Regents appoint 1st ever student adviser, nominate new student regent

Rafael "Rafi" Sands (left) has been appointed the first ever student advisor to the UC Board of Regents. Devon Graves (right) was announced as the nominee to serve as the next student regent.
Rafael "Rafi" Sands (left) has been appointed the first ever student advisor to the UC Board of Regents. Devon Graves (right) was announced as the nominee to serve as the next student regent.

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The UC Board of Regents has appointed Rafael “Rafi” Sands as its first ever student adviser to the regents for the 2017-18 year, according to a Monday university press release.

Sands, a rising senior at UCLA and the former external vice president of the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council, will serve a one-year term in the non-voting, student adviser role. The student adviser will provide “more comprehensive input from students on university issues” and can attend board open sessions and committee meetings, according to the press release.

The position, which was approved by the board in April 2016, is intended to work alongside the student regent, according to Sands. Sands said because he will be the regents’ first student advisor “it’s a very important year for defining what the role means.”

“We’re very lucky to be able to have a strong shared governance system that afford students many opportunities to make important decisions that affect our system,” Sands said. “For me, my undergraduate background complements (Student Regent) Paul (Monge’s) professional and graduate student background.”

Sands has previous experience working for former Student Regent Avi Oved — who was “instrumental” in creating the student advisor position, according to Sands. This, Sands added, allowed him to hear “a lot of the pushback” from some regents who were initially reluctant to create the student advisor position, providing him with more insight on “how to use this role without being overly ambitious.”

Sands said “external threats” from the federal and state government pertaining to university funding and the safety of undocumented and Muslim students were the most immediate issues facing the University of California.

“We need to work together with other entities from the university, including UC staff and faculty, the UC alumni association … to be doing government advocacy together,” Sands said.

The board also announced its nomination of Devon Graves as the 2018-19 student regent. If confirmed at the regents’ July meeting, Graves — a doctoral student in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies — will become the 44th student regent in the university’s history.

Graves would serve as the student regent-designate for the next year, allowed to participate — but not vote — in board deliberations and work alongside student regent Paul Monge. The student regent serves a one-year term which began July 1 and has voting privileges.

“Devon Graves stood out as a clear example of what is best about the University of California and its tradition of student leadership,”  said Regent Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who chaired the student regent interview committee, in an emailed statement. “Mr. Graves was our unanimous choice and will be an excellent addition to the Board of Regents.”

Graves said the student regent position is “the most important position on the board” because it represents “the student voice,” adding that the student advisor position would ensure “more student voices at the table” and representation of different student groups.

Graves noted the biggest issues facing the university — including sexual assault, mental health and campus affordability — impact students across the board, adding that he hopes to build relationships across the state and “tell the story of the university.”

“I am focused on our advocacy efforts and our relationships with student faculty, staff, alumni and Sacramento to tell the story of why the UC is important,” Graves said. “I’m excited to be a part of this legacy.”

Monge said in an email he was “privileged” to be working alongside Sands and Graves to help ensure the university “truly honors its founding principles of quality, access, and affordability.”

“Devon and Rafi are exceptional student leaders who have already made an impact on public higher education,” Monge said in an email. “While there are many challenges ahead for the University of California, we have a strong bench of student leaders … who are ready to fight for the sanctity of our university system and for the success of our students.”

Bobby Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.