UC Board of Regents approves student adviser position, Berkeley Lab director

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The UC Board of Regents unanimously approved the creation of a student adviser position and a new director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Thursday morning.

Currently, two students — including Student Regent Avi Oved and Student Regent-designate Marcela Ramirez — inform board decisions. A third student will be appointed to the board in an advising capacity for a term of one year starting July 1, 2017 to further supplement the single student regent vote. The position will run as a two-year pilot program.

Having worked for more than a year to bring the proposal for the adviser position to a vote, Oved hopes the addition will provide the regents with a more comprehensive student perspective.

“This is an excellent opportunity to meaningfully engage with students and bring them into the conversation,” Oved said at the meeting.

The appointed student adviser will hail from an educational program not already represented by the student regent in the same term of service. Thus, if the student regent is a graduate student, the regents would appoint an undergraduate adviser as the student adviser, and vice versa.

Seven students from UCLA, representing multiple student organizations, voiced their support for the position during public comment.

“A voice, access, immediacy and the ability to contextualize conversations. … These are the tools at the student adviser’s disposal, these are the faculties that matter and this is a position that matters,” said Arielle Yael Mokhtarzadeh, one of the seven students.

UC Student Association President Kevin Sabo believes that the addition of a student adviser position is a step in the right direction but said that he thinks student representation on the board still falls short. Sabo, who transferred to UC Berkeley from a community college, noted that as student body president of his community college, he played a much bigger role in the school’s decision-making process.

“Regents are always saying that they don’t want another student adviser because it’ll add a seat to the board, but the fact is we have 18 regents and one student regent,” Sabo said.

The motion to create the student adviser position passed without opposition, but many of the regents initially voiced concerns regarding the proposal.

Regent Frederick Ruiz said that being a regent is not just about students and that the student adviser position involves a “broad responsibility to take care of all the components of UC,” such as oversight of medical centers and research.

Meanwhile, Regent George Kieffer said that while he was initially opposed to the general idea of adding to the number of people on the Board of Regents, he warmed up to the idea because he felt that Oved’s proposal and arguments were rational.

“If the student adviser can give us what you’ve given us, in terms of perspective, we’ll be well-served,” Kieffer said to Oved.

Candidates will complete the same application process as candidates for the student regent position and will be selected through the same process.

At the meeting, held at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, the regents also approved the appointment of and compensation for Michael Witherell — current vice chancellor for research at UC Santa Barbara — as the eighth director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He will replace current Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos.

“I cannot imagine a more rewarding job than leading this great lab,” Witherell said, according to a press release.

UC President Janet Napolitano said in the release that Witherell is a “proven leader” with “exceptional” credentials.

As director of the Berkeley Lab, Witherell will earn $440,000 annually and manage a nearly $800 million operation and a labor force of approximately 3,200 people.

The board will next meet March 23-24.

Harini Shyamsundar is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.