Students Discussed Issues Such As Community Safety, Student Lobbying and Advocacy Efforts
Last night, prospective candidates for Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs, External Vice President of Statewide Affairs, and Student Advocate General gathered in the Hub to debate their plans and ideas in this year’s A.S. electoral race.
The Open People’s Party and the Democratic Process Party presented candidates for EVPSA and EVPLA, while Bailey Loverin and Amir Khazaieli entered the debate for SAG as independents, as they are required to be. Members of the Elections Committee moderated the debates, fielding questions from audience members to the candidates and touching on topics related to a candidate’s core values and party ties, as well as their opinions of existing projects and practices within A.S.
For the position of EVPLA, which deals with community affairs in Isla Vista and Goleta, OPP’s Beatrice Contreras debated with DP’s Daniela Bayon. Contreras has worked as an Off-Campus Senator for the past year, while Bayon has been heavily involved in Isla Vista Community Relations Committee and has worked to develop a landlord-rating website that is expected to go online later this quarter. The two candidates professed similar agendas, proclaiming their determination to focus on sexual assault and hate crime prevention, housing fairness, communication with law enforcement and community centers in Isla Vista, among other issues.
When asked about increasing safety in Isla Vista, Contreras said she would set up a board of students that would keep close contact with police and foot patrol in order to keep students both informed and included in law enforcement decision-making.
“There needs to be a lot more communication with Isla Vista Foot Patrol, and one thing I have as a specific platform is to create a law enforcement advisory board so that we can all sit down and talk about what our community policing priorities are,” Contreras said. “We can have students, non-students, community members and police officers.”
Contreras also advocated implementing a rape crisis center in Isla Vista. Bayon, in her answer to the same question, proposed creating a legal complaint coordinator, in addition to a center in I.V. for those who felt harassed or assaulted.
“One of the biggest issues with safety in Isla Vista is issues dealing with women and men — all folks — on sexual violence,” Bayon said. “This space will be a space for all students and survivors of sexual assault to go and have a safe space on Friday nights and on Saturday nights.”
In regards to Deltopia, which drew in roughly 10,000 more people than last year based on County officials’ estimates, Bayon said that while she agreed with increased efforts for open communication with law enforcement, she also said some communities do not feel safe working with police.
Bayon and Contreras differed slightly on their opinions of the proposed fee increase for renovations to the University Center, called the Student Union Revitalization Fund. While Contreras said she fully supported the fee, Bayon said she believed more work needed to be done on the project before the fee was passed.
According to Contreras, budget constraints on the university mean that students have no choice but to fund the project themselves.
“I definitely do agree with the UCen lock-in fee,” Contreras said. “Although it’s a shame and we shouldn’t have to raise student fees, it’s important to be faced with the reality that there are budget cuts going on … we really need to work with what we have … we need to provide those services for ourselves.”
According to Bayon, before the SURF fee passes, the people in charge of the project should work with a larger number of student groups to devise a more universally beneficial plan.
“I’ve heard a lot of different mixed feelings from a lot of community members and a lot of students and a lot of BCCs on campus,” Bayon said. “I think that this UCen lock-in fee needs more work.”
When asked to explain the ways in which they had worked to support students of color and queer students on campus, Bayon said she has consistently been an advocate of inclusive language, expanding safe-zone training to police and residence halls. She also mentioned her earning of a Gender and Diversity requirement, rather than a European Traditions requirement, while Contreras said her efforts include advocating for a Gender and Sexuality general education requirement. Both candidates cited their experiences as women of color.
During the EVPLA debate, Bayon stressed the Rate My Landlord project as one specific goal she hopes to accomplish by both getting the site running and setting up a system for it to continue in future years. On the other hand, Contreras talked about developing a community center in Isla Vista that would serve both students and non-students alike, although A.S. just recently launched a similar project called the Pardall Center.
The second debate last night pitted OPP’s Melvin Singh against DP’s Kashira “Kash” Ayers for A.S. External Vice President of Statewide Affairs, which deals with statewide issues in higher education, such as UC budget cuts, and student lobbying and organizing.
Questions focused on the appointment of Janet Napolitano, the United States Student Association, the California Master Plan for Education and its revision project, plans for working with other UC campuses, collaborations with legislators, the California budget for education and party alignment. The candidates come from different backgrounds, with Singh having worked with Student Lobby and the Office of the EVPSA, and Ayers holding experience in organizing and lobbying with the Black Student Union.
When asked about UC President Janet Napolitano, both candidates said they had a problem with her appointment, although they differed in their approaches to moving forward with her. Ayers said she would focus on organizing student talks with Napolitano.
“I would like to acknowledge that I do have a problem with the appointment of Janet Napolitano,” Ayers said. “As students at this university, we should have a say in who our UC president should be. … As EVPSA, I will work with her in hosting forums that are open to all students.”
Singh said he would continue ongoing negotiations with Napolitano, saying he felt optimistic based on her reception to past demands.
“I don’t approve of Janet Napolitano’s past … however, she is in the position right now where she is a public figure,” Singh said. “Compared to past UC presidents, she is more of a politician and more indebted to our needs. … She’s been very receptive since her appointment. I’ve seen her engage with students, and I hope to continue that.”
When asked about the first issues the candidates will tackle if elected, Ayers said she would focus on voter registration and organizing forums for students who are unable to vote, while Singh said he would focus on securing stable costs tuition and preventing another tuition hike.
When asked about the state of the United States Student Association, Ayers and Singh both said it can be a powerful tool for student lobbying.
“As students, we have power in numbers,” Ayers said. “USSA is effective because it builds a strong coalition of students that can network inside of these spaces and outside of it …We need to get more students there, especially first- and second-year students.”
As for the California Master Plan for Education, Singh said he supported efforts to revise the Master Plan based on a changing context for California.
“The problem with it now is that it’s not clearly defined for all students,” Singh said. “I’m totally supportive of pushing the Master Plan across California … I’m very optimistic about it, and it’s something I will back up as EVPSA.”
Moderators asked candidates which aspects of the budget each candidate would focus on advocating for, given current budget constraints. Ayers said she would focus on increasing financial aid, increasing diversity on campus and allocating more money towards resources for students such as psychological services. Singh said he would focus on affordability and accessibility.
Both candidates were asked why they chose to run with their respective parties. Ayers, although maintaining that she does not believe in party lines, named several factors that drew her to the Democratic Process Party. In particular, she mentioned the fact that DP has an open, democratic primary for electing candidates while OPP does an interview process to select individuals.
“Parties can be abrasive sometimes, but I chose the Democratic Process Party for the simple fact that they have an open primary,” Ayers said. “It’s issue-oriented and action-based, and it’s a progressive party,”
Singh said he chose to run with the Open People’s Party mainly based on its means of achieving policy goals.
“OPP happens to have the methods and the actions that I agree with, when it comes to enacting the opinions that I have,” Singh said.
The third and final debate of the evening occurred between Bailey Loverin and Amir Khazaieli, independent candidates for Student Advocate General.
Loverin has worked for the past year as the Chief of Staff in the current Office of the Student Advocate (OSA), while Khazaieli has sat on Senate for the past two years as the collegiate senator for the College of Engineering. Debate questions touched on how each candidate would balance transparency and confidentiality, restructure the office, resist conflict with personal interest, combat sexism and racism and plan for student outreach.
In terms of its structure, the OSA currently has the SAG, a Chief of Staff and four divisional departments — each with two caseworkers. The departments at present are housing, academic, public interest and student conduct.
If elected, Loverin said she will replace one of the caseworkers in each department with a program director responsible for outreach efforts. She also said she will add a program director at the level of Chief of Staff. Meanwhile, Khazaieli said he plans to first hire entry-level fellows who are not initially affiliated with a specific department but do casework. Khazaieli then said he will add a position in charge of transparency at the level of Chief of Staff and alter the divisions to be on-campus housing, off-campus housing, campus policy and non-university legal issues.
Regarding issues of sexism and racism, Loverin said she will increase the role of the public interest division, which serves to help and support student groups and is a department added in the office just this past year.
“I’m going to push them to work with S.C.O.R.E. and other campus organizations that deal with these issues,” Loverin said.
According to Khazaieli, more work needs to be done in regards to discrimination and efforts should be completed in collaboration with A.S. groups. He said he will do everything in his power to defend the student bill of rights.
“No matter what your affiliation or how you identify yourself, you should not be discriminated against,” Khazaieli said. “A lot more can be done with cooperation with student groups in A.S.”
When each candidate was asked why he or she was the best person for the job, Loverin cited her experience as Chief of Staff.
“I have the hands-on experience in the office,” Loverin said. “I’ve been dedicating my entire year to this … I also have contacts with administrators… But what’s really important here is that I care about this position — I love this position and I want to serve students.”
On the other hand, Khazaieli said he understands the impact that the OSA has on students since he himself required its services when he was a first-year student. He said his previous experiences allow him to know how to best tailor the OSA to student needs.
“My freshman year, I got in trouble and I needed to use the Office of the Student Advocate,” Khazaieli said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good advocacy; it didn’t go very well… I see the problem and I know what to fix.”
In terms of outreach efforts, Loverin said she hopes to increase outreach specifically with students living in residence halls.
“Right now, our biggest weakness is that students in residence halls don’t really know that we’re there … so I actually want to place caseworkers to the residence halls,” Loverin said. “I also want to … have the Student Advocate General CC’ed on all write-ups.”
Referring to his experience as a Senator involved in spearheading the Pardall Center in Isla Vista, Khazaieli said he has already worked with outreach and would continue such efforts.
“I worked this year … setting up what is, right now, the only community center in Isla Vista,” Khazaieli said. “I think I’ve demonstrated good fortitude in the ability to outreach.”
Photo by Alex Gonzalez / Daily Nexus.
A version of this story appeared on page 1 of Wednesday, April 16, 2014′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.