by Fernando Quintero
As the new student member of the Board of Regents, Boalt Hall law student Jess Bravin hopes to help make the voices of his peers heard louder and clearer than ever before.
"I would like to work with faculty and administrators to redefine shared governance and give students a more explicit role. In the last century, students were in charge of athletics, disciplinary measures and other important decisions. There's a precedent for responsible student involvement," he said.
"It seems that today, the university is more paternalistic than ever. Students protest because they are left out of the decision-making process," said Bravin.
Bravin's nomination was approved by the board at its Feb. 15 meeting in San Francisco. He was chosen from among 47 student applicants representing UC's nine campuses.
For Bravin, the student regent position represents a culmination of years of active involvement in academic affairs.
As a high school student in Los Angeles, where he moved from New York City at age 10, Bravin led an effort to put the first student member on the city's board of education.
"My parents' own beliefs in education--their philosophical view that kids should take an active part in their own education--has motivated me from the very beginning," said the 30-year-old Bravin.
During his senior year in high school, Bravin took classes at UCLA as part of an honors program there. He received his bachelor's degree in history from Harvard in 1987, where he also served as editor of theHarvard Crimson.
Bravin's involvement with UC includes service on the UC Regents' Student Advisory Committee on Presidential Selection last year and current membership on the board of the UC Student Association.
Since his admission to Boalt Hall in 1992, Bravin has been an active supporter of California's much-celebrated Master Plan for Higher Education.
As part of a class assignment, Bravin wrote a 50-page ballot initiative that "enacts the essence of the master plan into the state constitution" by imposing a stable funding level for higher education.
"In my research, I have come to realize that the erosion of the master plan's commitment to equal access to higher education for all state residents was not the result of economic changes, but rather a change in values," said Bravin.
"In 1968-69, Governor Reagan had set aside 18 percent of the state's revenue for higher education. Under Governor Wilson, who is a graduate of UC, higher education gets 12 percent of the state budget--that's a one-third decline in the share of the state budget.
"This shift disturbs me. This choice has been made for California without asking the voters about it," he said.
Bravin said the move to eliminate affirmative action policies in hiring, contracts and admissions was "unwise" and expressed concern over violation of shared governance principles.
"Clearly, the board was divided on the matter," he said.
"From a legal standpoint, they have every right to set educational policy. I, however, would not have voted in favor of the (anti-affirmative action) measures."
Bravin serves a one-year term beginning July 1. He will replace Edward P. Gomez, a UC Riverside graduate student in history.