Student regents Sadia Saifuddin and Avi Oved, paid a visit to UCI last Wednesday, meeting with students to raise awareness about applying for the student regent position.
The student regents sit on the UC Board of Regents, the governing body that sets university policy and represents the entire UC student body.
Saifuddin told students that the real power of the student regent position isn’t tied to their vote during regents meetings. Instead, it’s the ability to have direct conversations with other regents, directly influencing how policy is crafted even before it’s voted on.
The student regent position is a two-year commitment. During the first year, the appointed candidate serves as the student regent-designate, a non-voting position. The designate sits in on regents meetings and shadows the acting student regent but does not have voting power. Oved is the current designate.
Each student regent also adopts an issue as the primary focus of their term. Saifuddin chose to continue the food security efforts she launched at UC Berkeley.
“I don’t think any student at the UC should make the decision between buying a book and buying a meal,” said Saifuddin. “I personally believe this is something that students should never compromise on.”
During her term as a senator in Berkeley’s student government, Saifuddin was responsible for launching a food pantry, accessible to any Berkeley student with a student ID card who lacks the financial means of otherwise obtaining food. It started with non-perishable items but since then, a harvest day has been added when students can harvest their own produce.
Over the weekend, Saifuddin was a key panelist, speaking to the attendees at the first California Higher Education Food Summit, held at UC Santa Barbara, about the changes necessary to serve students’ nutritional needs. Working with the Global Food Initiative subcommittee, she plans to present her food security initiative to the regents during their May meeting.
Students like Saifuddin and Oved, who started their terms during their fourth years, may be able to enroll in a fifth year if their academic or research program allows it. Social security numbers are not required during the application process, allowing undocumented students to apply as well. Any undergraduate or graduate student can apply.
Applications are due Feb. 22 and require three references as well as a personal statement. Following the application, prospective candidates are reviewed by two regional nominating committees. After interviews are conducted by the regional committees, the references of the 10 students that are chosen are contacted by representatives to the regents. These semifinalists are then interviewed by the board of directors of the UC Student Association. In the final round, three finalists are interviewed by a special regents committee. The selected student is appointed during the July regents meeting. Student regents have their tuition waived. Those who receive financial will receive a remittance.
For Saifuddin, the road to becoming the student regent was a necessity after having her financial aid package cut during her sophomore year. Although her parents’ income rose by only a small margin, it was enough to move her family into an income bracket that prevented her from receiving the aid she needed. Still, the financial burden of affording a UC education required her to work three jobs in order to mitigate costs for her family.
“It was probably one of the hardest times in my college career,” Saifuddin said. A paid position as chief of staff for Jonathan Stein, who was then student regent, allowed Saifuddin to earn money while discovering a love for working to improve higher education. Following his term, Stein suggested Saifuddin apply for the student regent position.
Saifuddin said the experience has been life-changing, calling it the most definitive experience of her time in college and the one that she learned the most from.
Those who might see the position as a stepping stone to a larger political career need not apply, Saifuddin said.
“You really need to be sincere,” she said, warning that the selection committees will see through any ulterior agendas that candidates might have.