As another year of A.S. Elections have come to purview, “accountability,” “affordability,” “transparency” and “accessibility” are just some of the overtly vague keywords to once again form the pillars of each Associated Students candidates’s platform.
With the annual flurry of eager promises to engage, empower and perform other ambiguous or intangible services for the student body, it can often become difficult to decipher political fluff from legitimate plans for results. As journalists and fellow students, the Daily Nexus editorial staff met with each individual candidate to sift through the usual empty rhetoric and seek out the most concrete, substantive solutions to real issues faced by the student body.
However, at the end of the day we just hope the people spending your money will be the most personally qualified to address university problems — regardless of party affiliation — and will materialize efforts for feasible change instead of just laying back and chilling off of a position won on meaningless soapbox talk.
As a publication with the responsibility to convey the most objective, un-biased information to our fellow students and hold our elected officials accountable to their promises, we ask that you think critically about who will use your money to actually service you, and who will just sit around while you pay for their tuition.
With A.S. funds totaling millions of dollars — a budget that exceeds the student government funding of any other UC — we place high priority on endorsing those that seemed most likely to follow through with what will hopefully be actual results and not another repertoire of empty promises. In the meantime, those who don’t make the cut need not fret — you will have your chance to take over once elected candidates resign mid-year.
A.S. President: Jonathan Abboud
The Nexus endorses Jonathan Abboud for Associated Students Office of the President.
With a myriad of projects under his belt, including Dining Commons Take-Out Boxes, a Student Bill of Rights, Bike Fix-It Stations and cutting $150,000 of wasteful spending in A.S., among other things, Abboud is the candidate with the most solid foundation for making proposed changes actually come to fruition.
While all three candidates promised oft-times impractical or grandiose endeavors toward student affordability and advocacy for higher education, Abboud most aptly illustrated a desire to build honest, open relationships with the UC Regents and other legislators, a stance that seems most useful in contrast to more abrasive and potentially ineffective positions taken in the past.
Additionally, Abboud demonstrated the internal knowledge necessary to effectively sit at the helm of the A.S. Executive Board with plans to keep A.S. accountable through possible committee rotations, control of staff salaries, consolidation of extraneous A.S. committees and implementation of a freeze on staff hiring. Abboud also has the most concrete plans to improve the campus climate, with goals to implement traditions like a campus-wide Welcome Week, a campus-wide picnic and a food truck day.
DPP candidate Megan Foronda is genuine and forthcoming, with A.S. experience and a no-nonsense perspective on the feasibility of over-ambitious promises such as cutting executive salaries or lowering student tuition. But while her ideas for an A.S. Thrift Store, an A.S. Ambassadors Initiative and an A.S. Innovation Grant all seem commendable, her agenda pales in comparison to Abboud’s proven ability to make things happen.
Otherwise, though Independent candidate Mac Kennedy is well-spoken and passionate, his platform for campus issues relied almost exclusively on eliminating A.S. Executive Board salaries and bringing high-profile musical guests to campus. Kennedy’s experience and knowledge lies mostly in the realm of statewide affairs, and he does not possess the well-rounded vision necessary to handle the position.
Internal Vice President: Kyley Scarlet
The Nexus endorses Kyley Scarlet for the Office of the Internal Vice President based on her extensive depth of understanding of the leadership qualities the position requires, an ability to navigate the ins-and-outs of A.S. bureaucracy effectively and a well-researched set of realistic reforms and goals for kicking the somewhat stagnant Senate into gear.
Scarlet, currently an Off-Campus Senator and first pro-tempore, has garnered experience from previous positions within the association such as an IVP committee liaison for Media Relations and Major Events coordinator for the EVPLA Office. Her goals include a slew of new methods for broadcasting Senate meetings ranging from a Twitter feed to bi-weekly newsletters, implementing summertime preparatory training for senators so they can hit the ground running come Fall Quarter and organizing an oversight committee to keep A.S. staff accountable.
While all of the candidates had similar ideas about publicizing weekly Senate meetings and facilitating cooperation among senators, the distinguishing factor between Scarlet and her opponents is her further investigation into her proposals and her constant vigilance toward the fiscal constraints involved.
Juan Galvan is also a worthy candidate who is well-versed in A.S. processes and possesses the necessary charisma and leadership ability for the position, but his opponent’s meticulous commitment to realistic improvements outshine his ideas for reform. On the other hand, Martin Polanco, while well-intentioned, lacks the necessary experience and knowledge of the job description to adequately perform in the role.
External Vice President, Local Affairs: Kaitlyn Christianson
The Nexus endorses Kaitlyn Christianson for A.S. External Vice President of Local Affairs, a position acting as a liaison between the campus community and the elected officials that oversee Isla Vista.
Though opponent Alex Moore demonstrates qualifications for the position through his work with county administration and the local community as a former EMT member and current member of Take Back the Night, Christianson’s current experience within the EVPLA office and extensive experience makes her the most qualified candidate to effectively take on the executive position.
As current EVPLA, Rhandy Siordia has demonstrated an impressive ability to implement crucial projects such as increased lighting in Isla Vista and a fence along Walter Capps Park on Del Playa. Christianson plans to use her experience with and knowledge of the inner workings of the EVPLA office to work off of projects already set in place by Siordia and subsequently keep the ball rolling. Christianson also demonstrates the ability to launch feasible projects of her own, such as holding Isla Vista town hall meetings allowing students to express their concerns with law enforcement in an open forum.
While the choice was difficult due to Moore’s promising goals to create a Student Rights Watch, obtain and utilize I.V. crime statistics and address the uneven distribution of County funds for I.V., Christianson’s history of helping push forth the successful projects from the EVPLA office speak louder than Moore’s proposed plans, as genuine as they seem. Though Moore’s victory could bring a fresher perspective to a position usually handed down within A.S. office lines, Christianson is the candidate that seems most likely to have the institutional knowledge to implement realistic change.
External Vice President, Statewide Affairs: Alex Choate
The Nexus endorses Alex Choate for A.S. External Vice President of Statewide Affairs.
Although both candidates have similar experience working in the Office of the EVPSA, and though both demonstrate a well-rounded knowledge of the most important statewide issues currently affecting the university, Choate’s more concrete ideas and organized agenda demonstrate her capabilities as the more qualified candidate for the position.
Unlike her opponent, Choate plans to foster an open dialogue with legislators and UC Regents through ideas such as a UC Regent online video chat in order to mitigate oft-times overlooked Regential concern with potential student-imposed safety issues.
Furthermore, Choate has more realistic plans to garner student involvement in statewide affairs by instituting a 50 percent policy to ensure that 50 percent of students going to rallies have never been before. Choate also hopes to spearhead a new class similar to the current “History of Isla Vista” course to teach students about state-wide budget issues affecting the UC system.
While Choate’s opponent Norma Orozco is very well-spoken, with impressive student lobbying experience and an extensive background in student activism, Choate presents the most clear, candid and feasible plan of action for effectively bridging the disconnect between students and legislators while Orozco plans to merely continue current activist trends with not enough emphasis on reaching out to uninformed students.
Student Advocate General: Kristian (with a “K”) Whittaker
The Nexus endorses Kristian Whittaker for the position of Associated Students Student Advocate General.
While Whittaker’s opponent, Jorge Villela, exhibits a genuine willingness to assist students utilizing the Office of Student Advocate General and a commitment to preserving the office’s function as an unbiased third party, Whittaker exhibits the passion and constructive decision-making to better fulfill the role.
Both candidates distanced their plans from that of current Student Advocate General Yoel Haile, who has taken strong stances on racial issues and thus called to question his ability to act as the nonpartisan resource that the OSA is expected to be.
An active member of Finance Board, Housing & Residential Services and Hermanos Unidos, Villela has launched programs like Step Up, which offers scholarship money to low-income incoming freshmen. He also voiced concerns regarding A.S.’s ability to be an open and effective resource to the general student body and promised to offer a “fresh perspective” if elected.
However, the cleanly laid-out plans presented by Whittaker highlight the vagueness of Villela’s promises.
A former on-campus senator, Whittaker has been involved in a multitude of A.S. entities, but this isn’t what qualifies him. Whittaker has the know-how, personal experience and raw passion to transform the OSA into an active and recognizable resource for students.
He is ready to speak during student hearings, which the Student Advocate General cannot currently do, and amongst other ideas, is planning to add two brand new divisions to the office, the “Student Conduct” and “Public Interest” divisions.
Calling Haile the “concept artist” of the OSA, Whittaker said he is ready to act as the “architect” and launch some real, concrete changes, something our student leaders should be doing a little more often.
Associated Students Fee Initiatives
The Bottom Line: ABSTAIN
This year, The Bottom Line is once again proposing a $1.69 per quarter lock-in fee on undergraduate students to go toward new equipment, improving content and covering travel costs. The fee will go into effect next Fall Quarter and will be subject to reaffirmation every two years.
Around this same time last year, the Nexus’s decision to not endorse TBL’s attempted lock-in fee drew accusations of an alleged self-serving agenda and a supposed unwillingness to work harmoniously with other campus media sources. But we had our reasons — last year, TBL was the third top-funded board, committee or commission in A.S. with a budget of almost $50,000, yet demonstrated little capability of adopting a self-sustaining business model with outside advertising and seemed to have a relatively narrow audience. We evaluated the decision as we would have evaluated a fee by any other A.S. organization and decided it was not a reasonable use of student money.
However, in the past year, the publication’s new leadership has allowed it to improve significantly despite a substantially slashed budget. Indeed, the newspaper seems to have streamlined its operation, reached out to new readership and even attempted to secure advertising — all trends demonstrating potential for eventual self-reliance.
Nevertheless, TBL still receives the majority of its funding directly from A.S. and produces content subject to the copyright of the UC Regents, potentially interfering with its ability to operate independently. We recognize that TBL’s lock-in fee is one way for it to distance itself from these entities and become more independent and student-run, but using these fees for new equipment and for travel costs should be secondary considerations to successfully supplementing its budget with advertising.
Therefore, we leave it up to the student body to decide whether or not to support The Bottom Line.
Commission On Student Well-Being: YES
The Nexus endorses the proposed quarterly fee of $1.03 on undergraduate students for the Commission on Student Well-Being to provide services from free yoga and kickboxing classes to film screenings.
With the added fee, COSWB would work to add more programs to the already numerous activities addressing mental health and wellness, such as free day trips to locations such as the Channel Islands.
The small lock-in fee would not only work towards adding to COSWB’s own programs on human sexuality, mental health, healthy eating and weekly fitness classes, but would also continue to support COSWB’s work with Health & Wellness, providing increased student health activism along with on-the-ground perks like finals week massages. While many of their functionalities seem very similar to services provided by Health & Wellness, the proposed fee is a small price to pay for the slew of services they plan to provide.
Campus Election Commission Fee Initiatives
Student Recreation Facilities Enhancement – Flip the Switch for Student Recreation: ABSTAIN
This initiative outlines a three-phase plan that would, beginning this year, allow for renovation of Robertson Gymnasium, to be completed by 2014, Storke Field, to occur from 2014 to 2016 and Pauley Track, to take place from 2016 to 2020.
If passed, the initiative will implement improvements on Robertson Gym’s main gym space and will hone in on floor refurnishing, cosmetic upgrades, new ceilings and paint. It will grant Storke Field the installation of an all-weather turf in its eastern section and would provide it with new lighting. The latter service will also be done on Pauley Track, currently unable to be used for competitive purposes due to a lack of a nighttime lighting system. The initiative will benefit not only student athletes who practice and utilize the facilities, but will also benefit community members or visitors who share the space.
It is important to note that these facilities rely entirely on student funds and are accessible to all students. Nevertheless, this means an added financial burden of $15 per quarter for students, and the fee’s limited scope makes it difficult to fully endorse the measure in such a fiscally tight climate.
Health & Wellness Fee: YES
The Nexus endorses the proposed quarterly fee of $7.13 per student to fund Health & Wellness as it maintains visible campus services, ranging from free condoms and amazing massages to Dog Therapy Day, are accessible used by the majority of students.
Though a $7.13 per quarter fee is an expensive commitment, Health & Wellness provides services that are purportedly used by over 90 percent of UCSB students and the organization has proven itself able to implement successful and popular programs that are available to all students. The fee will make it possible to offer more student internships through the Health & Wellness program, and will also avoid substantial staff and program cuts, which have been on the rise in light of the university’s past budget cuts.
Health & Wellness traditionally serves crucial student needs, providing education and assistance regarding drugs, sex and relationships. The program also has plans in place to initiate preventative efforts regarding issues of mental health and wellness, which would provide a relevant and practical resource for students.
Women’s Gender and Sexual Equity: NO
The Nexus does not endorse the Women, Gender, & Sexual Equity Department’s proposal to increase its lock-in fee by $3.92, shifting the current student fee from $4.25 to $8.17 per student, per quarter.
Though WGSE services have helped students face many important community issues regarding sexual assault and gender discrimination, the fee increase seems extraneous for a department that already receives $4.25 per undergraduate student, per quarter.
Though we support their endeavors to make campus a safe, non-hostile environment, increasing student employment, expanding community outreach programs and maintaining up-to-date libraries and lounge areas do not seem like the best use for student funds, especially in light of recent tuition increases and student budget constraints.
While we recognize WGSE as a center crucial to community progression, their current $4.25 per undergraduate lock-in fee already provides adequate funding to continue providing already-funded services combating sexual assault and gender identity discrimination.