Student representation in administration

Student representation in administration

Student advisors to the chancellor highlight the importance of voicing concerns in shaping the UC Davis campus and community

Administrative decisions made on campus for students traditionally aren’t made by students on campus. Unfortunately, the individuals making these decisions generally consist of the upper administration that is unable to empathize with students in the way like-minded peers would when making decisions that affect the student body. Fortunately, student advisors to the chancellor exist to provide input from an undergraduate position and mindset.  

William Sampson, a fifth-year history and Native American studies major, is one of two student advisors to the chancellor. He noted the importance of the position and the recent changes being spearheaded in order to better represent students and their concerns in various meetings and decisions.

“The primary goal of this position is to advocate for student concerns, not just on the behalf of students but with students as well,” Sampson said. “One of the things that we did this year was that we pushed to change the name of the position. The name used to be ‘student assistants to the chancellor’, but for some folks, the connotation of that made it seem that we were in the chancellor’s office doing purely clerical work. What we really wanted to focus on was that this position is about advocating students’ needs and concerns and conveying that to the chancellor. Our primary goal and our primary focus is always student affairs.”

Sampson reflected on the personal importance he has found in the role since taking on the position. He acknowledged that students may not have historically received much representation on campus and hopes to make long-lasting change that impacts students for years to come.

“It’s really rewarding to be one of the only students in a room where, generally speaking, undergraduates aren’t traditionally represented,” Sampson said. “I’m here to advocate for change, to try and make changes that impact both present and future students. If I can leave the campus in a better shape than how I inherited it about five years ago, I want to do that, to make it easier for the students that are going to come after me. I think that’s inherently part of the position as well, is being able to advocate not just on the behalf of students, but with students and provide that perspective of an undergraduate. Everyone we talk to has their own opinions, just as we do, but our job is to really field those concerns and make sure those concerns are being addressed at the appropriate level that they should be getting addressed at.”

Abigail Edwards, a fourth-year sustainable agriculture and food systems major, is another student advisor to the chancellor. Passionate about the position, she highlighted how the role defines the future of UC Davis, and how decisions made under the position may better the campus for students in the future.

“For me, the position isn’t about power, it’s about representation,” Edwards said. “Often times, we’re the only students in a room where decisions are being made, and I think about what would happen if we didn’t have this position. What would happen when they have these meetings, deciding very important things, if there was no student representation? Day to day we’re in meetings, and none of them are inconsequential.”

Edwards noted that decisions both big and small have large impact on students, making their voices meaningful on any topic.

“They may be about little things but even the smallest things impact students,” Edwards said. “I think just being there and being able to always redirect the conversation to what students think is rewarding, because we’re always present in meetings in asking how would a specific topic would affect students. I’ve personally been very humbled in being able to be in this role and to advocate for students in these spaces where students traditionally haven’t been or would not be without this position.”

The student advisors to the chancellor each offer 12 hours of office hours per week in order to make themselves available to other students and their concerns. They are also available at sac@ucdavis.edu and are generally extremely responsive when concerned with students reaching out.

“We try to be as active, present and accessible as possible, and if that means scheduling additional meetings with students who have concerns we’re absolutely willing to do so,” Edwards said. “We recognize that we can’t be present in all of these different spaces that need representation, and it’s just not feasible since we’re also students with extracurriculars applying to grad schools and doing all of these things. Holding office hours and being present is the best way for us to be accessible to students. We’re definitely not going to pretend that we know everything that’s going on on campus, because we don’t. Which is why it’s so important for students to really utilize us as a resource.”

Above all, the student advisors stressed the importance of students reaching out to them and voicing any concerns they may have. The role hasn’t typically been promoted well to students in the past, and the current advisors are attempting to highlight their presence in the campus community as important resources for students.  

“Please utilize us,” Sampson said. “This position is really meant to be for students. It’s not just about us taking the concerns of students or us being the only ones to address those concerns or bring those concerns up. We’re definitely about trying to foster ways that we can bring folks in to be able to discuss issues that they know about a lot better than we do and actually get the ball rolling on change.”

Written by: Alyssa Hada – features@theaggie.org