Student voice on the UC Board of Regents will gain volume when a program to bring more student opinions to the UC system’s top decision-makers launches in the coming months.
As part of a pilot program, the UC Student Association will nominate three students each year to act as “student observers” for the UC Regents. These students will participate in the regents’ committee meetings to lend student perspective to discussion. The UCSA will place the observers on three of the board’s committees.
“The big goal is to make sure student voices are being heard,” said UCSA President Kareem Aref. “With this extra opportunity, students will be able to get into those spaces so the regents never act without student input.”
UC San Diego student Vanessa Garcia is a prospective observer and has been nominated by the UCSA for confirmation by the regents. The board will consider her nomination at its November meeting, according to UCSA Communications Director Bridget Botelho. Aref said he is unsure whether the other two observers will be confirmed in November as well. Student observers will change with each school year.
The regents have had students observers in the past. The Committee on Investments has had a student observer for the past two years, according to UC spokesperson Brooke Converse. This year, however, marks the start of an official student observer pilot program — a project that is the result of collaboration between the UCSA, UC Student Affairs and the Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents, Converse said.
Aref said the additional three observer positions were modeled on those positions. He said the California Constitution prohibits the addition of student regents to the board, which led advocates for greater student representation to seek alternative avenues to gaining access to the university’s top decision-makers.
The three student observers will join UC Student Regent Cinthia Flores and Student Regent-designate Sadia Saifuddin as student representatives to the body.
“Overall, the biggest impact students are going to have as observers is to contextualize issues as they relate to students, and that’s a very effective way of changing conversations,” Flores said. “The board does recognize the importance of the student opinion.”
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai said there is still more to be done to guarantee student access to the regents.
“Student presence and student voice should be the norm,” Mecklai said in an email. “We need to continue to be critical of how we can negotiate more access for students in the Regents, and continue to look at ways to encourage Regental reform and improved student representation at the systemwide level.”