Lawmakers aim to increase student voting power on UC and community college boards
If a bill pending in the California Legislature passes, the three higher education boards in the state will have two student voting members. Advocates say student representatives provide an important first-hand perspective on issues such as campus security and basic needs.
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California students may be better represented on two of the state’s three higher education boards this year.
In 2019, the state legislature increased the number of voting students on the California State University board of trustees from one to two. This year, lawmakers have done the same for the California Community College Board of Governors and are considering a constitutional amendment that would make the same change to the University of California Board of Regents.
While the changes may seem nominal, student representatives say the bills are a victory – taken together, they effectively double the number of student votes in some of the nation’s largest higher education systems and send a message strong on the competence of student representatives.
âIt is important to note that students are the ones who know best the challenges they face and that their voices will be essential in addressing those challenges and potential solutions,â said Democratic State Senator Steve Glazer of Orinda, author of SCA-5, which would increase the voting power of UC student regents in their first year.
Student representatives on the boards of directors of CSU, UC, and community colleges are appointed by the governor from a pool of candidates selected and appointed by the government student association of each system. Prior to 2019, students appointed to all three councils had to wait a year before they could vote.
The California Community College Student Senate has approached Assembly Member Jose Medina to draft a bill following its successful expansion of student voting power at CSU, according to Andrew Nickens, outgoing Student Senate member.
Nickens said the AB-337, which waives voting restrictions for student members of the California Community College board of governors, validates that community college students in the state can and should be meaningfully involved in the system decision-making process from the start of their appointment. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill in June.
Alexis Atsilvsgi Zaragoza, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, was appointed regent to the UC board of regents during the past academic year. As regent-designate, Zaragoza did not have the right to vote although she was often “one of the people who knew the most about the object of the play,” she said.
The current configuration of the UC board of directors means that students cannot vote in half of the board committees where issues such as student accommodation, increased tuition fees and basic needs are taken into account. The UC bill, currently under consideration in the Assembly’s appropriations committee, would allow a voting student representative to attend all committee meetings.
The expansion of student voting power at CSU in 2019 made a “major difference” in the board’s ability to understand the impact of political decisions on the student experience, said Loren Blanchard, who was vice-chancellor of the university for student affairs from 2015-2021.
“Everyone around this platform, especially those who weren’t students – they sat down, they really listened carefully and often sought additional information from the students to get a higher level of clarity before voting. “, did he declare.
Communicating effectively the realities of being a student today to administrators who don’t always understand them is one of the primary roles of a student administrator, said Krystal Raynes, 2020-2022 student administrator on the board. CSU administration and undergraduate student at CSU Bakersfield.
“Either their grandchildren are in college and that’s how they vaguely know what’s going on in college, or they don’t really have family members in college and they don’t. haven’t been to college for a long time, âRaynes said. âSo it’s up to us, as student board members, to bring that perspective and always remind them that it’s different these days. “
Raynes said that a safe return to campus, basic needs and housing are some of the topics where the student perspective is essential to ensure effective governance of boards of directors across the board. State. As a student during the pandemic, she said it was essential to share her own experience dealing with housing insecurity with trustees and administrators like Blanchard.
âYou can see it in his face, that my story, my testimony, made a difference to him,â she said of Blanchard.
Blanchard said he remembers Raynes’ story vividly and that input from students like her was essential when developing the system’s annual budget. The 2021-2022 state budget allocates $ 15 million to the CSU to expand its basic needs program.
Advocates for students at California community colleges hope the state-level changes will also set the stage for expanding student power in the system’s 73 local community college districts.
Prior to serving as UC’s student regent, Zaragoza was a member of the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges. There, she participated in the ongoing efforts to expand student voting powers to the local level, where many decisions regarding the day-to-day operations of the colleges are made. Currently, each district varies in student contribution, although all are required to include one or more non-voting student members.
AB-1216, written by Asm. Rudy Salas, a Democrat from Bakersfield, would create a task force to study whether to set a statewide standard for student powers at the district level of community colleges. It is also awaiting the committee on credits.
“It’s very interesting where instead of the local community colleges being so student-centric and the statewide grand hierarchical council more, I guess, separate from the students, it’s like the reverse, âZaragoza said.
Reagan is an intern at the CalMatters College Journalism Network, a collaboration between CalMatters and student journalists from across California. This story and other higher education coverages are supported by the College Futures Foundation.