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Regent makes historic stop to address CSG members

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 19, 2013

He has been in office for only a few months, but University Regent Mark Bernstein might have made history when he attended the Central Student Government assembly meeting Tuesday night.

“I was checking with folks in the secretary’s office in the Fleming building — I may be the first Regent actually to ever address Central Student Government,” Bernstein said.

Touching upon numerous issues including tuition costs and state funding, Bernstein spoke to the assembly and gave a presentation before fielding questions from representatives.

Having been elected in November, Bernstein compared his time as a regent to “the first semester of an eight-year degree." With the election in recent memory, he discussed the importance the cost of tuition played in his candidacy.

Bernstein said when he was campaigning, his bus initially had the slogan “Keep College Affordable” painted on it. But after someone approached him saying college isn’t affordable now, he decided to change the slogan.

“We took the bus into the shop, (and) we repainted ‘make college affordable,’” he said. “That was a very strong reminder of the challenges that we face at this university, and, frankly, in higher education in general.”

Bernstein emphasized that college needs to be affordable, especially for low-income students.

“I’m speaking to you as someone who feels very strongly that we need to make sure that this University remains or becomes affordable for students who can’t afford it,” Bernstein said, but noted that doing so is a complicated process.

Bernstein said the University is receiving substantially less from the state government than other universities despite it providing substantial amounts of financial aid to students.

“We’re doing the most or pretty close to the most as a university for students while the state is doing virtually nothing,” he said.

In the question-and-answer segment, LSA sophomore Daniel Morales, an LSA representative and one of the leaders of the Coalition for Tuition Equality, asked Bernstein about his stance on tuition equality.

“I’ve been outspoken in my support for tuition equality,” Bernstein replied. “I’m hopeful that we’re going be able to address this issue in a way that resolves it satisfactorily.”

Nonetheless, he was reluctant to say tuition equality would be happening anytime soon. He called the Univesity residency requirements “byzantine” and in need of reform.

Morales also asked Bernstein about the possibility of a student representative on the Board of Regents. In order for there to be a student spot on the board, Bernstein said there would have to be a constitutional change and, therefore, it is “highly unlikely.”

Getting a student representative on the Board of Regents is part of the platform of forUM, a CSG political party. Current CSG Treasurer Chris Osborn, forUM’s presidential candidate, said Bernstein might have confused student regent for student representative. A student representative acts as an ex officio member of the board and would sit in on regent meetings without voting on issues.

“forUM is advocating for a student representative on the Board of Regents, not a student Board of Regents member,” Osborn said. “That does not require a constitutional amendment."

In an interview after he spoke, Bernstein emphasized the need for regents to be visible to students.

“I can’t speak for other regents, and I know they all care deeply about the quality of student life and wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t care about the well-being of students, faculty and staff,” Bernstein said. “But I think it’s important to make an effort to be engaged in student life.”

CSG President Manish Parikh said he was extremely pleased that Bernstein — who said he would come back “periodically” to assembly meetings — had set precedent for regents to attend meetings.

“I think I shared the sentiment with all members of our assembly and everyone in CSG that we are all truly humbled and honored that a regent — Regent Bernstein — came and spoke before us,” he said. “I think it sends out a strong signal that he truly is a students’ regent, and I hope that it will always remain this way.”

Follow Giacomo Bologna on Twitter at @giacomo_bologna and The Institution on Twitter at @TMDinstitution.