UC student leaders express concern over perceived lack of transparency in decision to eliminate position
The UC Regents recently decided to remove the UC Regents Student Advisor position, a role meant to give students a voice in UC governance.
The current student regent, Edward G. Huang, a student at UC Berkeley, expressed opposition to the removal of the position.
“Eliminating the Student Advisor position strips away essential student representation at the highest level of UC governance and rejects years of hard-fought work to bring the student voice into university governance,” Huang said via email. “This is an incredibly important issue for UC students to hear because the Board of Regents (and the students on the Board) decide on major student issues such as tuition, basic needs, and sexual assault.”
Now that the student advisor position has been terminated, only two other student positions are on the UC Board of Regents: student regent and student regent-designate, Huang said.
“Only these three students are allowed to sit at the table and fully contribute to public discussions with the Regents on crucial student issues,” Huang wrote.
The UC Regents, a body which functions as the board of trustees for the UC system, announced its plans to potentially eliminate the student advisor position last December.
A letter emphasizing a perceived lack of transparency about the decision was sent to the UC Regents on Dec. 28. It was co-signed by Huang, two former student advisors, the current student regent, the president of the UC Student Association (UCSA), individuals from the UC Council of Presidents and the UC Graduate Professional Council.
“We do not believe that students were consulted fairly on this issue,” the letter read. “The current and former Student Advisors were never brought into the conversation, and previous Regents meetings never discussed the issue. The topic was not discussed openly or transparently with students.”
According to Huang, eight of the 26 Regents abstained from voting on the elimination decision. The Student Advisor position was implemented as a pilot program in the summer of 2017.
The goal of the program was to “provide the Regents with a more comprehensive perspective on the student experience by appointing an advisor from the population not represented by the student Regent, given that the issues faced by undergraduate, graduate, and professional students vary tremendously,” according to an action statement addressed to the members of the Governance and Compensation Committee of the UC Office of the President on Jan. 16, 2019.
“The program has been in operation for 18 months, but it is not yet clear whether it has met its goals or potential,” the statement also said, adding the recommendation that the position be reviewed in Dec. 2019.
Caroline Siegel Singh, the president of UCSA, had voiced support for submitting the position for review.
“Since its inception two years ago, this position has lacked adequate consultation of students in the selection process and, resources to succeed in this role, which has led to a lack of accountability to the student community,” Siegel Singh wrote in a letter addressed to the UC community. “The UCSA believes that instead of renewing a position with limited success so far, the UC Board of Regents can instead increase genuine and effective communication with student representatives by expanding positions that have been more beneficial to students, including roles such as Committee Observers and Student Advocate to the Regents (StARs).”
In her letter, Siegel Singh proposed that the UCSA president could function as a permanent StAR for the UC Regents. She also said student observers could be appointed to every regental committee rather than solely the three committees they are currently permitted to work on.
This, she stated, would help “solidify the student voice on the Board of Regents and ensure that proper consultation takes place during major decisions at the University.”
Written by: Rebecca Bihn-Wallace — firstname.lastname@example.org