Student Regent Devon Graves to chair UC Board of Regents basic needs committee

Regents of the University of California/Courtesy

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Student Regent Devon Graves was appointed chair of the UC Board of Regents Special Committee on Basic Needs on Monday — marking the first time in history a student has been appointed chair of a Board of Regents committee.

Graves will serve as chair of the committee, effective immediately, through June 2019, as appointed by Board of Regents chair George Kieffer. The committee, which will be established for two years, reviews campus, systemwide and national trends supporting basic needs for UC students.

“(Graves) brought the idea (of a basic needs committee) forward. He drove the idea firmly at the board level,” Kieffer said. “He has demonstrated leadership qualities since he’s been on the board that made it relatively easy to say, ‘Yes, this is somebody who can chair this committee and do a great job.’ ”

As chair, Graves will oversee efforts to address food, housing and financial insecurity, as well as student, child care and mental health services, according to the committee charter. He will also have the ability to set the scope and agenda of the committee, Kieffer said.

The board’s appointment of a student chair is a “huge move for shared governance” for the UC system, according to Graves. It’s a step toward students being able to fully participate in the conversation without feeling limited by their student status, he added.

“I think it’s important that students lead the conversation,” Graves said. “I appreciate that the regents agree and are giving me the opportunity to chair this committee.”

Graves said he was appointed chair for his passion for basic needs. Before joining the Board of Regents, Graves served on the California Student Aid Commission — which attempts to make higher education feasible for Californians — for four years, he said. As a UCLA graduate student, his dissertation looks at financial aid and the “hidden barriers” to accessing higher education.

The Special Committee on Basic Needs was formed by Graves, Kieffer and Student Regent-designate Hayley Weddle, according to Graves, and was approved by the Board of Regents during its November meeting at UCSF. Graves added that he, Kieffer and Weddle hope the regents will have a better understanding of what basic needs means in the UC system after two years.

According to ASUC Student Advocate Sophie Bandarkar, Graves and Weddle have been advocating for the creation of a basic needs committee since the beginning of their terms. She added in an email that it is “inspiring” and “exciting” for the regents to be advocates of “radical change on campus.”

“I think students leading the way on the work around (basic needs security) is essential and very exciting,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay in an email. “The committee is very necessary and demonstrates continued commitment from the UC to address basic needs insecurity as a systemic issue with long term solutions.”

Contact Alyssa Bernardino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @alybernardino.