UCLA’s student government has taken steps to elevate underrepresented voices.
And frankly, it’s more than the University of California could be doing.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council Office of the President announced a new Congressional Advisory Board composed of student organizations and advocacy groups to review USAC’s surplus allocations, introduce joint resolutions with the council and address USAC on issues concerning its member organizations. CAB will serve to formalize USAC’s relationship with campus organizations and give historically marginalized communities more direct access to student government and its policies.
The USAC Office of the President is also working on a winter quarter constitutional amendment proposal that would institute CAB as a second chamber of USAC, wielding formal legislative power.
The UC Board of Regents have organizations that are similar at first glance, like the President’s Chicano/Latino Advisory Council, the President’s Native American Advisory Council and the UC Student Association. However, without any legislative or voting power, these groups can only do so much to elevate the voices of underrepresented students. Ultimately, the UC Regents have no obligation to listen to them.
Board reforms that expand – and listen to – the voices of marginalized students are long overdue. The UC would greatly benefit from creating an organization modeled on CAB that gives underrepresented students institutionalized voting power and ability to directly influence the regents’ policy.
And now is the perfect time to do it.
With the historical appointment of UC President Michael Drake and a national movement on racial equality, the UC has the cultural momentum to create an organization like UCLA’s CAB that shouldn’t have taken a moment such as the present to institute.
Additionally, increased student representation is desperately needed within the UC Regents given how little power they currently hold in the governance of the UC system. Their board only has one student with voting power – the student regent. In other words, one representative is expected to legislate on behalf of the University’s more than 285,000 students.
If that isn’t enough, the current board is woefully out of touch with the needs and desires of its minority students. Despite protests and demands to defund campus police, UCPD budgets are projected to increase or stay nearly the same across almost every campus.
To be fair, advisory councils at the UC level do hold influence over policies as a result of their access to the president. However, stripped of concrete voting powers, advisory councils only act to rubber stamp UC’s pledges of diversity and equity without truly elevating the voices of underrepresented groups.
If the UC, in fact, wants to represent student voices equitably, tangible voting powers must be granted to those in advocacy positions. The establishment of CAB at UCLA serves as an indication that students deserve a larger stake in systemwide governance – something a similarly structured organization at the UC’s upper level can provide.
For everything that’s affecting many different student communities right now, one student leader at the table is nowhere near enough.