UC Student Association discusses creation of student adviser position, prioritization of mental health

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The University of California Student Association heard a proposal for more student representation on the UC Board of Regents at its June board of directors meeting.

The Saturday meeting at UC Merced was the first for the 2015-16 UCSA board and was an opportunity to “have conversations that need to be had,” according to UCSA board chair Kevin Sabo. UCSA is a student organization composed of undergraduate and graduate representatives from most UC campuses that advocates political action on issues affecting the university. The board also discussed the state of mental health services in the UC system.

Avi Oved, the 2015-16 student regent, presented to the board his own vision for a new position that would enhance the role of students on the Board of Regents.

He proposed creating a student adviser, a nonvoting member of the Board of Regents. The student adviser would ensure that the student regent represents diverse viewpoints, Oved said. The position would be appointed — just like the student regent position — by the Board of Regents, with input from the UCSA.

“The power of the position is not in the vote but in the ability to contextualize conversations,” Oved said. “It’s the ability to build relationships with these decision makers, and that is the core for the job.”

The proposal stops short of adding an additional student regent to the Board of Regents, which would require collaboration with state legislators to create language for a constitutional amendment. If the amendment did get to a ballot, money would have to be raised in a multimillion-dollar campaign to get it passed by California voters, Oved said.

“I think it’s too early to be pessimistic,” Sabo said about not pursuing a constitutional amendment. “Let Californians support the idea of giving an extra seat to students regents on the table.”

Oved said he would ultimately like to lay the groundwork for another student seat.

“When I entered this position, the groundwork had not been laid for me,” he said. “So what I’m trying to do is have tangible groundwork to truly increase student representation in the UC system.”

Currently, student representation on the Board of Regents is embodied in four positions that include more than 20 students, but only the student regent has long-term direct access to the Board of Regents in shaping university policy, according to Oved.

The UCSA also discussed how to move forward with increased funding for student mental health services. According to UCSA President Jefferson Kuoch-Seng, there currently is a $28 million gap in critical services that needs to be closed in order to support the well being of students across the UC system.

UCSA board members talked over the possibility of adopting a campaign on institutional reprioritization of mental health.

“I think if there is a campaign, it should not just be a sticker campaign to lower the stigma around mental health, but helping others seek services available to them when they need it most,” Kuoch-Seng said.

Contact Alex Mabanta at [email protected].