The UC system is known for its student diversity, but when 21-year-old Sadia Saifuddin was nominated as the newest UC Student Regent, she came under intense criticism.
As the first Muslim student regent she knew there would be controversy.
"I definitely knew there would be some people who were uncomfortable because of the way that I look, or my identity, or my politics," Saifuddin said. "I never knew it would be an outright defamation smear campaign in the media. I didn't expect people would be writing letters against my nomination."
Her politics include co-sponsoring a UC student senate resolution, which called on the UC system to divest money from companies that do business in Israel.
"I am not anti-semitic," Saifuddin said. "I have a large number of Jewish friends I work with on a day-to-day basis. I'm on great terms with the rabbi at Hillel at Berkeley, and I know these are just things that people are going to say, and they're just trying to defame my character and who I am because they are uncomfortable with what the new face of leadership looks like."
Saifuddin isn't the only new face on the UC Board of Regents. UC President Janet Napalitono has big ideas, and so far Saifuddin is impressed.
"She has made some big moves, including the tuition freeze, that cannot be overlooked. Her allocation of $10 million dollars to graduate student support and $5 million dollars for undocumented student support is a step in the right direction," Saifuddin said, but she acknowledges not all students feel the same way she does. "I really appreciate that she's coming from a place where students are feeling a little uncomfortable about her background, but she's willing to do what she can to alleviate the tension and really figure out solutions to the request that they're making."
Saifuddin won't become a voting member of the board until June of 2014.