Student Voice On Board of Regents Is Underrepresented

Last week, some of the UCSD Guardian staff had the opportunity to sit down with UC student Regent Sadia Saifuddin and her 2015–16 successor Avi Oved who were on campus to promote the student regent position to future candidates.

Saifuddin and Oved have had a busy year as the student representatives on a much-maligned UC Board of Regents, which has raised pay and benefits for UC administrators and high-level staff while proposing the 5-percent tuition hike that caused protests throughout the campuses. Saifuddin, to her credit, strongly opposed the tuition increases and spoke on behalf of students while the regents debated the issue in November, and we think we can expect the same kind of advocacy from Oved next year.

But even with the hard work of this pair, it’s clear that the student regent position is just one vote on a board of 18 to 20, meaning that in issues like the tuition hike, the voice of students is often drowned out.

And while the student regent position is undoubtedly valuable, and interested candidates should absolutely apply, its existence is more of an afterthought, a minor concession from a board who wants to do the bare minimum to show that student input is being adequately considered.

But in discussing issues like tuition hikes, which has put a financial burden right on the shoulders of the students, the student voice should have more impact than one vote. Making room at the table for more than one student regent not only allows for that but gives the UC system’s 233,000 students more avenues to make their diverse and prolific opinions heard.

Another possibility is to expand or reaffirm the role of the University of California Student Association, which was responsible this academic year for many of the protests that happened on campus. UCSA was amongst the first organizations to suspect incoming tuition hikes and organized letter-writing and petition drives far ahead of the regents’ vote. The strong reaction to the eventual vote, which included coordinated protests and sit-ins, made student opinion clear and certainly sent a message that prompted our state politicians to act.

UCSA has faced some criticism in the past for collecting more membership fees from some campuses than others, leading UC Irvine to pull out of the organization altogether last year. The group could certainly use an overhaul in its system, but, at its core, it is a unifying force for UC students and the organization this past year demonstrated that it could be a valuable political tool as well.

UCSA and the student regent are by no means at odds. In fact, coordination between the two is an ideal way to communicate and act on the happenings discussed by the regents. But with additional support for the student regent, and better organization for the UCSA, we could have a cohesive student body government that’s even stronger than it was this year.

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