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Proposed amendment would expand student influence on UC Board of Regents

By Lindsay Turpin

April 28, 2021 5:49 p.m.

A proposed constitutional amendment would allow a second student member on the University of California Board of Regents to vote in board decisions, strengthening the presence of students’ voices and advocacy efforts, UC students said.

The UC Board of Regents currently has two positions for students – the student regent and student regent-designate. A student must serve as the regent-designate for a year before they earn voting power as the student regent. Under California Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, voting power would be extended to the student regent-designate.

State Sen. Steve Glazer worked with the UC Student Association, Student Regent Jamaal Muwwakkil and Student Regent-designate Alexis Atsilvsgi Zaragoza to draft SCA 5, said Joshua Lewis, government relations chair of UCSA and a third-year political science and public policy student at UC Berkeley. Glazer introduced the amendment April 16.

Many regent committee meetings happen simultaneously, but the student regent can only vote in one meeting at a time, said Muwwakkil, a linguistics doctoral student at UC Santa Barbara. He added that although the regent-designate can be present and vocal in the other meetings, their inability to vote is an unnecessary restriction that limits the scope of student influence.

Zaragoza, a fifth-year geography and political science transfer student at UC Berkeley, said the designate position is essentially the same role as the regent position without the voting power.

“Why not have more representation?” Zaragoza said. “That person’s already here. They’re already doing the work. They’re already speaking up. You might as well just let them say ‘aye’ and go on about it.”

Muwwakkil added that the student voice becomes more powerful on the Board of Regents because of the ability to affect structural change.

“We get to be in the room where it happens,” Muwwakkil said.

Student voices must be given more power to impact board decisions when it comes to budget changes, tuition increases or new policies on education, Glazer said in a press release.

Regent-designates are treated as full board members from the start and are fully capable of weighing in on board decisions on behalf of students, even in their first year, Zaragoza said.

Zaragoza said governor-appointed regents can vote immediately, but student regents undergo an elaborate appointment process only to be on the board without a vote for a year.

The Board of Regents has not voiced any opposition to the amendment, and some regents have expressed support for it individually, said Lewis.

“Most of the regents have an understanding of the importance of student representation, and they know the impacts of their decisions affect students,” Lewis said.

The amendment will have to go through the state Senate and the state Assembly before the general population can vote on it in either March 2022 or November 2022, Lewis said.

Steve Harmon, Glazer’s policy analyst and communications director, said that although the amendment’s passage in the Legislature is expected to run smoothly, the next step would be an energetic campaign to persuade the general public.

“Students are going to have to figure out how they want to campaign and how they sell this message to California,” Harmon said.

Unfamiliarity with the UC could be a problem in winning support from some voters, but the campaign is a chance to increase understanding of the UC system and its influences within California, Muwwakkil said.

The amendment’s progression through the Legislature and onto the ballot should be relatively straightforward, because other California universities have already been increasing student representation on their boards, Zaragoza said.

California State University has a board of trustees similar to the UC Board of Regents that recently gave voting privilege to their second student member, Zaragoza said.

“We’ve seen a lot of momentum around this,” Zaragoza said. “If anything, we’re the last ones to do it.”

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