Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 passes CA Senate, highlights importance of student vote

photo of California State Capitol
Ken Lund/Creative Commons
Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5 was passed by the state Senate on Wednesday.( Ken Lund under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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The California Senate passed Senate Constitutional Amendment, or SCA, 5 Wednesday, requiring two student votes on the UC Board of Regents.

SCA 5 was introduced by state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Calif., on April 16 and gives voting power to the second student regent. This will allow students to have a larger voice in board decisions, according to a press release from Glazer.

“Students are the ones who are directly affected by decisions that the UC Board of Regents make,” Glazer said in an email. “It’s critical that they are given a stronger voice to have an impact on what the Board decides.”

Students are uniquely positioned to be able to offer insight that can’t be given by nonstudent members of the board, according to Alex Niles, UC Student Association, or UCSA, chair of government relations.

The UC system strives to help increase upward mobility, foster research, encourage innovation and give its graduates the tools of university education, but it cannot do that without valuing student perspectives, Niles added.

“Students and student labor is essential to all of these things,” Niles said in an email. “Without students on the board, you lose an essential first hand perspective and connection to the student body. You lose that expert voice raising these issues and offering solutions.”

Since its conception, SCA 5 has been advocated for by student groups, said Marlenee Blas Pedral, student regent designate and UC Berkeley Law School student, in an email.

When there is more diversity among the viewpoints of board members, the board is better equipped to address the potential benefits or consequences of their policy choices, according to Blas Pedral.

“Students are excited!” Blas Pedral said in her email. “Across the UC, student leaders have been working tirelessly to get SCA 5 passed.”

Currently, the nonvoting student regent designate is put on the board for one year as a training period.

However, student advocates such as Gwen Chodur, president of the UC Graduate and Professional Council, say that student regents don’t actually need that year of training.

“Many of them can hit the ground running and just go,” Chodur said. “The candidates are extraordinary. Our students are incredible. They know so much. They’re so passionate, they have so many great ideas — and we’re really losing out by not giving them the opportunity to fully participate in the board.”

Current Student Regent Alexis Zaragoza said one of the issues with allowing only one student vote is that her vote is required to be representative of both of the student regents’ opinions.

Zaragoza added the student regent and student regent designate cannot necessarily attend the committees they’re best suited for. Instead, they must send the voting student regent to whichever committee will allow their vote to matter the most.

“Under the current structure of the UC Board of Regents, students lack voting representation in nearly half of all regental decision-making spaces,” said Joshua Lewis, UCSA Board of Directors chair, in an email. “With this lack of voting representation comes restrictions on the ability of students to agendize items and have their voices recorded and officially counted in critical decisions that effect the student body.”

The UC system would be the last California college system to adopt two student votes in its respective boards, according to Niles.

He noted that both the California State University and California Community Colleges systems have already done so.

“It means we’ll have a stronger student voice pushing for accessibility, affordability, and equity, centering the needs of the most marginalized students, and standing in solidarity with UC employees,” Niles said in his email.

UC Office of the President spokesperson Ryan King noted SCA 5 must be passed by the California State Assembly to be eligible to be a future state ballot proposition. It must then receive approval from California voters before the state constitution is formally amended.

While SCA 5 has not gone into effect yet, many believe it will work positively to help student regents better advocate for student interests, according to Chodur.

“The board itself needs the students there because we bring a completely new perspective,” Zaragoza said. “We know everything about the UC because we have to, because this is where we’re putting our money, this is where families are putting their money.”

Molly Cochran is a higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @mollyacochran .