Student Regent and Designate Talk Budget Cuts, Experiences

Photo: Student Regent-Designate Alfredo Mireles Jr. talked with reporters of The Daily Californian about budget cuts and their position.
Alfredo Mireles, Jr./Courtesy
Student Regent-Designate Alfredo Mireles Jr. talked with reporters of The Daily Californian about budget cuts and their position.

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Interview with Student Regent-Designate Alfredo Mireles Jr.

On Friday, reporters Jordan Bach-Lombardo and Aaida Samad sat down with Student Regent-Designate Alfredo Mireles Jr. to talk about the state budget and its implications for the UC.

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Photo: Student Regent Jesse Cheng talked with reporters of The Daily Californian about budget cuts and their position.   

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On Friday, Daily Cal reporters Aaida Samad and Jordan Bach-Lombardo sat down with UC Student Regent Jesse Cheng and Student Regent-designate Alfredo Mireles to talk about the state budget and the implications for the UC as well as what it is like to sit on the UC Board of Regents with some of California's wealthiest residents.

The Daily Californian: Just to begin, I was wondering if you could comment on how you see the general state of the university with the budget cuts

Alfredo Mireles: It's clearly a devastating proposed cut and I want to reiterate that it is a proposed cut. I don't want us to be too fatalistic that these cuts have to happen or are mandated to happen. We're still in the budget negotiation. Me and two UC Berkeley students were in the capital last on Wednesday going to the first hearing about vetting the governor's budget. No decisions have been made yet, no votes have been cast to accept the cuts, so just to preface this whole discussion we're talking about if the governor's budget is accepted. Obviously, $500 million would be an incredible challenge to the university. $80 million would come from this campus alone and it does seem like more than others Berkeley has already planned out way to address that. It's going to be challenging cuts, don't get me wrong, but I was heartened by some of my meetings today. It seems like although students will feel the difference, the leadership on this campus has been planning about how to change for awhile. Anyway, all that being said I still think that the university is a great place and I don't want to seem like a cheerleader or Polly Anna-ish, but I really think that in these crisis moments we can become stronger.

DC: The governor's office said the spirit of the cuts is to ensure efficiencies rather than just cuts. Do you think $500 million is too much for that to be purely efficiencies for the spirit of that intention to be preserved?

AM: It can't be just in efficiencies. This is not in a vacuum. This is after years of cuts that have already happened. So, maybe three years ago we would have had the capacity to do something like that, but I wanted to remind the legislature - but I deferred to some of the students who came to testify because they had some more compelling personal stories - is that the university has already undertaken significant policy decisions that will make the university more efficient. So it sounds like a buzz word but Operational Excellence, we're planning on saving $500 million systemwide on streamlining our administration. We've already banked $100 million and are aggressively pursuing that to get to the $500 million faster than we originally planned. We've dealt with pensions. A very challenging issue, right? We're working to every extent possible to get rid of salaries that have bonus structures built in to them. We've done controversial things like increase out-of-state and international students and are looking to hopefully, if the people who are promoting this follow through on the policy they're proposing to us, saving money on online education. And finally, and I would be remiss not to say this, and I'll say we did it kicking and screaming, fees have gone up over 60 percent in the last four years, so at what point can we say that the university has done enough. Right? After all these years of cut, cut, cut, students pay more, more efficiency. At time there's a boiling point, so I don't think we can do these $500 million cuts in just efficiencies.

DC: You hit on like four different, huge things.

AM: That's our main message. In general we are doing our part as a university to make sure we use scarce and precious state resources to the best of our ability and that's why it's my argument to the legislature and governor that please take that into consideration before you make what I would argue to be clumsy cuts.]]

DC: Going back to the pensions, it was a huge issue last semester, but it almost seems to have fallen off the table now. Has there been discussion about if this $500 million cut goes through, will we still be able to follow the payment plans that has been set up?

AM: We've already cut a deal to have less generous pensions with longer vesting times for employees that start in 2013, so I think what we've done on pensions - this is my position I'm not sure if this is where everybody is - I believe that we won't work, we won't change the pension system that we just voted on in December.

DC: And those contingency recommendations, like releasing the cap on out-of-state enrollment or more student fees, has there been any discussion of the contingency recommendations yet?

AM: The discussion that we had was hardly a discussion. In the January meeting, we didn't preempt the chancellors coming up with their own plan to present to the Regents.

DC: And have the specific benchmarks been proposed to the chancellors by Yudof?

AM: It was my understanding that it was going to go the reverse. I think we set goals at the Regential level, but we allow the chancellors to choose the goals for their own campus. So still my understanding is that process is still in the works. This is something, I'm not positive about the numbers, but I think Yudof gave the chancellors six weeks after the governor's budget was proposed so, still in the works. Here's where we have to be cautious. Instead of showing our hand too early and giving...

DC: To whom?

AM: To the legislature, about where the cuts are coming from. If we make the cuts right now what argument can we make to the legislature that we can't make the cuts? So that's an internal dialogue that's happening with us. We are going to continue the fight as vigorously as possible to prevent that $500 million cut. At this point I'm sure those plans are being made, but we're not fully implementing them until we know what our actual budget is.

DC: You also touched on online education. Do you have a particular opinion?

AM: It's tricky. You know, I've heard from all types of students. Some students that think it's going to be the downfall of the university, that think that we're going to turn into the University of Phoenix. Some students and I'm not kidding, there are some students, who come from other universities that already have robust online education like, you know comparable universities. There are some students who are teaching graduate classes at other colleges using online education and they find it to be a useful and sophisticated way to communicate with students. So I mean, it's tricky. I clearly don't think we should move to exclusively online education. I don't think anyone is advocating for that. Sometimes opponents might speak in hyperbole to present a university that will go in that direction, but I also hear people who have seen it in action. I think we need to see what the piloted courses look like and if they're received well by both professors and students and graduate students. It's a work in progress. It's probably not particularly helpful to talk about the philosophy. I'd rather see what happens with the piloted programs and the comment specifically on those.

DC: Has their been a lot of discussion on alternative funding pathways? Regent Marcus at the last meeting saying let's put $1,000 on the table right now.

AM: There's always discussions. I think the tricky part is everything that gets proposed is controversial to at least one community or constituency. If I may, this is not my position and I hope that's clearly known, when I sit at the regent's table, when something like increasing out-of- state or international students, regents see that beyond the academic benefit that that brings to the community as a whole, they see that as much more attractive than say raising undergraduate or graduate student fees. So you know, everyone acknowledges that we have this tremendous deficit that we have to deal with and sometimes people are like what's the least worse option? And some people honestly believe that it's a better environment to have more international and out of state students, so it's tricky. It's how can we achieve the goals we want without upsetting anyone - I think it's impossible. But how can we implement policies that bring in new revenues that maybe have a benefit to the university community and maybe we should move forward on those, like where I think the regents are coming from, not me specifically.

DC: So at this point, (facing) $500 million cuts, it may be fatalistic to say we're going to have that for sure, but given California's voter attitudes towards higher education and this June special election with the tax extension is there concern, even preparation, for the fact that the cut may actually be larger than $500 million.

AM: There's definitely concern. And I'd say it's more than concern. It's like incredible fear that the cut will be larger. I don't think we're that far along yet. It'd be easier to be able to plan for a year or five years, but the way the California state government works, we kind of have to go one day at a time to see where we're at.

DC: Shifting gears a little bit: It's not just the UC that's been facing budget cuts, it's the entire higher education. So how do you see those cuts affecting transfer pathways from (community college) to UC and especially the raising of the unit fee at the CC level.

AM: That's tricky.

DC: Because one of President Yudof's stated goals was to increase transfers into the UC, but with the raising of fees and the cutting of classes you could have a huge logjam at the CC level.

AM: I hear you. What's true now and I don't know if you saw the statistics about applications, but transfer applications are way up. Riverside has become a selective campus now because there is so much demand. So I'm sure that's true for individual students looking for specific courses, I'm sure there are anecdotes where there is a logjam, but the numbers and the aggregate have been there's more students trying to transfer. I'm sure. What's probably missing from those numbers is the students who say it's impossible, I can't do it. They don't start at community college to transfer. But, there's still an increase in people who tried to transfer. I don't know if we're there yet in the aggregate, but believe me, I'm a former transfer student. I'm sympathetic to the individual student's plight who maybe can't take that path that they were planning on doing.

DC: And that admissions question pushed into a holistic admissions question.

AM: Jesse Cheng voted for it. Had I had a vote, I would have voted for it. So here's what I'll say about that. Those are the things we have to remember when every other thing at the university and especially at the Board of Regents feels bad. Those are the victories that we can really feel that we're doing good work on. There's still a way to be effective in this position and to advocate for students. I didn't think it was particularly ground-breaking that students are now treated as humans when they're applied to admissions. It's not like you're cut up into numbers and essays and stuff. You're looked at as a whole person. For me that seems intuitively the way we should do it. It's tremendous that we had some champions on the board really pushing this. Regent Island deserves a lot of the credit for him staking the issue out and being aggressive on it. He's historically been one of the most student-friendly regents and I think holistic admissions is a tangible victory that shows his commitment to us and the board as a whole.

DC: So you're saying it's a victory for the students, but do you also think it's a victory for the university as well? How about in terms of the cost of it? Do we know how much it's going to cost in order to implement that at Riverside already?

AM: There's talk of pooling the holistic admissions processes between campuses. So if you apply to five UC's, there will be cost saving mechanisms in place for maybe a student who's applied to maybe let's say Berkeley and San Diego. San Diego could look at Berkeley's holistic score to assess whether they're an appropriate fit for the San Diego campus. But again that's just an example I've heard described. I'd have to dialogue more with the people in charge of that at the Office of the President.

DC: Given the cuts that we're facing and I mean there seems to be a growing problem with faculty poaching and faculty leaving the university, is there a way, in light of these cuts, in light of not being able to offer faculty all the benefits they once had, is there a way to maintain the competitiveness and the atmosphere of the UC despite the fact that we're facing these huge cuts and this decrease in funding?

AM: I would say there's still no other academic environment like the UC's. I'll be partisan about Berkeley here because I'm a grad and I know who my audience is. You get to live in the Bay Area, you get to be on a campus that has how many of the best departments in the world in whatever they study, you get to be with some of the absolute best students. Not just in California, but with increased out-of-state and international students we're talking people who get perfect grades, perfect SATs, tons of community service - really people that I'm sure professors feel privileged to be able to educate. So there is that in some circumstances and I'd refer you to the bi-annual report on faculty, because despite all the cuts less faculty left last year than the year before. There's still a reason to teach at the UC and I'd reiterate that we're a mission-based organization. I imagine most faculty didn't get into the line of work that they're doing because they wanted to maximize their financial incentives. I'm sure they're passionately committed to the research they're doing and I believe the UC still remains one of the best places to do that research.

DC: I guess another question I had, was regarding you had mentioned earlier some of the cost-savings things the UC can do instead of cutting. There are programs like Operational Excellence and the Statewide Energy Partnership program. Are there more things like that people are looking into that would streamline versus having to cut?

AM: Tons. Every element of the university they are looking to streamline, make more efficient, find ways to save money, find ways to partner, find ways to pool resources. You'd be amazed by every rock they're trying to look under to find ways to save the university money without having to cut access and student services and have to raise fees.

DC: How do you guys see (increased out-of-state enrollment) in the context of the Master Plan and moving away from that or that being degraded?

AM: I think we need a little context on this issue. If we compare ourselves to the CSU, we'll see that we have a university that is more committed to preserving at least the access part of the Master Plan. When faced with similar budget cuts, the CSU cut 30,000 students. We tried to cut 2,300 freshmen but increase transfers by 1,500, but we even missed those targets because our yield was so high, especially our transfer yield. I think all things told, and I don't have the specific numbers, we may have cut 1,000. Please remember, the CSU just cut 30,000. So if I'm the student that doesn't get in, that meets the requirements to get in, it's a tragedy for me and my family and I have an aggrieved relationship with the university, but in the aggregate we have to remember that we have been more committed to continuing our access and commitment to the Master Plan than maybe some of the other sectors.

DC: I mean, not necessarily, don't get in. I'm just more interested in this because (the Master Plan) is the governing principle for higher education for the last 50 years.

Jesse Cheng: Right. The sort of squeezing out. So I agree with what Alfredo is saying. I think for me the barometer of this is UC Merced. When you're talking about the UC system in terms of non-resident enrollment and the Master Plan, what you're talking about is increasing capacity. All our campuses are almost already at capacity. Every of the original nine campuses other than UC Merced have fit capacity two or three years ago. Enrollment just can't grow on those campuses because there's no dorms to but the first years in, there's no more classes, no lectures, no classroom spaces. We're done. So, when we look at a new campus like UC Merced, you say "Well this is where our new capacity is going to come from." And our inability to grow UC Merced ... Because UC Merced is so dependent on state funding. UC Merced every year gets $500 million from the state outside of the UC or it used to before this to keep it's growth. It doesn't have enough undergraduates on its campus to be self sustaining.

To the point where we can't help UC Merced grow to build new buildings, build new dorms and increase it's capacity beyond the 3,000 undergraduates we have right now, the number of non-resident enrollment and the number of enrollment we're cutting is negligible because you're cutting from the status quo, but more importantly, you're preventing any kind of future growth. And until we can get Merced to a point where they are self sustaining and they can grow by themselves, then we have met capacity for future growth. But because the state has pulled back on even that, you can't even talk about even thinking about getting close to Master Plan (status).

DC: You're talking about future growth, what do you guys think of a new med school at UCR or a new law school at Merced, especially given the financial context of now?

JC: There's a law school at UC Merced?

DC: No, I think I have it mixed up.

AM: I think San Diego is trying to annex one of the already law schools that exists. I mean most of those programs - I don't think Merced med school, that's a bad example, not for you, but for me, for the point I'm trying to illustrate. Take a law school for instance, we're not at a dearth for new lawyers. Actually what we've heard is the opposite. Sorry no offense.

JC: I'm applying to law school.

AM: So, let's take law students for example. The only way we should open up a new UC law school is it has to be almost exclusively privately funded, through alumni and donations and that sort of stuff. Look I understand the desire for each of our campuses to feel like a great campus that could stand alone outside of being part of the UC system. We're very privileged to go to a school like Berkeley, and me at UCSF, where we just have such a robust program offering. That's not the case at all of our campuses. So to have pride in your individual campus, to have full offering, is something that's very desirable. But to get there in this climate, you need incredible outside funding to do it. Like I said, almost exclusive. So I understand the desire to do it. But if you can't do it without state or UC resources, I'm largely opposed to it.

DC: What do you think of, it hasn't been proposed yet, but the Anderson School of Management possibly forgoing state funding? I'm also curious about how you guys think the med centers run. Do you think that revenue could come back to the university?

AM: Frankly, I have two opposing thoughts on Anderson. The first is I don't know how that works. Land grant university, it's a university building, it's funded by university and state funding. I just don't understand the separation. I don't know if it's legal. I don't know with the California State ... Act or however our public universities were established, if someone can just carve off a piece and stick a flag in a say we're private now. I don't know how that works legally.

The second thing, and I would push back on people who debate this, we have scarce state resources, should we be subsidizing business students? Is that in the interest of the state? That's probably a community more than any that probably realizes the value of their education and that they can leverage an MBA from say UCLA into the job market and make a good salary. It's interesting. I don't like how it feels, but I also know what if the state subsidies that go to their school fees went to somebody who was in greater need? I don't know. I think its a fair policy debate, but I don't know how it looks or how it would actually work.

JC: I had a very interesting argument earlier. This is not going to be a direct answer. I'm just warning you. I share Alfredo's thoughts. Anderson School has great private funding potential. I don't know if that means we should make it private. There's a certain amount of public university capital, which is that I got an MBA from a public university. That means something different than getting an MBA from Wharton - U Penn is private. UCLA, because it's a public university, because it has a public mission, ingrains it's students, even MBA students with a sense of public service. So you have Anderson MBAs who go into non-profit fields, who run non-profits. I'm very reluctant to lose that.

The second thing is, I'm very wary - this sort of starts with Anderson and moves outwards - of this professional school creep. Anderson School of Business becomes private. Then we consider Masters of Social Work professional school degrees.

AM: And charge them absurdly high fees.

JC: Right, charge them absurdly high fees. Even nursing is kind of not really a professional school fee. It's occupational, not professional.

AM: I'll push back a little on that, but I'll listen.

JC: So, I think we're using this growing definition of what professional school means to be able to justify higher and higher fees. And I say this on (Alfredo's) nursing school student benefit.

AM: It is professional, but I think like social work, we don't enter a particularly lucrative job market, so having high fees for relatively low pay compared to other health sciences is, I think, we're hit two times.

JC: Right. And an extremely large public need for nurses. I'm worried about the fact that we can grow these fees and grow this privitization model, one on schools that shouldn't necessarily be private and two on schools that shouldn't be considered professional.

DC: And the med centers, has that been discussed as a potential funding source?

AM: I asked that specific question in my new regent orientation and so here's the thing. They do bring in a lot of revenue, but you've got to realize we treat a higher Medi-Cal population than private hospitals do, so we're fulfilling our public service mission that way. We train health science students at all our hospitals so we are doing the work of the university. And thirdly I would say the margins are not that high. They are profitable, but we're talking 2, 3 or 5 percent. So in some of it it's like we're legally unable to take revenue from a hospital and put it in the general fund of the university, just because we have a contract with the state, contracts with the federal government, so I wish. Believe me, I had the same exact thought when I started. How can we leverage that revenue to benefit students? There may be ways that I don't know that we can, but at this point I'm not convinced that that's a solution to the problem we're having now.

JC: I also value hospitals like Alfredo was saying for their public service mission in and of itself. I understand redirecting revenues to the core mission of the university which is education. But, how do I say this? I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles tutoring high school students and you'd see gang shootings out on the street. We used to have that joke that if you got shot on Martin Luther King ... have you heard this joke? It's a horrible joke. If you got shot on a particular side of this street, the ambulance would come. They'd call the ambulance. One of the paramedics used to tell me this joke since I used to hang with EMTs. He was like, you got shot on let's say the left hand of the street. The paramedics would stop on the right hand and ask the friends around them, 'Could you carry your friend to this side of the street so we can take them to UCLA hospital?' Because other wise they'd have to go to Killer King. Martin Luther King Hospital which had horrible, horrible quality care. People would say you'd go there with a broken leg and you'd leave with no leg at all. UC's taken that and improved upon it.

On a larger part, for these communities, for these low-income communities that we really talk about for social mobility, these hospitals serve a greater and very critical need. So I think, I just want to kind of broaden it out a little bit.

AM: Exactly what Jesse said. And I would say that we have to remember that when we think of the education part of the UC system as a whole, there's still tons of communities in California that we don't serve. Sometimes, and I work at one of these hospitals as a nurse, that is the only way the UC can make a positive impact on certain communities. I work at San Francisco General. We treat under-served, low-income, uninsured, undocumented and it's most of the clinicians, doctors are UC docs. So they are getting service by UC staff and faculty and showing that UC is relevant to those communities that maybe aren't privileged enough to have the good high schools that can feed into the UC schools.

DC: This is a question I had for you, Jesse. One of our other reporters was talking to some AFSCME people and the person she was talking to referenced a decision in September that gave President Yudof the power in the interim reports to recommend compensation increases that only had to go through the Committee on Compensation? I just want to make sure. I don't know if that's the entire story because that's second-, third-hand, but she was very certain that it had happened as recently as September.

JC: It was an item, that gave Yudof the power.

DC: Because you know how there were all those interim reports, and in there, there are many specific actions on compensation. What's the process for those getting approved?

JC: So, they go through Committee on Compensation. Committee on Compensation is traditionally in two sessions. It's in closed session and it's in open session. The reason it's in closed session is because these are people's salaries and people's names and people's reputations at stake right. So if you have someone go into closed session and say I want to appoint you to interim provost for instance and the regents say, 'No, I don't want him,' they don't want that in open session because that's extremely humiliating and also breaks several federal rules.

AM: Imagine if you were getting a job as a student and it happened in Lower Sproul and everyone got to watch your interview. You know what I mean? Not that we have interview there, but we get to talk about it. I'm sorry I cut you off.

JC: No, no, no, no. Totally. Exactly and people just jeer, right? Because that's what the academic community is like. Some days it is. It's very close. There are only so many presidents, only so many provosts. But then it goes into open session and all those items go into open session and Committee on Compensation. I think the difference is that the item said they no longer have to go through the Board of the Whole, which is the final act. But since Committee on Compensation happens in public anyway, in front of the entire board meeting, I think it's almost the same thing. My impression is that not drastic amounts of change. I'd also have to say that because the item was passed on Committee on Governance, which neither of us sit on, because we're not 12-year regents. There's no governance applied to us, we weren't privy to those conversations since Committee on Governance happened in closed sessions without us.

AM: In my term, I've yet to see something passed in committee not voted for the Committee on the Whole. It's almost like if you serve on the committee you do all the policy work and we all sit through the meetings too, even if you're not on the committee. And then when it comes to Committee on the Whole, the idea has already been vetted. Even if you don't sit on the committee, you can still comment. It's like we have two committees to do the same thing at times. So, I haven't seen the Committee on the Whole vote down something that the committee that deals with that policy area already supported.

JC: At the last regents' meeting we saw a number of interim items still go to the Board on the Whole.

DC: Well, thanks for clarifying that.

JC: But we might have to go back on that.

AM: You know please, we make our contact information readily available so if the person you talked to wants to get a hold of us and make his or her case, we're happy to listen.

DC: You were talking about being a student regent, so you don't sit on certain boards. I was wondering if you could talk about being a student regent? Do you feel like a full member of the board as adequately considered as a 12-year member?

AM: I was worried it would be like a token position. And sometimes you feel like, especially as a designate, you feel like the lowest person on the totem pole. But I think that happens in any organization and it's not like they're going to pass something and they're going to be like, 'Oh, what does the new guy think about this?' That's just not how it works in most organizations.

But I do say, and I mean this with all sincerity because of the history of the position and really progressive and great policies that have been passed by previous student regents, the gubernatorial appointee student regents know that student regents come and do good work and do their homework and you know can really affect change. [[A lot of them come up to you and say, 'Hey, I really liked working with previous student regents and I look forward to working with you and I want to support you in what you're doing.' And you got to realize the mentorship thing, too. These are people who are experienced in their career who are now trying to give back to the state and sometimes seeing like a younger person whose newer in their career, they want to help.]] !!So I think you can be effective. I don't think it's a totem position. I think you have to work to gain the respect, but if you show that you're diligent a lot of people will give you the credit the position deserves.]]

JC: He's a graduate student and he's spent time in Sacramento. Alfredo comes into this position with a lot more experience frankly, in the policy world, then I do. I come from the more activist, organizer, occupy everything framework. That's the community I was trained by. I absolutely agree that regents treat you with full respect, like a 12-year regent. That's largely based upon the savvy and the skill of previous student regents. D'Artagnan, Jesse Bernahl, Ben Allen, Maria Ledesma were very good at establishing themselves as full regents. It wasn't always like that. There were times when we were spit on, like way back when, 35 years back. But we've established ourselves as credible regents. So we've taken that.

Moving that forward, in my experience because I was an undergraduate, it's a different kind of experience. You bring a kind of weird energy, enthusiasm to it and it gets a good reaction. And you find yourself in these real conversations. I think where it goes, as time goes on, you get better on it. At the end of my term I can say I'm much better at this thing than I used to be in the beginning of my term, but the level of respect has not changed. The way of engaging has. My ability to play the inside game has changed. And there's another level, and this might be a weird dynamic, but mentorship and not necessity just from the regents.

DC: You talk about mentorship. Now, flipping it on it's head the majority of the regents, to almost all of the regents have extensive business backgrounds and you hear them repeatedly referencing their experience in the private sector. You guys being on the educational side of things what is it like working with someone who approaches the university from a business frame of mind? Does that get frustrating some time when you see a business decision severely negatively impacting an educational policy?

AM: That's actually one of the trickiest things for me. These are folks that have been very successful in their careers. They may have actually been student advocates when they were younger, but they've moved to the corporate and business world and that's a different world than the world we know as students. the Best thing that can come out of that is to get the best from both. Because you do want the university ran as efficiently as possible because you know you wants many students served as possible in the most financial way possible. You want to be savvy. You want to be a good steward of the resources. But at times, that may be one of the most challenging thing that I found for me and especially other students that I work with on how to bridge that gap.

JC: So I'd say on the mentorship side, a lot of my mentors have been regents. Actually, not many of my mentors have been regents. OK, that was filler words. Right. So but, some of my most powerful mentors have been chancellors, UCOP staff, vice chancellors of student affairs, vice chancellors of the whole. Student regents is more than sitting on the board of regents. You are peers to chancellors and vice chancellors and they come from the education background or the medical background and their ability to engage with you and throw you into situations and tell you more effective ways to act is incredible. And often they do it agenda-less. They do it with a sense of "your agenda is your agenda. I'm not saying I endorse your agenda but this is how you go about and do your business." Which is great. Among regents, working in business, this is interesting, but I don't run into it as much. And this is because we have slightly different policy issues. I'm "access, affordability and diversity," very kind of...

AM: Well I'm into that stuff too...

JC: Yea, we're both, we're both...

AM: (sarcastically) No, I'm for non access...

JC: Well mine is very benign, broad and benign. His is kind of more focused.

AM: I guess working in the Legislature I'm like time is of the essence and I'm focused on finding policies that we can get implemented because I would like to leave the position, I'd like to leave the position for future regents. I think Jesse and I are both committed to ensuring that the position stays as a respected position that students can continue to be affective in.

JC: And open it up to more students. A lot of times students don't know who the student regent is and are like "What is this?" We try to open that up, broaden that up.

AM: My focus, or at least one of my focuses is to make this position relevant to health sciences students. I'm the first professional health science student in this position, so how do I do that. When I talk to med students or health science students, you know many of them are so wrapped up in their education that they don't know there is this governing body that has this say over what their experience is like. So some of my policies will come from that.

JC: So really quickly, since I didn't answer your question. Because my issues are those issues, humanities issues, I'm a humanities major kind of guy, connecting with the regents is based on their life experiences and not necessarily their business experiences. You have regents that have, it depends on what level you want to connect with them. Do you want to connect with them on a business level, or on the personal level? There was one regent, we were talking about the new Blue and Gold plan and he was like, "What do you feel about it?" And I was like, "I don't know." And he said, "Jesse, let's be real. A family of a 120K is two parents making 60K each. You can't by shit in California with just 60 K." That was real moment. Because these are people who are like millionaires and shit you know. But you know, that was real moment. That was beyond business, that was just on a life level, like my personal budgeting skills. 60 K don't buy you shit. And I was like, "Oh, ok." And you get to swear with the regents. That is a lot of fun. They all swear.

AM: That's going to be the pull quote. We have to be careful.

JC: All regents swear.


Jordan Bach-Lombardo and Aaida Samad cover higher education. Contact them at [email protected]

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