The University of California (UC) Board of Regents voted to end the Student Advisor to the Regents position following support from the UC Student Association (UCSA) and Student Regent Devon Graves.
The Student Advisor position was created in 2016 to provide a voice for students from underrepresented populations. Student Advisors provide feedback regarding UC policies ranging from sexual assault to basic needs. In the last two years, they have been undergraduate students to balance the graduate student perspective of the Student Regent.
“I feel obligated to first clear up a grave misconception that seems to be circulating, which is that students are divided in their support for this position,” Student Advisor Edward Huang said at the Board of Regents meeting. “Let me be clear in setting the record straight. Students are unquestionably in support of this position and recognize that the power of the Student Advisor is in the distinct perspective it offers the board.”
Student Advisors are able to participate in discussion at Board of Regents meetings, but they do not have a vote. Unlike the Student Regent selection process, which is controlled by UCSA, the Student Advisor is selected through the UC Office of the President.
On Dec. 21, Graves released a letter from Regent Richard Sherman on Facebook stating that the Board of Regents planned to sunset, or terminate, the Student Advisor position. After outcry from students, another letter was released on Jan. 4 stating that the proposal was changed to be a one-year extension of the Student Advisor program.
On Saturday, Jan. 12, at the monthly UCSA board meeting, UCSA held a closed session meeting with Student Regent Graves and Student Regent-designate Hayley Weddle. UCSA is the largest official student advocacy group within the UC system. Caroline Siegel-Singh, ASUCSD Vice President of External Affairs, was elected President of UCSA last summer.
According to Student Advisor Edward Huang, “UCSA held a closed door session which I was not included in, during which they decided that they would support sunsetting the student advisor position in exchange for additional UCSA controlled positions.”
During Sunday’s UCSA meeting, according to notes taken by The Triton, Caroline Siegel-Singh, UCSA President and ASUCSD Vice President of External Affairs, announced that the board decided to release a statement promoting the sunsetting of the student advisor position and led a discussion about the wording of the statement.
The meeting was captured on live feed through Facebook Live, as all UCSA meetings are, but the video disappeared from Facebook shortly after it ended. There were no official meeting minutes released.
When asked if the live feed was deleted and why it disappeared, Siegel-Singh told The Triton, “Our staff would not have deleted the feed. I have no idea why that would have happened. However, the live feed is not a guarantee. It is often unavailable due to connectivity issues. We’ll do our best to have it up when we can.”
Following the session, UCSA released a letter on Sunday calling for an end to the position, citing that the position does not actually represent students but rather only serves a figurehead role.
Despite the proposal to continue the Student Advisor program, the Board of Regents instead discussed and voted on a proposal to end the program and to replace it with more UCSA programs, like Student Advocate to the Regents (StAR) and Student Observer. StARs are students that have direct access to the Regents at meetings, instead of sitting in the public section. Student Observers serve one-year terms. They attend a specific committee and are allowed to address the board.
Huang spoke in opposition to the proposal, saying, “The lack of transparency in this meeting and the refusal to properly consult student constituents shows that there are elected and appointed student leaders who would prefer to eliminate other student leadership roles that compete with their own, rather than to do what they know is truly in the interest of students.“
He later asked why the board had to choose between the UCSA programs or the Student Advisor, stating that they could have both.
Student Regent Devon Graves, appointed by UCSA, supported the claims in the letter. At the Board of Regents meeting, Graves said that the Student Advisor did not generate many applicants compared to the Student Regent. “Though we are allowing the Student Advisor program to sunset, I am comfortable with this action knowing that we are increasing other student leadership and engagement opportunities with the Board of Regents,” Graves said at the Regents meeting.
Several regents spoke in support of the proposal, stating their belief that the UCSA programs would be more effective than the Student Advisor in expressing student perspectives to the board. However, two members voiced concerns about the proposal.
Regent Charlene Zettel condemned the changes of the proposal at the meeting, stating that giving no public notice was a betrayal of the public’s trust. She and three other regents abstained from voting. Regent Laphonza Butler voiced concerns about Huang’s claim to have not been consulted before the decision, but Graves stated that Huang was included in phone calls and had the opportunity to address the regents at the meeting.
Huang firmly criticized the actions of both UCSA and the Student Regent, saying, “I believe that this alleged division among students about supporting this position is nothing more than a power play by a small handful of student leaders that have a vested interest in eliminating this position.”
Ethan Edward Coston is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow him @Ethan4Books. Ella Chen is the News Editor of The Triton.