UC Student Regents Commit to Holistic Admissions, Affirmative Action, Protected Grad School Tuition

Guardian: Cinthia, you’re the first woman to be in the student regent position for quite a few years—can you tell me about this, and your background, has affected the issues you want to work on during your term?

Cinthia Flores: I think I am the first woman in the position in the last seven years. A little bit of my background—I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I went to public schools: public elementary schools, middle school, high school, ended up going to UCLA for my undergrad. I developed an interest in access and affordability issues very early on at UCLA, was involved in Mecha de UCLA and oversaw their academic program. And through my experience with the outreach programs, I gained a deeper interest in academic policy, admissions policy, and financial aid policy. I worked on holistic admissions at UCLA, and I worked on a range of other issues, so this [position] was almost a natural fit for me as a student leader, as a lot of the issues that I was working on as an undergraduate student were magnified in professional school.

Because I was so invested in the conversations of adopting holistic admissions at UCLA, I feel a sense of responsibility of reevaluating where it is currently, and whether it’s meeting the markers of success that we initially identified as our targets. [Ed. note: Holistic admission looks at the “entire” application, as opposed to “comprehensive review,” which instead evaluates based on a point score given to each component. This provides leeway in weighing some factors more heavily than others when considering an offer of admission.]

I would like to look at how holistic admissions is being implemented at each of the campuses, what kind of success or room for improvement each campus has, and if we can develop a best practices guide.

G: Since we’re talking about admissions, can you and Jon speak about the [affirmative action case] Fisher v. Texas that is currently being heard by the Supreme Court?

CF: First and foremost, I applaud the UC for submitting an amicus brief [statement in support of affirmative action], and Jon was a really big proponent of that.

The amicus brief touches on a lot of issues that represent my opinion—firstly that, since affirmative action has been eliminated in the UC, we’ve experienced devastating negative impacts to diversity, and that we still haven’t recovered from those impacts.

Jonathan Stein: I wanted the university to put forward its experience; in the [Grutter v. Bollinger] Michigan that that established the current law, on the use of race in admissions, the University of California is cited by Justice O’Connor as an institution that is learning how to increase diversity in the absence of affirmative action. And I wanted the justices to know how we have, and have not, been able to increase our diversity. The data shows that Prop. 209 [which banned affirmative action in the UC system] has made it very, very difficult to maintain diversity, and if the Supreme Court thought when ruling in the Michigan cases that the University of California was going to find a magic bullet, we need to tell them: There is no magic bullet.

G: Jonathan, can you tell me more about the work you’re trying to do in regard to controlling the rising rates of UC professional school tuition?

J: Professional school tuition is, in many cases, out of control. And we have a policy in place that is supposed to govern professional school fees, but it’s my belief that the policy is being subverted by professional schools across the system. So we’re creating a task force of administrators, faculty members and students and examine the policy and the execution of the policy on campuses, to determine how we can improve it and how we can give it some teeth. There’s a student co-chair — which is something that Cinthia and I negotiated with the administration long and hard to get — and we’ll be meeting periodically throughout the year. The idea is to have the regents approve a better policy that approves students before the end of the year.

“Protecting” the students means that they have a meaningful opportunity for input before fees to get increased. Right now, the administration put fee increases on the table and students have to react to it; we’re trying to put in a policy where students get input and they are consulted before the fee increase gets put on the table.

G: On a slightly different topic, how do you think that student interaction with the regents has changed since you first started working as a student regent?

JS: It’s both gotten worse and, in some small ways, better. Students are rightly furious about the fact that they are paying more for less of an education; they are paying more and more every year, but their classes are being cut, but their services are being cut; and a lot of that anger has been directed at the regents, so the tone of student interaction with regents has gotten more combative.

At the same time, students and regents lobbied the state government together in May of this year for the first time ever, and the chair of the regents visited every campus last academic year to meet with student leadership, which had never happened before. So, in some ways, lines of communication have opened, but I think the overall student body is more angry than they’ve ever been. And they have a right to be.

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