The UC student regent and student regent-designate stopped at UC Davis on Friday during their statewide barnstorming tour.
D’Artagnan Scorza, the student regent and an education graduate student at UCLA, visited UC campuses last week to discuss policy issues and recruit applicants for the 2010-2011 Student Regent position. Jesse Bernal, the student regent-designate and an education graduate student at UC Santa Barbara, accompanied Scorza.
The student regent is one of 26 voting members of the UC Board of Regents. Student regents serve two-year terms: In the first year of the term, they serve as the regent-designate, attending meetings but without voting privileges. In the second year of the term, they become full voting members of the board.
Following a question-and-answer session with UC Davis students in the Mee Room of the Memorial Union Friday afternoon, Scorza and Bernal sat down for a wide-ranging interview with The California Aggie.
Scorza and Bernal discussed the nature of their positions and their priorities for the remainder of the year. Given the unfavorable economic climate and state budget crisis, it should come as no surprise that fighting for state funding is their top priority.
Scorza acknowledged that the budget quagmire has forced the state and UC to make difficult budget decisions, but certain issues should take precedence over others, he said.
“It’s a matter of priorities. Student enrollment is being curtailed, fees are being increased, workers are not receiving living wages,” Scorza said.
Scorza praised UC’s decision to freeze senior management pay, but said senior management could take a virtual pay cut by donating $11,000 to UC with a tax write-off.
However, some areas of UC’s budget cannot be cut further, Scorza said. The university must maintain faculty merit increases to remain competitive. He also cautioned against cutting advising and student life staff. Bernal said he agreed.
“All of these deserve almost equal prioritization and that’s the tough [situation] we’re in. To be a truly quality institution without the funding to do it, we’re left to make some tough calls,” Bernal said.
Though Scorza said he and Bernal are advocates for students above all, workers and academic staff have a significant impact on the quality of education at UC.
“Who’s to say the student is more important than the worker?” Scorza said. “The state needs to realize that we need a better investment in this institution.“
Last week, in a cost-saving measure, the regents voted to cut 2,300 freshman enrollments for next fall. Scorza voted against the cut, arguing that there are other areas in which students can make sacrifices during the budget crisis. As unattractive as the options are, students may have to tolerate bigger class sizes and higher fees, Scorza said.
“We’re really going to have to think about our class sizes and about these issues that come from enrollment,” Scorza said.
But if fees do increase, students have a right to demand accountability, Scorza said. The registration fee is supposed to support programs that complement the instructional program, such as cultural and social activities and career advising. But the registration fee has not been spent as intended, Scorza said.
“We don’t have to compromise on accountability and transparency,” he said.
Bernal said an increase in the registration fee is preferable to an increase in the educational fee.
“We actually advocate for an increase in the registration fee because that’s been earmarked for student service. It’s been stagnant for years,” Bernal said.
To help mitigate the impact of budget cuts, Scorza and Bernal are developing a campaign to seek philanthropy for the university. They suggest running advertisements in California requesting a $10 donation per household to prevent enrollment curtailment.
They also plan to seek the support of students in a “$1 for Education” campaign via Facebook.com. By raising $100,000, 11 more students could attend the university, Scorza said.
In addition to navigating the budget crisis, Bernal and Scorza are ardent advocates of eliminating the SAT II subject test as a requirement for admission to UC. The elimination of the SAT II, among several admissions changes proposed by the Academic Senate, will come before the regents later this year.
Critics of the SAT II say it does not predict college success and puts low-income students at a competitive disadvantage.
“The SAT II’s statistical impact on underrepresented and low-income students is that it’s a barrier to access,” Bernal said. “Where it’s only a barrier, why do we need it?”
With the difficult challenges facing UC, students may feel the regents ignore their voice. But that isn’t the case, Scorza said. Despite being “only” a student, the student regent can impact the decisions of the regents, he said.
“They have never lacked in treating me as a regent, [but] it is hard for them to understand that we do bring a unique perspective,” Scorza said. “The truth is I still get to work, I can make a motion, and it becomes a conversation.“
Though the past four student regents, including Scorza and Bernal, have been graduate students, undergraduates of any background are more than welcome to apply, Scorza and Bernal said.
The last student regent hailing from UC Davis was Adam Rosenthal in 2005-2006, who attended King Law School. Five other UC Davis students, four of which were undergraduates, have served as student regents since the position was created in 1975.
Students interested in applying for the position can visit universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/studentreg.html or e-mail Alice Hom, the UC Davis student regent recruiter, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at email@example.com.