The UC regents will likely extend the two-year-old position of student adviser to the UC regents another year after UC student leaders expressed desire for the role to continue. On Dec. 17, Regent Richard Sherman released a letter to the Board of Regents indicating the position would sunset at the end of this school year, but in a subsequent statement on Jan. 4, he expressed support for the continuation of the role.
The student adviser to the regents is one of three students who engage in dialogue with the regents during meetings. The other two are the student regent and student regent designate.
Many student leaders in the UC pointed toward a miscommunication in the regents’ initial reasoning for letting the student adviser position sunset. The student adviser to the regents position lacks support needed to function in the best way, said representatives from the UC Council of Student Body Presidents, UC Student Association (UCSA) and Student Regent Devon Graves. But students wanted it improved rather than discontinued.
Michael Skiles, graduate chair of the UC Council of Student Body Presidents, used an analogy to describe what happened when regents heard of student complaints surrounding lack of support for the position.
“Imagine that you had a computer as a kid and you told your parents, ‘Hey, there’s not much I can do with the computer without the internet.’ There’s two ways your parents could interpret that,” said Skiles. “They could say, ‘Oh, that means we need to get her internet so she can use her computer.’ But the other way they could interpret it is, ‘Well, if the computer is not much use to her, let’s just get rid of the computer.’”
Rather than implement support for the position, they originally moved to eliminate the position.
The student adviser is often the only undergraduate representative on the board. The role contrasts the regent in graduate status. Student adviser to the regents Edward Huang said his position is crucial in representing the large undergraduate student body to the regents because the student regents have been mostly graduate students lately.
“[The regents] decide pretty much all the big decisions in the UC, and right now there are more than 270,000 students and [about] 220,000 students are undergraduates,” Huang said. “I’m the only undergraduate on the board, and people can most effectively advocate for things they understand in their own lived experiences.”
While student leaders agree the role is necessary, they also agree it’s flawed. The student regent receives a tuition stipend, but the student adviser receives no pay or stipend to compensate for their work. UC Santa Cruz Student Union Assembly vice president of external affairs and chair of UCSA Davon Thomas said this can bar students who need to support themselves from holding the position.
The student adviser needs more structure and support to be effective in advocacy, Huang said. Unlike the student regent, they have no staff, office or written out description of the role. Moving forward, Huang and other student leaders plan to push for that support in the role, and make it a permanent position.
About 14 students, including student observers to standing committees and student advocates to the regents speak regularly at regents meetings. Most of them are only allowed to give comments and the student regent is the only student position with a vote on the board.
“I firmly believe that there can never be enough student representation,” Student Regent Graves said. “Students are one of the most important stakeholders in the shared governance of the university and it’s important that we continue to increase different opportunities for students to engage in all levels at the university at a campus, systemwide and regent level.”
After Sherman released his initial letter, student leaders from the UCSA, UC Council of Student Body Presidents and UC Graduate and Professional Council communicated full support for the continuation of the role to Graves. Graves then passed that information along to the regents, who also voiced support. The board is expected to officially decide to continue the role at its Jan. 15-17 meeting.
“I’m hoping that the awareness of the position, its potential and its current shortcomings,” Skiles, graduate chair of the UC Council of Student Body Presidents said, “are ultimately going to lead to a conversation where we’re going to be able to get the position the support it needs to be successful.”