Just added to the UC Regent board on Sept. 9 is Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union along with fellow labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez.
Huerta is the 26th member of the board. There are 18 regents appointed for 12-year terms and seven members are elected for shorter terms. There is also an appointed student regent.
Skeptics of the sudden appointment claim Governor Gray Davis appointed Huerta in hopes of gaining more Latino votes against the recall election. While the UC Regent web site states Huerta was appointed by Davis, she insists that the nomination began with Senator Gloria Romero.
‘The nomination was initiated by Senator Romero, and not by the governor’s office to begin with. The governor just went along with the nomination,’ Huerta said. ‘I’ve always supported the governor from day one. I’ve never contributed to his campaign, but I have always supported his candidacy and I will continue to support him against the recall.’
Other concerns with Huerta’s appointment include her public disagreements with UC Regent Ward Connerly on educational and race-related issues. Connerly was appointed a UC Regent by former California Governor Pete Wilson.
‘If you go back to Governor Wilson, we have Ward Connerly on the board who has done so much damage to the education system in California, especially as it pertains to minority students,’ Huerta said.
Huerta and Connerly are at opposites with many current issues concerning California, including Proposition 54, which would end statistic-related information gathering in terms of race and ethnicity. However, Huerta says she is not concerned about Connerly and feels most of the regents will support her opinions.
‘I think that the regents on the board feel as I do, as you can tell by the vote that was taken to oppose Proposition 54, when the vote was 15 to three,’ Huerta said. ‘The majority of the regents I think feel as I do, so it’s not like myself against Connerly, its like this with most of the people on the board.’
Huerta did not vote with the board on Proposition 54, but until March 1, 2004, when her term expires, she will be able to. She hopes to be reappointed to the position as well as make her mark in the short time that she will be serving the UC Regents.
‘The issues I am interested in are diversity issues, not only in terms of students but also faculty and all of the other administrative positions within the university,’ Huerta said. ‘Another concern is that the University of California represents a general population in terms of students because we don’t feel that there are enough people of color in the university system.’
Huerta would like to first address the issue of admitting community college students into the UC system.
‘One of the biggest issues that we have immediately facing us is the fact that there are 1,600 community college students who are not going to be able to [transfer to UC] because their positions were not even evaluated,’ Huerta said. ‘Personally I believe that even before we accept out-of-state students we should accept the students that are here in California who have finished at the community college level.’
Currently, more than 700 community college students who applied to UCI were refunded their application fees because there was not enough money in the budget to admit them.
In order to be appointed a UC Regent one must be nominated and approved by the entire California Senate.
Along with her 43-year career as an activist and educator, Huerta has a school named after her in her hometown of Stockton, Calif. She currently teaches a class at the University of Southern California.
‘I feel quite honored to have been given this position and I certainly think I can do something with it, otherwise, it never would have happened,’ Huerta said. ‘I believe that our educational system is the most critical and important thing that’s going on right now in California. We need to make those links between the education system and the community. I think these links are very important.’