UC’s New Student Regent Expresses Financial Aid, Diversity Concerns

Just days after Sadia Saifuddin was selected as the next University of California Board of Regents student representative, the UC Berkeley student expressed optimism that she will be able to change certain aspects of the 10-campus system.

Speaking by phone this afternoon, Saifuddin said after she was approved as the next student regent Wednesday she is delving into reforming the financial aid system and making campuses more inclusive.

She said as a beneficiary of financial aid at UC Berkeley she understands how daunting of a process it can be, and how many students struggle to pay for higher education.

She intends to reform the system by meeting with finance officials at all campuses and connecting with students to come up with recommendations on how the process could be changed.

As the first-ever Muslim student to sit on the board, Saifuddin said she is concerned with how welcoming the 10 campuses are to all types of students.

A proponent of open, accepting campuses, she said she wants to work on the campus climate, which she believes starts with connecting the policy makers, board members, Office of the President staff and other officials with the student body.

“I’m a really big believer of diversity,” she said.

She said there is a noticeable divide between the administrators and the students. She said she has started paving relationships with the board.

“I’m really idealistic,” she said. “The regents want to do what’s best for students.”

She noted that board chairman Bruce Varner expressed interest in being more accessible to students.

She said she considers the board to be “open minded to different things,” and she’s optimistic her opinion will be heard.

The board’s choice of Saifuddin caused controversy with some groups, such as pro-Israel advocacy group, StandWithUs, denouncing her appointment.

To her detractors, Saifuddin challenges them to get to know her and said “my door is always open to community members.”

She responded to claims that she was exclusionary during her tenure on the UC Berkeley student senate by stating she has “worked with people from different views and backgrounds” and relishes the opportunity to bring together the large system comprised of 234,000 students and 208,000 faculty and staff.

“I’m really excited,” she said about her new role. “I’m blessed to be given this opportunity.”

The day following Saifuddin’s approval on the board, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was appointed as the first-ever female president following Mark Yudof’s announcement he was leaving the post in August.

The choice of Napolitano, 55, has drawn some opposition.

Saifuddin contended Napolitano is an “unconventional choice” but said, “I think she is going to make a good manager.”

She said she understands why some students and other protesters oppose the new president because of policy decisions she has made concerning immigration and other issues.

However she said Napolitano is eager to get to know students and is planning to visit all the campuses.

“I hope to see a lot of that come to life,” she said.

Saifuddin, an incoming senior studying welfare management, will be able to participate in all UC deliberations effective immediately but will not have voting privileges until July 2014 when her term begins.

The student-regent for the 2013-14 year is Cinthia Flores, a law student from UC Irvine.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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