UW law student Ben Golden has been appointed to the position of 2009-2010 student regent by the Office of Gov. Chris Gregoire, replacing Jean-Paul Willynck.
Newly chosen student regent Ben Golden signs an oath, officially making him a member of the UW Board of Regents.
Last week, four UW student regent finalists finally got the news they’ve been waiting four months for, with Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office selecting second-year UW law student Ben Golden as the 2009-2010 student regent.
“Since I found out, I hit the ground running,” Golden said. “It’s been exciting. I come from a student-government background, so I have a lot of advocacy ideas, but I want to be patient, listen to both sides of the administration, faculty and the student voice.”
A panel comprised mostly of students had selected four students from a pool of 15 applicants and forwarded their applications to the governor’s office back in late April. Since then, it’s been a waiting game for the finalists.
“[Our] applications were forwarded to the governor’s office,” Golden said. “Four months of nerve-wracking waiting, and on Aug. 3rd, I heard the good news.”
Each student regent position is supposed to last from July 1 until June 30, but the governor’s office had delayed the decision of selecting a student regent, allowing the former student regent, Jean-Paul Willynck, to serve an extra 34 days.
This year’s student regent will have a tough agenda ahead of him. While the former regent, Willynck, had taken a role in voting on 14-percent tuition hikes due to historical 26-percent budget cuts to the university, Golden will play a role in administering those cuts.
“It’s going to be a very difficult year,” said Jake Faleschini, the UW Graduate and Student Professional Senate (GPSS) president and member of the panel that selected Golden as a finalist. “There’s going to be a lot of communication that needs to take place between the three of us, and there’s going to be a lot of strategizing ... and learning how not to undermine one another.”
Faleschini added that not only will Golden need to be able and willing to listen to the student body as the university implements a lot of the budget cuts that took place last year and departments feel pressure to cut costs, but next year’s student regent will also have to make a case for the university and the importance of getting state funding during these economic times.
Willynck penned an op-ed in the Seattle P-I emphasizing the university’s need for state funding, and Golden will be expected to seek similar avenues of advocacy for the university.
Before handing off the torch, Willynck gave Golden some wisdom he has accumulated from his year in the position. He told Golden to listen to both sides of an argument — something Willynck did when student, faculty and staff groups and coalitions demonstrated in protests and rallies. Willynck would sometimes be there listening to what they had to say, speaking to student groups with a megaphone, and balancing the rationale of student groups with those of the regents.
“Listening is so critical because it’s not you leading an organization; it’s you helping to lead an organization,” Willynck said. “I’ve been talking with Ben to realize the responsibility that you hold as a member of the Board of Regents. You are one of 10 people who help to govern the university, and that’s a huge responsibility.”
Before his appointment, Golden has spent the past few months attending monthly Board of Regent’s meetings and gaining a sense of what to expect from the position and what will be expected of him.
“ASUW and GPSS presidents are ex-officio members of the board, and there’s one student regent member, but there’s more than three opinions and voices on the university campus, so I hope to be an intermediary for students who are pushing issues on campus to have direct access to the regents,” Golden said.
Golden isn’t new to administrative positions or student advocacy. In the past, he’s served as the ASUW’s director of government relations where he fought for lower tuition as well as managed a state legislative campaign. He’s also currently in a summer externship with the King County Prosecutor’s Office writing briefs in The Appellate Unit, which handles appeals in its criminal division.
“I have experience in Olympia talking about tuition issues,” Golden said. “I have the background of a student advocate, and now I have to look at what’s best for the university and what’s best for the state. So, I have a difficult task ahead of me.”
Golden has already met and established relationships with some of the student government leaders. He is now scheduled to meet one-on-one with the other regents.
“I’ve got a lot of meetings set up for the next month; I’ve got a lot of learning to do, a lot of reading to do, and we’ll go from there ... I’ll make this my primary commitment, and hope my friends and family understand if I’m MIA for the next year.”
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