The University Board of Regents’ special committee has nominated UC Berkeley fourth-year social welfare major Sadia Saifuddin to be the student regent for the 2014-15 school year.
Previously a senator in the Associated Students at her university, Saifuddin has been involved in the UC Berkeley Muslim Students Association since her freshman year and recently started the UC Berkeley Food Pantry on her campus. Should the Regents approve Saifuddin during their July meeting, she would serve as the 40th student regent since the position’s establishment and she would be the second undergraduate regent in the last decade.
Saifuddin said she hopes to reform a number of issues at the UC, primarily financial aid services and campus climate. As a student who holds firsthand experience with financial inaccessibility, Saifuddin said she aims to develop community advisory committees across the state that would meet with the UC Office of the President and Board of Regents biannually to discuss student concerns.
“I know firsthand what it is like to work three jobs to support myself through college,” Saifuddin said. “As student regent, I want to create focus groups on each campus that work with financial aid administrators to identify areas of improvement in the system, so that we can craft more student-friendly policies.”
According to Prahb Kehal, outgoing UC Berkeley External Vice President Chief of Staff, Saifuddin’s ability to critically take a multitude of perspectives into account will be a useful asset to acting as the primary student representative for the UC system’s 10 campuses.
“If there’s ever a perspective she’s not aware of, she will go out of her way to become more knowledgeable about it,” Kehal said. “She’s able to make a more well-informed opinion, and that’s something I think is very critical for someone who’s a Regent.”
As a prospective student regent for the post-Prop 30 era of the UC, Saifuddin said the proposition is a Band-Aid solution but its passage does buy time for students to develop another more sustainable solution. In light of this, Saifuddin plans to explore UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s American Opportunity Challenge Grants proposal — which calls for state, federal and fundraising dollars to be matched at a 1:1:1 ratio.
“It’s definitely a new concept,” Saifuddin said. “But, I am in support of funding initiatives that are sustainable in the long run, keep student debt low and ensure that a UC education is affordable.”
According to Kehal, Saifuddin’s perspective as an undergraduate UC student will increase the previously underrepresented undergraduate voice at the regential level, particularly in regards to concerns surrounding recent hikes in undergraduate tuition.
“She’s the first undergraduate to be a student regent-designate in 10 years, at time where student tuition has been going up, mainly so with undergrads, up until recently where we’ve gotten tuition freezes,” Kehal said.
Saifuddin’s prospective role as an undergraduate representative, coupled with her dedication to public policy and community service, will contribute to her being a holistic and expertly balanced student voice at Regent meetings, Kehal said.
“Just off the bat, she has this idea of what it is to be an undergrad … I believe there are more undergrads than grads in the UC system,” Kehal said. “In simple terms, she has that representational advantage, but also she has this commitment to public service.”
According to current Student Regent for the 2012-13 school year Cinthia Flores, who is a UCLA alum and second-year UC Irvine law student, Saifuddin’s long-term experience with university officials, UC Berkeley administrators and student government has made her well-prepared for the job as student regent.
“I think that’s incredible experience to bring to the job,” Flores said. “I also think she has the drive and commitment necessary to pursue an aggressive student agenda. I’m excited to work with her in the near future.”