BY KENNETH R. WEISS Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Casting herself as a peacemaker on the UC Board of Regents–Meredith J. Khachigian has been elevated by her colleagues to chairwoman of the sometimes fractious board that oversees California’s elite public universities.
"I don’t have much hope it will be a smooth ride," said Khachigian–a public affairs consultant in San Clemente. "But at the same time–I look forward to try to soothe diverse opinions and find ways we can all work toward the same goal."
In a telephone conference last week–the regents unanimously voted Khachigian–52–to the yearlong position as leader of the 26-member board. It is the third time that she has held the top job–having also served in 1991 and 1992.
This time–she takes over from Dr. Tirso del Junco–the pugnacious chairman whose reappointment to the board was rejected by the state Senate.
"I do have a different style," Khachigian said. "That is why they wanted me in the job at this time. I do work well with all people and am a good listener."
Ward Connerly–the regent who orchestrated the policy abolishing affirmative action in admissions–for a time expressed interest in the chairmanship. But he threw his support behind Khachigian–who voted to end preferences for race and gender but has not been as vocal on the issue.
Khachigian said she wants the board to focus on enriching pre-college education and an assortment of programs that reach into poor communities to prepare more students of all races for admission to the nine-campus university.
"We are going to have to increase the pool of eligible candidates," she said.
Khachigian said she plans to set aside her consulting business and become a "full-time" regent who is highly visible throughout the state.
A UC Santa Barbara graduate–Khachigian was appointed to the board by former Republican Gov. George Deukmejian in 1984 and again in 1989.
Her 12-year term expires in 2001.