The University of California Student Association (UCSA) held a board meeting to discuss several issues concerning UC students Saturday and Sunday at UC Riverside.
UCSA is a UC-wide student advocacy organization governed by student officers made up of External Vice Presidents (EVP) from each UC campus’ undergraduate and graduate student governments and staff members. UCSA meets monthly, and in its October meeting discussed the goals of the Student Advocacy, Governance, and Engagement (S.A.G.E.) fee, Million Student March, developing the role of Student Advocate to the Regents (StARs) and communications with the UC Office of the President.
S.A.G.E. is a proposal that would establish a UC-wide, voluntary opt-out fee of six dollars per student to fund UCSA and is set to be established at the upcoming November Regents meeting. The Million Student March is a movement that demands tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt and a minimum $15 wage for all campus workers which will take place at campuses across the nation Nov. 12. StARs are UC students who attend Board of Regents meetings held every other month to converse with regents and to present student concerns, and UCSA hopes to increase the presence and influence of StARs at the meetings.
UCSA President and fourth-year peace and conflict studies major at UC Berkeley Kevin Sabo said UCSA is funded by student associations across the UC campuses, and for individual UC’s to receive the benefits of UCSA at the state level the associations must pay their membership dues. According to Sabo, the SAGE fee would better connect students and decision makers.
“Really what S.A.G.E. does is there is a lot of difficulties with students being able to get access to decision makers,” Sabo said. “With S.A.G.E., the UCSA would be able to really eliminate that barrier of accessibility and get students before those decision makers.”
Sabo said students who are interested in going to Sacramento to lobby may have troubles paying for transportation and other expenses. According to Sabo, S.A.G.E. will allow UCSA to “spend more effectively.”
“They have to front the cost to participate and then wait several weeks, even months, to get reimbursed,” Sabo said. “S.A.G.E. is really about stabilizing the organization, giving a better, more predictable outlook on what revenues are going to be like so we can budget for things like taking students to lobby on things like student loan debt or the Perkins Loans.”
UCSA campus action vice chair and UCSB fourth-year global studies major Dana Patterson said the Million Student March is a “unique opportunity” to address the growing problem of student debt in the United States. According to Patterson, tuition freezes are not enough.
“Every person in our community is affected by student debt,” Patterson said. “Student debt is greater than credit card debt … It has tripled in the last 10 years … education needs to be free, mainstream, and make politicians talk about it.”
According to Patterson, the board meeting was “100 percent a success,” and UCSA passed a resolution for the UCs to contribute to the efforts of the Million Student March on individual campuses. Patterson said she encourages students across the nation to participate in the Million Student March at their campus.
“This is for every student to get involved, and I encourage any who wants to join this movement to come,” Patterson said.
UC Berkeley graduate student Iman Sylvain said StARs are allowed to provide comments at UC Regents Board meetings and meet with Regents in private settings such as in break rooms or while getting lunch.
“We have a wonderful program that gives students a back door access to the ability to really interface genuinely with the Regents, because they are kind of an elusive group,” Sylvain said.
Sylvain said StARs representatives are able to advocate for issues relevant to UC students.
“We’ve talked about student homelessness, we’ve talked about renewing the act for sexual assault prevention training for faculties, we also talked about mental health and the cost of living has been huge,” Sylvain said.
According to Sylvain, UCSA is working on developing more personal relationships with Regents through StARs in order for the Regents to better understand the student perspective.
“For example, the housing crisis — you can see that, you can see students sleeping in their cars or showering at the gym,” Sylvain said. “The Regents are very removed from the on-campus situation … So we are trying to engage [the Regents] in different ways.”
According to Sylvain, UCSA is “only” scheduled to meet with the UC Office of the President three hours a year.
“We are definitely pushing for the president to take more meetings and to have more ongoing conversations with them,” Sylvain said. “What are the ways to be in constant communication with the Office of the President?”
Sylvain said UCSA advocates for a “genuine” shared government between administration, faculty and students.
“Why don’t we have a vote — why don’t we have a say when it comes to decision making?” Sylvain said. “We want more than just our ‘foot in the door;’ we want a seat at the table.”