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David Martinez III, born and raised in Marana, is one of two student regents serving on the Arizona Board of Regents--the governing board for all three state Arizona universities--a position that put him in the middle of this month's contentious tuition-increase vote. For more information on the ABOR, visit its Web site.

How does one become a student regent?

The student-regent positions were founded 30 years ago in 1978. It was the ASA (Arizona Students Association) and the three student-body presidents from (Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the) UA who ultimately succeeded in getting the student-regent position. ... It evolved, going from a nonvoting temporary position, to the selection of two student regents serving two-year terms. The first year is a nonvoting year, while the second year is voting. Currently, I'm in my second year.

How did you get the position?

After being submitted as a semifinalist by the UA student government, I interviewed with ASA, who submitted my name and two others for selection to the governor. I was then chosen by the governor following an interview with her staff. It's been an amazing experience. We have all the rights and obligations of the regular regents, but they serve eight years, and we serve two.

How has the experience been thus far?

I learn something new, and I meet someone new everyday. It is sort of like a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences.

Do you feel like you're making a difference?

The position has changed a lot, so, yeah, now I do feel like I make a difference. At first, there was some resistance to allow student regents to vote by legislators and regents, but now they look at us as any other regent. ... My intent is to grow this position. We really have entered this new era of student advocacy.

President Robert Shelton's tuition increase proposal shed light on that. I've never seen student government so involved. What makes this a new era?

In the past, it was different. Now, we're not just a voice complaining, but we're a voice at the table.

How did you get involved in the tuition-setting debate?

In the beginning, I was behind the scenes. I was working with (ASA board Chairman) Michael Slugocki and (UA student-body President) Tommy Bruce, consistently meeting with UA administrators and taking part in critical decision-making taking place with our universities.

You were mentioned in news sources as key in getting the board to approve a 9.7 percent increase. What really happened that day?

It was a long process. The tuition-setting process started in the spring with the Tuition Task Force meeting with students, regents and the university presidents. ... Both NAU and ASU submitted predictable tuition models. NAU's passed with relative ease, and ASU's passed after an amendment I made to lower the tuition failed, 5-4. I ultimately voted for ASU's original proposal, because it was supported by ASU student advocates. For the UA, (Regent Dennis) DeConcini presented a 3.7 percent increase, and Regent Anne Mariucci was the swing vote. ... Once it passed 5-4, it didn't sit well. The meeting continued, and there was a heated discussion that flowed over to the audience. In Tucson, word spread quickly about what happened, and I was barraged by e-mail and phone calls about the 3.7 percent increase. ... That evening, we started discussions on bringing the vote back for reconsideration. It was floated by me and Tommy Bruce, because we realized the impact for students. We recognize that a 9.7 percent increase will better serve students in the long-term, and it is supported by Shelton and student leadership. The 3.7 percent increase would have forced us to cut faculty, and programs would have been scaled back.

Some people weren't too happy that you supported an increase.

There was a backlash, but ... I stand by my decision. The final UA tuition vote hit on three points important to me: predictability, accountability and affordability. UA will offer predictable tuition beginning in 2010; the Tuition Task Force will be tasked with accounting for tuition-funds flow and student priorities; and financial aid was increased.

When you come to the table to have these discussions with other regents and people like President Shelton, is it intimidating?

Intimidating? Oh my goodness, yes. When you're questioning the UA president about a policy he is bringing to the table, especially when you go the university he leads, yes.

More by Mari Herreras

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