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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

UC student regent resigns

On May 16, Jesse Cheng resigned from his position as student regent after months of controversy brought on by allegations of sexual misconduct.

In October 2010, claims against Cheng became public. Claims were filed against him through the UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct by his alleged victim, who is referred to as “Laya.” Laya had been working with the Mariposa Center for Change, among other groups, in filing these claims against Cheng.

“On behalf of the University of California Board of Regents, I have accepted the resignation of student regent Jesse Cheng, who has resigned for personal reasons,” said UC Board of Regents Chair Russell Gould in a statement.

In an open letter addressed to all UC students, Cheng said that he is making this decision because it is what he owes to the students who have supported him. He also said he feels that it is what’s best for the student community.

“Seeing how . . . much of a distraction from other serious student issues that this issue has continued to cause, I think it would be best for the students and the University of California if I step down at this time,” Cheng said in the letter.

He also said that he respects, but disagrees with, the findings of “unwanted touching” that the Student Conduct Process found him responsible for. He said that he recognized that the process applies to him as a UC student, but disagreed with their findings.

The Student Conduct Office works off of a lower standard of evidence, Cheng said. The Student Conduct Office only needs to know that it is likely that something might have happened, according to Cheng. Since the office found it likely that Cheng was responsible for “unwanted touching,” he was put on probation.

“[Cheng] is trying to minimize the sanctions that the Office of Student Conduct provided as punishment for sexual battery but if he does not comply with their decision, he is subject to further sanctions which could include a hold on his records, preventing him from graduating,” said Annalisa Enrile, president of the Mariposa Center for Change, in an e-mail interview.

“Cheng’s resignation, the UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct decision, all of these are victories they are the acts of people standing with Laya and declaring that the violation of women needs to end,” Enrile said.

Cheng is currently on probation until he graduates in June and plans to appeal the findings.

“This was very much my own decision,” Cheng said. “Ever since the story broke, I’ve been considering resignation. I’d been thinking about it. The only reason I hadn’t pushed forward with it was that . . . we had ongoing projects under my tenure and I wanted to make sure that those were kind of cleared out of the way.”

Alfredo Mireles, Jr., a UC San Francisco graduate student, took over Cheng’s position as the student regent on May 13, said UC officials in press release. The appointment took place retroactively, ensuring that UC students were still represented on the board as Cheng’s resignation took effect.

“Although the circumstances surrounding my appointment are unfortunate . . . I am ready to take on the immense challenges facing the University of California head on,” Mireles said in the press release.

Mireles had already served as student regent-designate 10 months before taking over Cheng’s term as student regent.

Student regents serve two-year terms, Mireles said. During the first year, they are student regent-designates and are non-voting members; during their second year, they are student regents and have a vote at regent meetings.

Mireles was voted in as designate during the July 2010 regents meeting. His term as student regent will last from May 2011 until June 30, 2012.

“I want all students to feel like they have an ally on the Board of Regents,” Mireles said. “I have been an undergraduate, graduate and a professional student, attended two UC campuses, worked at two UC affiliated hospitals, am a former transfer student and am the first person in my family to graduate from a four year university.”

Mireles was on the UC Davis campus last week, during which time he meet with Vice Chancellor Fred Wood, ASUCD President Adam Thongsavat and ASUCD Vice President Bree Rombi. He also met with students from The Pantry, the Cross Cultural Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center.

“I want to be effective from day one and make sure students feel their voices are heard loud and clear,” he said.

TRISHA PERKINS can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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