A new decade has begun – and with it comes many relevant changes in the University of California administration systemwide.
A new UC president is about to be hired, and with today’s political atmosphere threatening minorities nationwide, it is time to finally advocate for an increase in student representation on the UC Board of Regents.
Currently there is a student regent and a student regent-designate on the board – the latter serves as a nonvoting member. These two voices are meant to represent over 280,000 UC students in the highest decision-making body in the UC – one that governs issues affecting students, workers, faculty, staff and all of their families.
Those on the board are doing their job and doing it well. The current student regent, Hayley Weddle, from UC San Diego, has effectively represented the student body and pushed the regents on important issues. During the last regents meeting at UC San Francisco, her voice was essential in gaining regent support for a multimillion dollar budget for undocumented, formerly incarcerated and foster students.
But the success of one voice makes the need for more increasingly clear.
Realizing the power of the student regent’s voice should bring students together to demand the regents and the state legislature amend the state constitution to appoint two student regents and two student regents-designate per year.
And this is a long overdue issue.
Students are the engine of the UC system, and the UC system is the engine of California. But in order to ensure that system reaches its full potential, the board in charge needs increased student representation.
Students are on the ground floor, and they can help advocate for real change in many different ways, in addition to ensuring that each UC administrator is accountable to their responsibilities and obligations. Students understand the harsh realities of higher education better than anyone: Lack of affordable housing, student loan debt, lack of psychological health services and basic needs are among the many issues top administrators have constantly failed to address and resolve.
As such, a total of four students on the board will significantly impact systemwide decisions for the better.
In the past, the Board of Regents has implemented – and quickly discontinued – programs, such as the student advisor, to increase student representation. As of now, the board is mainly composed of white, wealthier men – something that students worry completely misrepresents the University’s population and California’s geographical diversity.
Students must demand the administration increase diversity within the board in addition to increasing students’ voices and perspectives. By beginning a formal dialogue with the leadership of UC Student Association, UC Graduate and Professional Council and the UC Office of the President, the board can help find a way to bring student voices to the table.
Because until then, the board will fail to represent the students it claims to serve.
Arciniega is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Hispanic Literatures at UCLA. He was the inaugural Graduate Students Association director of diversity, inclusion and community engagement and is currently a council member fo the North Westwood Neighborhood Council.