The University of California Board of Regents will vote on whether to terminate the position of student adviser to the Regents at their meeting next week.
The student adviser, which is one of the three student positions on the board, advocates for undergraduate students on topics ranging from sexual assault policy to the cost of tuition.
The position was established through a pilot program in 2016, following a push to increase undergraduate student representation among the Regents, with a stipulation that a vote would be needed to continue the position beyond 2018, according to a statement from Richard Sherman, chair of the Governance and Compensation Committee.
Sherman initially recommended that the position not be extended because he thinks positions such as student advocates to the Regents and student observers provided sufficient student representation in board meetings already, making the position unnecessary.
The recommendation not to extend the position was based on a misunderstanding between the Regents office and student leadership, said Michael Skiles, graduate chair of the UC Council of Student Body Presidents.
Skiles said that during discussions between the Regents office and the heads of the UC Students Association, the UC Graduate and Professional Council, and the UC Council of Student Body Presidents, the student leaders expressed concerns about the lack of student interest in and financial support for the position, which the Regents office misinterpreted as reasons to end the position.
“The feedback we gave the board was very misinterpreted,” Skiles said.
Student adviser Edward Huang, Student Regent Devon Graves, Student Regent-designate Hayley Weddle, Skiles, UCSA leaders, the Council of Student Body Presidents and the heads of a number of other student organizations held a meeting in December to discuss the issue, in which they drafted a letter to the board making the case for extending the position.
Sherman and George Kieffer, chair of the Regents, released a statement reversing course from their previous position in response to the students’ letter. They will now recommend the board continue the position for another year, Sherman and Kieffer said in the statement.
Skiles said he thinks the student adviser position lacked sufficient financial support to become an effective voice for undergraduate students.
“There is no fee remission or funding for a staff. (Huang) had to beg just to get an office to work in,” Skiles said. “It’s not equitable to expect low-income students to work for free like this.”
He added he thinks the position has encouraged discussion of student concerns rarely acknowledged in the Regents committees.
Huang said the position has already seen success in advocating for lower tuition costs last year in Sacramento during the tenure of former student adviser Rafi Sands.
The issues the position advocated for that were most pertinent to students included discussions about tuition cost and sexual assault and sexual harassment policies, Huang said. He added he thinks the position brought a unique student perspective on these topics.
Huang added he thinks the student adviser position is important to the UC undergraduate community because it provides the image of undergraduate student representation in addition to its tangible successes.
“I’m supposed to be representing student concerns not well represented otherwise in board discussions. I give my perspective, engage in debates and take stances on a couple of particular issues,” Huang said. “There’s implicit expectations with such a role.”
Graves said he was initially in favor of terminating the position because he felt it lacked sufficient support and recruitment interest, but later agreed to support the letter to the board arguing for its continuation.
“Students serving in leadership positions should have access to the support and resources needed to be effective in their roles,” Graves said in a statement released December. “In the case of the student advisor, this infrastructure is not present.”
Graves added he was happy to endorse the letter recommending the position be extended once the student leaders agreed to push for additional resources for the student advisor in 2019.
“There was a miscommunication in the fall when this was originally discussed,” Graves said. “I’m now grateful the Regents are extending the pilot program and allowing student leaders to improve this process.”
Graves said both Sherman and Kieffer will recommend the student advisor position be extended when they meet with the board in January. He added he expects the position to remain in place for the year.