Past Arrest Could Hurt UC Regent Finalist

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A former UC Berkeley student and current finalist for the coveted student regent position was once arrested for storming a UC Board of Regents meeting to protest the ban on affirmative action.

Police arrested Justin Fong, who was majoring in environmental science at UC Berkeley at the time, for disrupting a regents meeting at UC San Francisco three years ago. Fong was one of nine students who rushed at regents after they declined to reconsider the use of race and gender preferences in the admissions process.

The nine students, arrested on charges of disturbing the peace and resisting arrest, were later cited and released. Fong is now a graduate student in public policy at UCLA.

"Basically, I love the UC system," Fong said. "I want to be able to affect the system and constantly make it better. Like any group, the regents have difficulty dealing with themselves sometimes."

Fong would not comment on his arrest but said past events should not interfere with his chance to serve on the board.

"We may disagree, but I look forward to the opportunity to work with them," he said.

Regent Ward Connerly, who was targeted by the nine student protesters, said he holds no ill will toward Fong.

"The fact that he was arrested doesn't make him ineligible in my mind," Connerly said. "If a student simply exercised the right to disagree and did not engage in unruly behavior, I can't fault that."

There is a line between civil disobedience and becoming physically abusive, Connerly said. As long as student protesters do not cross that line, they should not be punished for their opinions, he added.

"It doesn't rule somebody out just because they were arrested," he said. "We will review the police record and ask him about it in our interview, but it doesn't automatically mean he will face an uphill battle."

Members of the University of California Student Association, which selects three finalists from a pool of nine candidates, said they were not aware of the incident when they chose Fong. They added that knowledge of his actions probably would not have affected the group's decision.

"I've been arrested at a regents meeting, too," said Eli Ilano, UCSA president. "It kind of comes with the territory. I've done worse things than be arrested at a Regents meeting and they don't have a problem with me."

Unlike the UCSA, the regents may consider Fong's arrest a critical factor in their final decision, Ilano said.

"They don't see it as an appropriate means of communication," he said. "But it doesn't automatically put him out of the running."

Ilano said he was not entirely surprised by Fong's past, adding that the finalist's application detailed his involvement in student demonstrations.

"It was clear he was involved with student groups supporting affirmative action, and many people have been arrested in connection with those issues," he said.

The student regent is the only student on the 26-member board and serves a one-year term. Fong was previously a student regent finalist in 1997. That same year he lost a bid for ASUC president with the political party Cal-SERVE.

Fong said he declined admission from Ivy League schools and chose to pursue his graduate studies at UCLA because he wanted to remain in the UC system and have the opportunity to serve as student regent.


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