you are still in touch with undergraduate issues?

JS: When we travel to a campus, the vast majority of people we meet with are undergraduates, the people we seek out first are undergraduates, the network of student leads I’ve built is almost entirely undergraduates, and the issues that I spend 40 hours a week working on are issues of importance for undergraduates. I don’t have any preference for graduate students in my work.

G: You mentioned that the administration sees out-of-state students as a source of funding — what are your thoughts about the plans to increase the number of out-of-state admits? 

AM: First and foremost, it’s important that we don’t dehumanize out-of-state students. I found that in this debate, oftentimes we third-party our out-of-state students, and we need to remind people when we’re talking about this issue that we cannot create an environment in which they feel like it’s hostile to them. We need to treat them with the same tact and sensitivity that other communities would like to be talked about, as they’re our students too. 

JS: My concern with out-of-state is, one, the lack of both ethnic and economic diversity, and two, the way in which the institution may be less accessible to in-state California students. Here’s the real point that I think is missed when you talk about crowding students out: by increasing our out-of-state numbers, we’re not displacing in-state students. We have room in the UC for the same number of in-state students plus more out-of-state. The problem is that the out-of-state students apply predominantly to UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, which then pushes in-state students to other campuses. All of our institutions are fabulous, but we have a couple “elite” campuses, and we don’t want fewer Californians to be able to access them. 

G: What’s next? What are you two working on now?

JS: We are focusing on the May 16 rally in Sacramento; we’re trying to get the Regents to pay for all the buses, try to work with administration and faculty to forgive absences in class so there’s no penalty for students for going to Sacramento. If you can get 50 buses and they’re all completely paid for — let’s fill those suckers. 

AM: It’s great that the Regents want to work with students, but at the end of the day, the Regents will be fine. They have lives established and what happens to the UC will not personally affect them. But if we get further cuts by Sacramento, students will feel the pain, so this has to be our rally. 

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