Student regent Alfredo Mireles met with a handful of UCSC students Tuesday afternoon and gave his thoughts on the California state budget, UCSC’s closure of the American studies department and his experiences as a regent. Photo by Prescott Watson.

Student regent-designate Alfredo Mireles Jr. visited UC Santa Cruz on Tuesday to encourage students to apply to be a regent. He discussed the issues currently affecting the UC and his role on the UC Board of Regents.

As part of his day-long schedule of meetings, Mireles met with the press and students interested in applying to be a student regent in the University Center Alumni Room. Student regent Jesse Cheng was also expected to be there but was not able to attend.

Mireles explained why he finds his role as a student regent worthwhile.

“You really get to feel like you have a say in the university,” he said. “We oversee the 10-campus, five-hospital, three-national laboratory university system that has about a $21 billion budget. Because of a constitutional autonomy, what we say goes, so we have a lot of authority.”

Of the 26 members of the UC Board of Regents, 18 are appointed by the governor for 12-year terms. Seven are ex officio members, such as the governor and the UC president, and two are student regents. Student regents are appointed for a two-year term.

After the application process, the student serves the first year as regent-designate, participating in all the regent meetings, but not voting.

The next year, the student gains the right to vote on policy and introduce measures before the board.

With the exception of UC Merced, UCSC is the only campus that has not produced a student regent since the position was created in 1975.

Because of the lack of diversity among student regents in recent years, Mireles is hoping for a wider array of applicants.

“It’s been five male student regents in a row,” he said. “And Jesse is the first undergraduate in eight years. The student population is 80 percent undergraduate, and I think it’s majority female too. I’m not saying, ‘Men, don’t apply,’ I’m just saying I’m encouraging undergraduate females to apply because I think their voice has been underrepresented.”

There were about 10 students at the meeting, a low count according to Mireles, who said he encountered a crowd of 50 at his recent trip to UC Irvine.

One of Mireles’ two main goals is a tobacco-free UC.

“I’m the first health sciences student to be a student regent, and I wanted to make sure my policies reflect that,” Mireles said. “I think people are entitled to the cleanest air possible.”

His second goal is to better educate students about private scholarships.

“I like to feel like I have ownership of my own financial circumstances,” he said. “We can go to the state and ask for money, but unfortunately those tactics haven’t worked almost ever.”

Mireles said the UC cannot follow the trend of increasing fees.

“As a conservative regent told me, we are close to a billion dollars underfunded,” he said. “The fee increase brought in about $116 million. Year after year after year, eventually they’re going to be like, ‘Enough is enough.’ Even conservative members believe that.”

He ended the meeting by describing what it takes to be a student regent.

“You have to be able to sit at a table with a millionaire on one side and a millionaire on the other side and advocate for the UC.”