Your University of California Student Regent and Student Regent-designate want you to know that they work to represent the students. Unfortunately, they are still forced to fight to assert that their beliefs and religions do not precede their qualifications.
The student regent is a student selected to serve as a voting member of the UC Board of Regents with the primary aim of representing graduate and undergraduate students for a term of one year. Student regent Sadia Saifuddin and regent-designate Avi Oved were both met with significant amounts of resistance upon their confirmations. This resistance was due largely to their outspoken, contending opinions on whether or not the UC should divest from American companies affiliated with Israel.
Oved recently wrote an open letter to the UC student community, addressing how his personal beliefs affected his confirmation. We appreciate the regents’ openness in stating their beliefs and personal biases. Students should not use their religions to define them as representatives. Furthermore, students should recognize that their personal beliefs do not hinder their ability to carry out their jobs. Our student regents should not feel the need to justify their appointments. Saifuddin and Oved both have a myriad of qualifications that enable them to serve as proponents of students, qualifications we feel should overshadow any hesitation people may have about them.
Despite differences in personal beliefs on the Palestine-Israeli conflict, Saifuddin and Oved are able to agree on what is truly important: the causes and initiatives that serve the students. The tired use of “Muslim” and “Jew” at the mention of their names is a devaluation of their roles and distracts from their goals as regents. “We are not here to advocate for our personal beliefs. Our agenda is shaped by the general opinion of the UC Student Community,” Saifuddin and Oved said in a joint letter to UC students last month. They were able to do what many UC constituents have not: overlook their personal differences that were largely irrelevant to the job at hand.
The role of the student regents, we believe, is severely misunderstood by students. This misunderstanding results in an underutilization of their position at the Board of Regents table. Additionally, their recent efforts to reach students through a handful of published letters and campus visits serve as an indicator of their dedication to their constituents. Students just need to meet them halfway by reaching out. Remembering this mutually-dependent relationship that drives their work is the best way to create an amplified and collective student voice.