Legislators Aim to Increase Student Voting Power on UC and Community College Boards | Lost Shore Outpost

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CSU Student Trustees Juan F. Garcia and Maryana Khames are visiting Fresno State University in November 2019 for a meeting of the Cal State Student Association. Photo courtesy of the California State Student Association.

California students could get more representation on two of the state’s three college boards this year.

In 2019, state lawmakers increased the number of voting students on the California State University Board of Trustees from one to two. This year lawmakers did the same for the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, considering a constitutional amendment that would make the same change for the University of California’s Board of Regents.

While the changes may seem nominal, student advocates say the bills are a win – taken together, they effectively double the number of student votes in some of the country’s largest higher education systems and send a strong signal about student advocacy skills.

“It is important to note that students are the ones most knowledgeable about the challenges they are facing and that their voice will be vital in addressing those challenges and possible solutions,” said Democratic Senator Steve Glazer from Orinda, the author of SCA-5, which would expand the voting rights for UC student registers in their freshman year.

Student representatives on the boards of the CSU, UC and the community colleges are appointed by the governor from a pool of candidates who are examined and nominated by the student association of each system. Before 2019, the student appointments in all three committees had to wait a year before they were entitled to vote.

“It is important to note that students are the ones most knowledgeable about the challenges they are facing and their voice will be vital in addressing those challenges and possible solutions.”
– State Senator Steve Glazer of Orinda

According to Andrew Nickens, outgoing student senate officer, the California community college student senate turned to MP Jose Medina to draft a bill after successfully expanding student voting rights at the CSU.

Nickens said AB-337, which lifts voting restrictions on student members on the California Community College Board of Governors, affirms that the state’s community college students can and should be meaningfully involved in the system’s decision-making process from the start of their appointment. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the law in June.

Alexis Atsilvsgi Zaragoza, a UC Berkeley student, served as Regent-Designate on the UC Board of Regents for the past academic year. As the designated regent, Zaragoza did not have the right to vote, although she was often “one of the people who knew the most about the object in the room,” she said.

The current composition of the UC Board of Regents means that students cannot vote on half of the board’s bodies that address issues like student housing, tuition increases, and basic needs. The UC bill, currently under consideration in the Assembly’s Budget Committee, would allow a student representative to be present at all committee meetings.

The expansion of student franchise at CSU in 2019 made a “big difference” in the board’s ability to understand the impact of political decisions on the student experience, said Loren Blanchard, who served as the university’s vice chancellor for student affairs since 2015 . 2021.

“Everyone around this podium, especially those who weren’t students – they sat up, really listened, and often sought additional information from the students to get a higher level of clarity before actually voting,” said he.

“They sat up, really listened carefully, and often sought additional information from the students to get more clarity before actually voting.”
– Loren Blanchard, former CSU student affairs administrator

Krystal Raynes, student trustee on the CSU board of directors 2020-2022 and a student at CSU Bakersfield, one of the primary duties of a student trustee is to effectively communicate the college student’s realities today to trustees who may not always understand them.

“Either their grandchildren are in college and they are vague about what goes on in college, or they have no real family members in college and have been out of college in a long time,” said Raynes. “So it is up to us as board members of the student board of trustees to bring this perspective and to always remind them that things are different nowadays.”

Raynes said safe return to campus, basic needs and housing are some issues where student perspective is essential to ensure effective governance by statewide bodies. As a student during the pandemic, she said it was crucial to share her own experience of housing insecurity with trustees and administrators like Blanchard.

“You can tell by his face that my story, my testimony, made a difference to him,” she said of Blanchard.

Blanchard said he had a vivid memory of Raynes’ story and that the contribution of students like her was vital in drawing up the system’s annual budget. The 2021-22 state budget provides the CSU with 15 million US dollars to expand its basic service program.

Student advocates in California Community Colleges hope that the changes at the statewide level will create the conditions for an expansion of student power in the system’s 73 local community college districts.

Prior to serving as the UC Student Regent, Zaragoza served on the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges. There she was involved in ongoing efforts to expand student franchise at the local level, where many decisions are made about the day-to-day running of colleges. Currently, each district varies in student dues, although all must include one or more non-voting student members.

AB-1216, written by Asm. Rudy Salas, a Democrat from Bakersfield, would set up a task force to investigate whether to establish a statewide standard for student powers at the community college district level. It is also pending in the Budget Committee.

“It is very interesting that the local community colleges are not so focused on students and then the big hierarchical national board is more, I think, separate from the students, it’s the other way around,” said Zaragoza.

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Reagan is an intern with the CalMatters College Journalism Network, a collaboration between CalMatters and student journalists from across California. This story and other coverage of higher education are supported by the College Futures Foundation.

CALmatters.org is a non-profit, non-partisan media company that explains California politics and politics.


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