Student leaders express anger at being left out of dialogue with UC president

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Student leaders expressed anger at having been left out of a meeting held between the UC president and selected student leaders at the UC Office of the President’s office in Oakland on Tuesday.

UC President Janet Napolitano, Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom and a group of approximately 25 student leaders from across the UC campuses met to discuss the future of the university’s budget.

In a Facebook status, ASUC Los Angeles External Vice President Conrad Contreras said the administration held a roundtable with students “they secretly hand-picked.”

“Once again, the Office of the President is deliberately circumventing the UC Student Association because we stood up for students and called administration out on their hypocrisy,” said Kevin Sabo, University of California Student Association board chair, in a Facebook status.

It was “shameful” that UCOP hosted the meeting without executive vice presidents or elected members of the UCSA, said Caitlin Quinn, ASUC external affairs vice president.

But UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said it is incumbent on the UC president to hear diverse voices, and that those invited to the meeting represent many students.

Former UCSA president Kareem Aref said it is “absolutely problematic” that executive vice presidents across the UC campuses were left out. He said the meeting overall was a “sparse group” of students, with seemingly no representative from UC Irvine and only one representative from UC Berkeley, Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin.

Klein said, however, that not all student meetings should have to go through one specific organization, such as the UCSA, as there is a wide range of opinion among students.

ASUC Davis President Mariah Watson, who attended the meeting, said there was miscommunication about who was invited, and added that she felt disrespected by comments made about students who were actually invited to the meeting.

Saifuddin said “jumping down (the) throats” of students who attended the meeting is not constructive.

According to Aref, UCOP sought the help of students in lobbying for funding and gave an update on the “committee of two” – a committee composed of Napolitano and Gov. Jerry Brown to examine the university’s cost structure.

Aref said officials also mentioned a potential future opportunity for students to provide feedback to the committee. They were not explicit, however, about how those students would be selected, Watson said.

Klein said Brown has specific ideas about how the university should change, and is primarily concerned with cost-cutting. The university, according to Klein, wanted to make sure student opinions were incorporated in looking at these ideas.

UCSA has stated that they do not want to advocate with the university for increased state funding, but Klein said administrators are interested in talking to students who do.

“The UC needs more funding – whether it’s being transparent or not,” Quinn said. “So they can act like we are the bad guys, but we have been more than willing to work with them.”

Both Quinn and Watson said that often when students lobby, the university hands students talking points to read, without an avenue for student input. Additionally,

Watson said students are often consulted too late in decision-making processes, a point brought up during Tuesday’s meeting.

Watson’s biggest takeaway from the meeting, she said, was that there is no trust between the various student and administrative bodies, and a lack of communication between students and the state government.

“We don’t necessarily have to side with UCOP or the governor,” she said. “We have to side with students … regardless of what’s happening with the committee of two.”

Suhauna Hussain covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @suhaunah.