Conclusion: Jesse Cheng Resigns From Student Regent Position

In a statement released last Monday, May 16, UC Board of Regents Chairman Russell Gould announced he has accepted the resignation of Student Regent Jesse Cheng.

Citing personal reasons, Cheng, a fifth-year Asian-American studies major at UC Irvine, stepped down last week just two days before the last Regents meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 18.

“Seeing how it will be my last meeting as a Student Regent, and how much of a distraction from other serious student issues that this issue has continued to cause, I think it would be best for the students and the University of California if I step down at this time,” Cheng wrote in an open letter released last Monday.

Cheng confirmed that Student Regent-Designate Alfredo Mireles Jr., a graduate student from UCSF, would assume the position of Student Regent immediately.

Cheng’s resignation, despite earlier statements to the press in which he stated he would not step down from his role as Student Regent, comes two months after UCI’s Office of Student Conduct found Cheng in violation of Section 102.08 of the University of California Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations and Students (“Physical abuse including but not limited to, sexual assault, sex offenses, and other physical assault; threats of violence; or other conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person.”). Additionally, based on a preponderance of the evidence, Student Conduct also found that “Cheng engaged in behavior defined by Appendix 3 as Sexual Battery … Any unwanted touching of an intimate part of other person for the purpose of sexual arousal.”

Cheng appealed Student Conduct’s decision and the appeal hearing was heard and denied by Dean Sharon Salinger earlier this month, allowing Student Conduct’s original sanctions to stand: in addition to being “placed on Disciplinary Probation for the duration of his academic enrollment,” Cheng is also required to cease any form of contact with “Laya,” his alleged victim, attend an educational training/program that addresses the issue of sexual violence (by May 23) and participate in an anger management training/program (also by May 23).

“I respect the decision of the Student Conduct Process, no matter how much I disagree with the findings,” Cheng wrote in last Monday’s statement. “It is a much lower standard of evidence than a criminal court, but I also recognize that the process nevertheless applies to me as a student.”

Since news of Cheng’s November arrest was made public, several groups have come forward demanding his resignation, including AF3IRM and the Mariposa Center for Change. The groups’ joint resources allowed them to form the Justice for Laya Coalition, which has been endorsed and supported by over 25 organizations, including UCI’s Delta Phi Gamma, Black Student Union, MEChA, American Indian Student Association and Kababayan. Members of the Justice for Laya Coalition protested at the last Regents meeting in March, where Regent Gould addressed the matter of the investigation. He confirmed that the Regents were taking the issue seriously and would proceed with their decision following the University’s final decision regarding Cheng’s appeal.

In a phone interview late last week, Cheng says that this was not a factor in his decision to resign.

Up until Cheng submitted his resignation, the Regents had anticipated holding a special meeting through the Committee on Governance, which would have convened last Wednesday in a special closed session after the regular Regents meeting ended. Along with allowing both Cheng and “Laya” to submit letters stating any issues with the Student Conduct process or sanctions, UC’s Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance and Audit Officer Sheryl Vacca was asked for a recommendation regarding the University’s process and decision based on her own review. However, Cheng’s resignation before the May 18 meeting rendered the need for the Committee on Governance to convene unnecessary and the Regents have no plans to look into the matter further.

In a press release issued last Monday, Jollene Levid, national chairperson of AF3IRM, called Cheng’s resignation a victory for “the women, the students and organizations: despite threats, and a legal system that allows for victim-blaming.”

Cheng is scheduled to graduate in three weeks and says his stepping down is the right decision.

“[This is the] best way for the students to have a powerful voice at the table,” Cheng wrote, “for the student movement to move forward without distraction, and for the University of California to face the challenges we have before us.”

Gregory Yee, staff writer, also contributed to this article