Fred Ruiz eloquently stated earlier this year why the San Joaquin Valley needs representation on the University of California Board of Regents.
“The San Joaquin Valley is the heart of California’s fertile agricultural region. It is home to more than 4 million Californians, and to diverse, distinctive and dynamic communities,” Ruiz, a former regent, wrote in an op-ed for The Sacramento Bee.
“For 12 years I had the honor of representing the San Joaquin Valley on the UC Board. When my term expired last year, the board lost its only member from the Valley. It is vital that when the next round of appointments occurs … Gov. Jerry Brown selects a representative from our community — one who can speak to the diversity of backgrounds and experiences here, as well as to the distinct needs of our residents.”
Brown’s August UC Appointments Skipped Valley
Despite Ruiz’s plea, as well as those from many other local leaders, Brown overlooked the Valley when he appointed four regents to the board in August. Talk about a kick in the shins to our region and to UC Merced, the system’s newest campus where 70 percent of students are first-generation college students.
Now, following Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s landslide election as Brown’s successor, it is time again to point out how the Valley — the state’s fastest-growing region — deserves not only better representation on the UC Board of Regents, but on all state boards and commissions.
Based on the Valley’s population, the UC and CSU boards each should have two Valley representatives.
Fortunately, Newsom appears to grasp the glaring need for more regional equity in making high-level appointments.
Newsom Promises to Increase Valley Representation
When GV Wire’s David Taub asked Newsom during a campaign stop in Fresno shortly before the June primary if he would appoint Valley residents to the UC and California State University system boards, he answered:
“I serve on those boards. The Central Valley is underrepresented, significantly underrepresented on both bodies, so yes.”
Fresno resident Hugo Morales, executive director and co-founder of Radio Bilingüe, has served on the CSU Board of Trustees since 2012 and his appointment runs to 2020. In addition, John Nilon of Bakersfield is in the midst of a four-year term as the CSU alumni trustee.
“For many of the population centers in the Valley that contribute so much to the strength and character of California — Modesto, Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, my hometown of Tulare and, yes, Merced — there is not a voice on the board.” — Former UC Regent Fred Ruiz
But the Valley has gone without representation on the UC board since Ruiz stepped down in 2016.
“For many of the population centers in the Valley that contribute so much to the strength and character of California — Modesto, Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, my hometown of Tulare and, yes, Merced — there is not a voice on the board,” Ruiz wrote in January.
“By appointing a UC regent from the Valley, the governor would not just check a demographic or geographic box. He would signal that in our vast, diverse state, it is possible for the next generation of academic and economic leaders to succeed regardless of where they are from.”
McPeak Joins the Chorus
In September, Sunne Wright McPeak, president/CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund, added her voice to the many requests for a UC regent from the Valley. McPeak, who served as secretary of business, transportation, and housing for Gov. Schwarzenegger, noted that she was raised on a dairy farm in Livingston.
“The San Joaquin Valley has its own distinct history, community identity, and policy concerns. Thus, a voice on the UC Board from the region is urgently needed to accurately reflect the experiences of the tens of thousands of students from the area who are making their college-selection decisions each year.” — Sunne Wright McPeak
“The San Joaquin Valley has its own distinct history, community identity, and policy concerns,” McPeak wrote in an op-ed for The Mercury News of San Jose. “Thus, a voice on the UC Board from the region is urgently needed to accurately reflect the experiences of the tens of thousands of students from the area who are making their college-selection decisions each year.”
There is an opening on the UC board that the lame-duck Brown could fill at the last minute. Based on Brown’s track record, our preference is that he let Newsom make the appointment.
Newsom Must Keep His Promise
Politicians often make promises that go unfulfilled.
Today we remind Newsom that he said he would increase Valley representation on the UC and CSU boards. And he did some on camera.
It’s a promise he must keep.
— Written by Bill McEwen