After bombarding the student body with cheesy signs, flyers, blue beer and a flurry of Facebook invites, A.S. Elections are finally upon us.
“Budget,” “transparency” and “involvement” are making a not-so-triumphant — nor surprising — return as the keywords in every candidate’s campaign about the same campus issues and solutions roused from the depths of student apathy and into the public spotlight this time every year. Despite the elections’ possessing similar conditions and characteristics as previous years, aspiring politicians manage to turn the annual event into an emotion-laden spectacle through the university’s Democratic Process Party and Open People’s Party’s contentions over policies and voters.
However, the student government’s party system is highly superfluous as DPP’s and OPP’s platforms lack any significant differences beyond their wording. The existence of political parties for A.S. Elections serves little purpose other than allowing its members to rekindle preschool nostalgia and “play politician” with their fellow classmates.
The only major aspect where the parties notably differ is their candidate selection process. DP Party conducts primaries to elect representatives, relying on the democratic process to decide the worthy few. OPP selected a more business-like model, interviewing endorsement hopefuls and selecting their candidates based on the interactions.
The Daily Nexus editorial staff met with each candidate individually to bypass their campaign’s structured rhetoric and seek concrete and realistic solutions for various issues. As liaisons between A.S. and the student body, we know what each executive position entails and the potential it has to accomplish its role. As journalists and fellow students, we place a high priority on holding the elected representatives accountable to what they promise.
Some candidates offered the same empty promises we bear witness to every election cycle, espousing frivolities and holding fast to idealistic and ambiguous wording that lacks any substantive meaning. Others demonstrated personal aptitude for the elected position they seek, presenting tangible and measurable plans capable of solving some of the university’s most pressing and long-standing problems.
The vital thing to remember while voting on GOLD this week is not what party the candidate represents, but what personal qualifications each candidate possesses that makes them more apt to serve as an A.S. Executive. These people are responsible for spending your money: a total of almost $9 million. They are responsible for acting on your behalf when up against the UC Regents and state legislators. You are giving them considerable power and actually paying for some of their tuition if they are elected.
We based our endorsements on which candidates seemed the most passionate, the most suitable and the most realistic, trusting they will follow through their promises with action.
Commission on Student Well-Being: Yes
The Nexus endorses the proposed quarterly fee of $1.44 per student for the Commission on Student Well-Being to provide services such as free film screenings and free exercise programs aimed at preventative student wellness.
The services will run year-round and a portion of the generated revenue will fund COSWB’s annual anti-stigma campaign that encourages support and understanding for students struggling with mental health issues oftentimes unnoticed. The fee is a small price to pay for a myriad of services actively addressing mental health and wellness in ways that go beyond the crisis counseling offered by Counseling Services.
Finance Board: Yes
The Nexus endorses the proposed $10.08 student lock-in fee to fund the Associated Students Finance Board.
Although the additional fee may appear exorbitant, Finance Board serves a vital role in campus life that benefits all students. The organization offers significant financial support through its allotted amount of unallocated funds toward the events and programs of a diverse array of about 400 student groups ranging from on-campus clubs to fraternities and sororities.
Due to the scarcity of funds in recent years, the board members have learned to discern whether an event should receive funding and often amend a group’s proposal to cut any expenses deemed excessive. The board’s economical approach allows it to distribute funds to a wide array of organizations and keep its financial choices fair and accountable.
I.V./UCSB Pride: Abstain
Associated Students is requesting a $1.23 per quarter mandatory fee to fund the annual UCSB/I.V. Pride Week’s events including drag shows, Queer Wedding, social events and a culminating festival.
Various campus organizations including A.S. Queer Commission and the Pride Committee sponsor the celebration. The annual event helps the LGBQT community build solidarity and gives all students added perspective on personal and social issues.
However, organizations such as Queer Commission are already in charge of facilitating this event and it seems excessive to pay an additional fee given the current financial climate.
College Bound Initiative: No
The Nexus does not endorse The Student Initiated Recruitment and Retention Committee’s proposed College Bound Initiative $7.62 per student per quarter lock-in fee. The additional fee would provide services such as tutoring and SAT preparation courses to underserved youths including unassisted junior high school students within Isla Vista, Goleta and Santa Barbara. Although an admirable goal, funding for these services should not come from the pockets of university students coping with continued slashes to their own educational budgets.
A.S. Food Bank: No
The Nexus does not oppose the A.S. food bank or the idea of supplying food and toiletries to financially needy students, but questions the necessity of a mandatory $1.80 per quarter lock-in fee to subsidize it.
The concept of a “food bank” implies the food or monetary support comes from donations rather than a mandated tax, and any funding considerations that go beyond supplying food to students should be avoided. Additional funds to “raise awareness,” pay staff and rent space are unnecessary and do not constitute a justification to charge students more. A.S. already has available building space and volunteers can operate the positions of paid staff members as occurs in many charitable organizations.
Vague propositions such as providing “financial, medical and housing referrals” and “education concerning hunger and homelessness” seem ill-conceived and stray from what should be the food bank’s singular purpose of providing food. It seems ironic to ask students to pay a fee for a program purportedly designed to help students cope with increasing university fees.
The Bottom Line: No
The Nexus does not endorse a $1.69 quarterly lock-in fee for The Bottom Line.
Although TBL received $50,000 this year as Associated Student’s third-highest-funded board, council or committee, the news outlet claims it is in dire need of additional finances due to a recent slash to their budget. However, restructuring its expenditures or adopting a self-sustaining business model is a viable and more fiscally responsible alternative to address TBL’s monetary shortcomings.
Despite ongoing cuts to other campus programs, TBL staff members receive money for expenses such as food, retreats and travelling. Furthermore, although the weekly paper’s goal to provide a platform for free and competing media is not invalid, the UC Regents’ copyright claim over TBL’s content contradicts its purported aim to operate as a free press.
Until the publication acknowledges the financial constraints skyrocketing tuition imposes on students and develops efficient business practices, students have neither the obligation nor need to continually support it.
Student Engagement Center: No
The Nexus does not endorse the proposed $26.10 per student per quarter lock-in fee for the Student Engagement Center. Although the fee would not begin collecting revenue until Fall 2015 — the same time as the building’s expected completion date, — its additional offered services such as a preventative wellness center with meditation rooms are not enough to justify the cost in light of our increasingly expensive tuition. The center would be located on the grass beside Parking Lot 22, directly across from the Student Resource Building, which already provides similar services. The new facility aims to designate study and organizational space for emerging student communities such as student veterans and A.S. groups, like the Environmental Affairs Board, without a permanent meeting space. However, such spaces do not benefit the majority of UCSB students and therefore do not warrant placing further financial burdens on the entire student body. Its main selling point, an additional 24-hour room, is its sole non-exclusive beneficial service, which sounds great on paper but is not worth another $26 a quarter.
2012 Candidate Endorsements
Sophia “Big Hair. Big Plans” Armen – Democratic Process Party (DP Party)
The Nexus endorses Sophia Armen for Associated Students President.
Armen is poised to uphold the position’s democratic ideals rather than cater to individual interests within the association. She offers tangible solutions such as budget forums revealing internal and usually unseen Associated Students spending decisions.
Nate Walter counters Armen’s approach with a hope to maintain the organization’s extent and structure, allowing for a continuation of the A.S. status quo first that first originated when the organization could fiscally support it. Armen vowed to cut expenditures on food and T-shirts and is willing to cut pay for student government officials, including the free tuition that would come with her executive position.
A major point Armen and Walter diverge on is the accessibility of their respective goals. Armen offers solid plans including budget forums, a UCSB-specific online textbook service, an A.S. news show and an overhaul of honoraria — student government wages — among numerous other resolutions. Walter, on the other hand, gives disconnected and vague explanations about reaching ‘untapped’ students, mentioning the DJ Club as one such demographic.
Armen’s experience with student activism — attending a number of UC Regents meetings and organizing numerous lobbying efforts in the name of student interests — dwarfs Walter’s accomplishments. Furthermore, her lack of experience working up the student government rank-and-file, as Legislative Council’s first pro-tempore Walter has, makes Armen better equipped to connect with students on an honest and direct level.
With an innate ability to lead and connect with her peers, Armen’s experience, drive and authenticity will provide a much-needed breath of fresh air during another year of state cuts, UC mismanagement and A.S. struggles. Though Armen’s goals are far-reaching, at least she has set them.
Internal Vice President
Mayra Segovia – Open People’s Party (OPP)
The Nexus endorses Mayra Segovia for the Office of Internal Vice President.
Segovia offers a clear, pragmatic plan for restructuring the dismal Associated Students’ budget that includes significant reductions to honoraria — the quarterly salaries A.S. members receive, which account for 80 percent of the organization’s budget — to free up a greater amount of funds. Segovia, who serves as an Off-Campus Senator, has proven she is serious about accomplishing her goal through her efforts to pass a bill that significantly reduces the stipend.
Although Segovia’s opponent, Guadalupe Ibarra, possesses extensive experience for the position, she lacks a tangible plan to make lasting changes or regulate the organization’s gratuitous spending habits. Segovia demonstrated the leadership skills and work ethic required to hold senators accountable to students and her position on the Senate Constitution and By-Law Committee means she knows the ins and outs of the legal code enough to ensure senate meetings run smoothly and effectively.
Segovia pledges to update the long-neglected A.S. website with the minutes and recordings from the weekly meetings. Instituting the changes will make financial decisions concerning students’ money more accessible and hopefully help put an end to the organization’s penchant for holding closed meetings when discussing more controversial matters.
Segovia has the leadership capabilities and the legal understanding to potentially streamline the budget and hold elected representatives more accountable to students’ concerns.
External Vice President, Local Affairs
Bethlehem “Betty” Aynalem – Democratic Process Party (DP Party)
The Nexus endorses Bethlehem “Betty” Aynalem for External Vice President of Local Affairs, whose office handles local issues within Isla Vista. Aynalem outlines concrete solutions for real change in the EVPLA office absent from A.S. veteran Rhandy Siordia’s political rhetoric.
The choice was difficult due to Siordia’s qualifications for the position, including his work in the Isla Vista Community Relations Committee co-planning Chilla Vista and other major events. However, Aynalem offers fresh, innovative approaches for various issues such as her idea to organize 21 and over drinking grounds on Halloween to decentralize the dense crowd of revelers on DP.
Both candidates shared an equally passionate desire to ensure the welfare and culture of our tiny beach community, but Aynalem demonstrated a better plan to effectively accomplish the office’s role. We believe Siordia’s familiarity with the internal workings of A.S. makes him inclined to act mostly within the A.S. bubble and potentially exclude the community’s input.
In a refreshingly new approach, Aynalem directly addresses the community, knocking on doors of lesser-noticed families and first-year students to discuss their personal concerns.
Aynalem seems the most likely candidate to provide the EVPLA office with the break away from its continued and ineffective solutions for unfulfilled goals — such as its ongoing campaign for additional street lights — needed to bring its ambitions to fruition.
External Vice President, Statewide Affairs
Nadim Houssain – Democratic Process Party (DP Party)
For the position of Executive Vice President of Statewide Affairs, the Nexus endorses third-year Nadim Houssain. As a sophomore, he worked as the Commissioner of Equity and Diversity under the Office of the President before working closely with current EVPSA Ahmed Mostafa this year. Houssain said he plans to continue many of the traditions Mostafa has fostered, such as keeping UCSB’s voter registration rates exceptionally high. He also strives to continue a close professional relationship with State Assemblymember Das Williams. Houssain looks at his desired position with a rare combination of passion and down-to-earth rationality in almost all respects; as the EVPSA budget faces further cuts next year, Houssain’s approach is to think nationally but act locally. He heavily promotes the use of teach-ins and forums and suggested an interesting potential partnership between the EVPSA office and Associated Students Program Board in which participation in a teach-in or forum would earn a student free admission to an ASPB concert. His other priorities include increasing efficiency within various roles within the EVPSA office and increasing UCSB’s representation within UCSA, to a rate proportional to our $7,000 annual pay-in. Additionally, Houssain advocates for a holistic admissions approach and aims to bring the UC Regents to campus more frequently, making sure to publicize their presence in the Daily Nexus and other local media even in the face of requests that the event be kept under wraps.
Houssain’s competition, OPP’s Nancy Gama-Rodriguez, seems to have a weak understanding of the position’s responsibilities and had few concrete plans for putting her goals into action. However, Houssain also expressed interest in starting a regular publication of anecdotes from students experiencing financial struggles as a result of tuition hikes. In such a fiscal climate, this seems like an expense that could be easily avoided. However, Houssain’s ideas are much more informed than those of his opponent and his passion for the job is both inspiring and promising for those who wish to see another successful year for the EVPSA.
Student Advocate General
Alejandro “Alex” Paramo – Independent
The Nexus endorses Alex Paramo for Student Advocate General, the head of the Office of the Student Advocate.
The position’s primary function is to help students navigate the university’s judicial process when accused of violating its code of conduct.
The Office of the Student Advocate is unable to speak during hearings or court cases under established policies. Paramo has dealt with this issue firsthand as Chief of Staff within the Office and intends to change the process to enable it to act as a public defender and truly help students. As most students are relatively unaware of the Office’s services, Paramo also plans to expand the Office’s presence and publicize their role as a benefit for students.
Although contender Yoel Haile plans to rely on campus connections and former work in housing, Paramo possesses experience within the Office and offers tangible plans to improve its functions.