Student regent resigns after sex crime allegations

Karen Ling/File
Jesse Cheng (left) at a UC Regents Meeting at UCSF Mission Bay on Thursday, November 18, 2010.

Jesse Cheng officially announced his resignation from his position as the UC Student Regent on Monday, ending his term that had been marred by controversy.

Cheng’s term took a contentious turn when he was arrested by Irvine police in November on suspicion of sexual battery. Accused of inappropriately touching a woman who only identified herself as “Laya” in order to protect her identity as a victim of an alleged sex crime, Cheng was later found responsible of a student conduct violation for sexual battery by the UC Irvine Student Conduct Office in March.

Though Cheng decided to appeal the office’s decision, his appeal was denied. He received a sanction of probation until the end of the quarter.
Announcing his resignation via a letter on the UC Regent Live blog, Cheng specifically addressed the office’s ruling, stating that he felt stepping down now was the right decision despite the fact that he did not agree with the findings.

“It is a much lower standard of evidence than a criminal court, but I also recognize that the process nevertheless applies to me as a student,” Cheng said in the letter. “Seeing how it will be my last meeting as a Student Regent, and how much of a distraction from other serious student issues that this issue has continued to cause, I think it would be best for the students and the University of California if I step down at this time.”

But the decision to resign did not come out of the blue, Cheng said. Rather, the idea to resign had been months in the making — since January, according to Cheng.

“One of the reasons I didn’t do it sooner was because we still had stuff going on, and I was working on a project I wanted to get out of the way and accomplish before I resigned,” he said. “I am pretty much a lame duck student regent now and there was no real reason for me to continue on.”

Cheng added that officially assuming the student regent position after serving as the Student Regent-Designate for one year was not what he expected, saying that his assumptions of what the position demanded — time, energy and travel — were not what he planned, admitting that late night drives from Irvine to Sacramento and staying in motels took its toll on his personal life and his academics.

Cheng submitted his resignation letter on May 13, though the UC Board of Regents Chair Russell Gould did not formally accept Cheng’s decision to vacate his position until Monday. The board released a statement Tuesday confirming Student Regent-Designate Alfredo Mireles Jr.’s immediate take-over of the position.

“Regent Mireles’ service on the Board will begin immediately after Regent Cheng tendered his resignation to ensure that the student perspective on the board is without interruption,” the statement reads.

Mireles said he was fully prepared to take the student regent position despite the fact that he was assuming it early. He said he has been “gearing up for a while” for the position by constantly communicating with Cheng throughout the year so that he would be as ready as possible for when he assumed the position, which was originally scheduled to be at the July regents meeting.

“It’s not like I had to bleed information out of him. We had constant communication,” Mireles said of his time serving with Cheng. “(Jesse Cheng) really came of age through his leadership, and he really invested in grassroots action. I’ve been trying to plant those roots myself, but I still have a lot of work to do.”

Cheng, who will be graduating from UC Irvine in June, said he feels comfortable stepping away from the position and that he still hopes to be a part of student advocacy groups wherever he goes.

“Personally I don’t think I accomplished very much as I focused more of my work on supporting others,” he said. “Life is a journey. I was reminded that I’m still young, and I still have the chance to live life. I’m still 22, and for me, it’s important to always be politically active.”

Katie Nelson is an assistant news editor.