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The annual A.S. Elections process can be a superficial, emotionally charged spectacle, but the fact remains that A.S. has millions of dollars of student money at its disposal and those elected will have at least some say in how it is spent.
Despite our student government’s preoccupation with making itself “transparent” and “accessible,” figuring out how each candidate plans to spend student money — and whether or not their plans are worthwhile or even plausible — can be a daunting task. Promises of increased efficiency, endless open forums and overly ambitious projects abound, while creative proposals with real chances of success are harder to come by.
The Daily Nexus editorial staff sat down with each of the executive office candidates in an effort to cut through this noise and determine which candidates have the personal qualifications necessary to bring about durable changes. We searched for the candidates most likely to benefit the student body as a whole — specifically, the ones most likely to inject fresh, new ideas that hold more substance than constantly regurgitated rhetoric.
After reviewing these interviews and researching proposed fee initiatives, the staff voted on which candidates are best for the job and whether or not new fees are a reasonable use of tuition. As reflected in our endorsements, some of these decisions were clear cut and unanimous, while others took lengthy debate to come to a consensus and are therefore more qualified.
As the well-researched and much-debated opinions of our staff, these endorsements are meant to serve as a guide for voters.
A.S. President: Navkiran “Navi” Kaur
The Nexus endorses Navkiran “Navi” Kaur for the position of A.S. president. Unlike her opponent, Kaur holds previous experience working in the Office of the President in addition to experience in other areas of the university. A third-year Black studies and sociology double major, Kaur first became involved with the Office of the President her freshman year when working with the A.S. Leadership Education Program. Since then, she has served as an A.S. senator, took part in Orientation Programs and groups within the Office of Student Life, and during her second year, she earned A.S. Project of the Year for work completed for the Student Commission on Racial Equality, or S.C.O.R.E.
What sets Kaur apart from her opponent is her talent for grassroots organizing: She co-founded the South Asian Students Association and has organized quarterly events that have brought together up to 50 different campus groups. Whether or not Kaur has held an elected position, she has been working at the campus level — as well as at state and national levels through lobbying efforts — to serve students. In light of recent incidents of violent sexual assault in I.V., she promises to organize a safe space center for partygoers, and she plans to set up I.V. swap meets where students can trade and sell goods like textbooks and furniture. In this regard, Kaur looks to project plans that are ambitious yet feasible, while opponent Ali Guthy looks to projects that are long-term ideas that have been sitting in the idea tanks of A.S. for years.
With her own set of qualifications, Guthy is heavily involved with A.S., has some lobbying experience and helped launch the “Swipes for the Homeless” program this year as an A.S. senator as well as authored the restructuring of A.S. However, spearheading A.S. projects or writing A.S. legislation is something Kaur has also done, and Guthy holds no experience working within the Office of the President. Her promise of a 24-hour café is something that has been talked about for years and has never come to fruition, and she wants to expand community center space in Isla Vista after A.S. just spent thousands to secure space for the Pardall Center. But the expensive and pretty unnecessary pet projects don’t end there — she also supports the proposed SURF fee that will costs students $20 a quarter and over $60 a quarter beginning in 2018 to pay for building renovations that the university administration could, and should, be paying for. It also promises increased space for campus groups that already have meeting places or could possibly use one of the spaces that already exist in the UCen, where the proposed renovations would take place.
With a solid background in university life and experience that extends beyond UCSB, such as her multiple years of lobbying in Sacramento and Washington, Kaur holds the experience and concrete ideas to run the A.S. of UCSB.
Internal Vice President: Abstain
The Nexus does not endorse a candidate for the Office of Internal Vice President based on the lack of a fair race between two candidates for the position.
The DP Party announced last week that they would not sponsor a candidate for the position, effectively guaranteeing victory for Angela Lau of OPP. Lau’s qualification for the office comes from her experience as an Off-Campus Senator and second pro-tempore last year, as well as her current position as the Academic Affairs Board Chair. A third-year economics and accounting major, Lau also served on Committee on Committees and Finance Board. Some of her larger goals include organizing orientation workshops throughout the year to encourage student involvement, securing more student jobs through an A.S. sponsored computer repair shop and requiring groups who earn A.S. lock-in fees to submit spending reports.
While Lau possesses experience and plans, she did not give a clear explanation of how she would implement certain goals, such as one project that the A.S. IVP candidate has been talking about for years: videotaping weekly Senate meetings. Lau said there are some “legal obstacles” to videotaping meetings, but then clarified that the only such obstacle would be having senators sign waivers that give permission to be videotaped.
For the most part, Lau’s plans are ambitious but honorable. She has promised not to hold closed senate meetings and limit the persistently increasing A.S. staff salaries, but she also implied that she may at some point use secret ballots during public senate meetings and did not have a clear plan for videotaping meetings.
Overall, Lau appears qualified for the positions, but some of her plans appear vague and not well-organized.
External Vice President, Local Affairs: Daniela Bayon
The Nexus cautiously endorses Daniela Bayon for the position of External Vice President of Local Affairs.
The big issue facing the EVPLA candidates this year was controlling Deltopia, yet neither candidate had a concrete plan on how to host the event safely next year. Despite this, the Nexus chose to endorse Bayon because of her original, practical and feasible set of ideas for next year.
When in office, Bayon hopes to partner with the SBCC student government to share costs associated with events such as Halloween and Deltopia, while also launching a website called ratemyIVlandlord.org, which would hold landlords accountable for things like broken lease agreements.
Her opponent, Beatrice Contreras, seemed ever ready to have students spend more money by proposing that Isla Vista become a community service district, with an increased sales tax to fund projects.* Given the high cost of living in Isla Vista, Contreras’s idea of an increased sales tax is the last thing Isla Vista’s residents need.
While neither candidate was particularly impressive, Bayon’s ideas seemed more creative and original than Contreras’s. The financial burden of Halloween and Deltopia should not fall upon UCSB, and Bayon seemed to have a starting point to change that.
External Vice President, Statewide Affairs: Melvin Singh
The Nexus endorses Melvin Singh for the office of Associated Student External Vice President for Statewide Affairs.
The office is responsible for lobbying UC administration and state government on behalf of students and keeping students up-to-date on statewide issues that might affect them. A thorough understanding of the processes and politics behind decision-making at the state level is a key qualification for the post, and Singh seems more knowledgeable in this area than his opponent, Kashira Ayers.
Singh, who currently works in the EVPSA office as a campus organizing director, plans to increase the office’s publicity efforts, hold frequent policy-focused workshops and maintain UCSB’s reputation for high voter registration. He has also laid out specific lobbying goals for his office that include tuition exemptions for non-state veterans, more student representation on the board of Regents and a re-evaluation of the California Master Plan of Higher Education.
Ayers, who previously served as chief of staff in the office of the Student Advocate General, played a key role in pushing the Black Student Union’s demands on the UCSB administration. While she does have extensive experience lobbying, Ayers lacks concrete ideas about how to use the office of the EVPSA to advocate for students on a statewide level and address issues currently facing the UC, which she seemed to have a limited knowledge of. Additionally, she does not seem prepared to lobby for students on a system-wide level and has little experience working with the UC Regents.
However, both candidates had similar ideas on how to use the office of EVPSA to better inform students on campus about current issues facing the UC.
Student Advocate General: Bailey Loverin
The Nexus endorses Bailey Loverin for the position of Associated Students Student Advocate General.
While Loverin’s opponent, Amir Khazaieli, has strong ideas for reorganizing the office from the top down to streamline efficiency, Loverin has realistic and concrete plans for the future of the office that make her a better choice for the position.
Both candidates praise the work of current Student Advocate General Kristian Whittaker to reorganize the office and wish to build on the foundation he has set this year.
Loverin’s plan for the office includes dividing the office among two chiefs of staff who will handle programming and caseworkers separately, ensuring each case has only one caseworker and working to produce maximum efficiency for each branch of the office.
Loverin’s outreach plans for the office are equally impressive and include efforts to have advocates and herself personally meet with students in the residence halls and dining commons on a weekly basis to assess their concerns, a consideration not voiced by her opponent. Loverin also plans to increase the accountability of law enforcement via police review mechanisms and has demonstrated greater willingness to consider the needs of students by planning to create a fund to assist students in paying for necessary documents needed in a hearing such as police reports.
Finally, while Khazaieli has two years of considerable experience as a collegiate senator and seems well versed in the functioning of the office, Loverin’s familiarity with its needs, as Whittaker’s chief of staff, provide her with a more grounded and solid perspective that we believe will allow her to lead the office more effectively.
Associated Students Fee Initiatives
The Nexus does not endorse the Student Union Revitalization Fund (SURF) Initiative, a fee that will charge students $20.51 per quarter until 2018 and then increase to $64.41 until 2048 and continue onward as a reduced fee until the project debt is retired. While the overwhelming laundry list of organizations the fee claims to assist may seem beneficial just by its sheer ability to make the average reader fall asleep before reading the fee’s entire description, students should not be fooled by its extravagant wording and hefty promises. Setting aside the fact that $20.51 is a colossal amount of money to be asking from students (let alone a whopping $64.41 after 2018), the initiative itself is entirely misleading. Student veterans were just granted an expanded space through an agreement with Chancellor Henry T. Yang, while spaces for Health & Wellness, A.S. Senate, The Bottom Line, Finance Board, the A.S. Bike Shop, CAPS and the Food Bank already exist. The SURF initiative prioritizes expansion at the expense of taking attention away from things students actually need, such as an expansion and new fee for Counseling and Psychological Services, who has seen a 23 percent increase in students look for counseling help. Plans to have features such as “Senate Chambers” to overlook the lagoon (when Senate only meets once a week) is just plain excessive, especially for a fee that had little to no student input.
Queer Comm: YES
The Nexus endorses the proposed A.S. lock-in fee of $2.12 per undergraduate per quarter to provide funding for the Associated Students Queer Commission. The proposed fee would begin in Fall 2014 and be up for reaffirmation every two years.
The Queer Commission represents and coordinates with various LGBTQ students and student groups and provides valuable services to the LGBTQ community in the form of LGBTQ specific events and programming. They help host major campus events like the Queer Students of Color Conference and UCSB Pride as well as participate in community events such as the annual AIDS Walk and Santa Barbara Pride.
In light of cuts to the Queer Commission’s budget and lack of any currently existing quarterly fees to directly support them, the services they provide to the growing LGBTQ community are at risk for being reduced or cut accordingly.
The small fee will allow Queer Commission to continue providing these critically valuable services to both LGBTQ students and the larger local community that it represents.
The Nexus endorses the Associated Students Composting Program fee initiative of $1.29 per student per quarter.
Headed by the A.S. Department of Public Worms as a part of UCSB’s Waste Management Plan, the Composting Program works by using earthworms placed in special bins to turn the university’s food waste into valuable soil that can be used on campus and within the wider UCSB community to promote a healthy local food agriculture.
What makes this fee worth supporting is its bang-for-your-buck aspect — for little more than a dollar, one of the smallest fees on the ballot would expand what is already a successful and innovative program that makes UCSB an even more eco-friendly campus. If the fee is passed, students will see more yellow compost bins around campus, providing more opportunities to recycle unwanted food and reducing the guilt associated with not finishing that foot-long Subway sandwich.
The fee would also expand the number of composting workshops the DPW currently provides and allow for a “student-run demonstration compost farm” which would provide a great tangible resource for students. Finally, the fee would support stable and specialized student jobs on campus.
While UCSB already leads the UC system in composting efforts, this initiative would be an important step towards reaching the UC goal of zero waste by 2020 and creating a more environmentally friendly campus.
Sobering Center: NO
The Nexus does not endorse the A.S. Legal Resource Center Sobering Center, which proposes to provide “a safe alternative to a traumatic night in jail for students.” The $5.45 fee per student per quarter beginning Fall 2014 would fund a new facility for students facing charges such as a misdemeanor to go to, instead of going to the drunk tank at Santa Barbara County Jail.
While the Sobering Center could seem like a good idea at face value, students should think critically about how the center further purports allowing potentially privileged, young college students the ability to slink away from real world obligations while other non-student community members of Isla Vista and Santa Barbara remain subject to the same strict laws enforced upon all residents in the County.
The Sobering Center is an excessive and unnecessary initiative, in light of the already existing Misdemeanor Diversion Program that already allows misdemeanor offenders to complete classes to clear criminal convictions entirely from their record. In addition to being inclusive to only tuition-paying UCSB students and not to other community members potentially in need of legal resources and safe spaces, the Sobering Center places a substantial fee on the backs of all students, not just offenders.
The Catalyst: YES
The Nexus endorses the proposed lock-in fee of $1.08 per quarter to support the student-run literary arts magazine The Catalyst, a quarterly publication that showcases visual art and creative writing by members of the UCSB community.
The Catalyst is the new revival of an earlier publication that stopped printing in 2007. A student-run product of UCSB’s English Department, it scrapped up funding from its home department and gathered donations to publish its first issue last quarter. In addition to securing The Catalyst’s high-quality publication every quarter, the fee, which would begin Fall 2014, will allow the magazine to increase distribution from the 750 issues handed out this year to reach a wider audience throughout campus and Isla Vista.
UCSB deserves a solid by-students, for-students creative publication, and The Catalyst deserves to receive support from the population making up the bulk of its readership. It would be a shame to deny it the chance to grow through such a minimal fee.
Senior Book: ABSTAIN
The Nexus abstains from endorsing the Senior Book, an annual yearbook designed by students for each graduating class. The Nexus and the Senior Book share a publications director and an advertising office, and a portion of the fee deals with staffing the Nexus shares with the Senior Book. That being said, we have decided to abstain from an endorsement for the fee initiative due to a conflict of interest.
Campus Election Commission Fee Initiatives
MultiCultural Center: YES
The Nexus endorses the proposed $6.77 increase in the quarterly MultiCultural Center support fee. The proposal would bring the MCC’s total student fee to $12.94 per quarter on top of its existing $1.77 quarterly campus lock-in fee and a $4.42 quarterly A.S. fee.
The funds will go towards maintaining the MCC’s free lectures and events, financially supporting social justice-related student organizations and adding retention programs for first-generation college students. While doubling the fee is an expensive step up, the MCC’s services are widely used and open to all students, and free events that bring a diverse range of prolific guests to campus are a valuable complement to Arts & Lectures.
Arts & Lectures: YES
The Nexus endorses the proposed $5.68 Arts & Lectures events fee to help Arts & Lectures continue to subsidize ticket prices for students and pay for technology improvements, including the implementation of ticket purchasing via a mobile phone app.
The fee would also help fund student employment opportunities and the chance to bring artists into classrooms. Arts & Lectures provides valuable educational and entertainment services to students and community members of all ages and backgrounds. Additionally, keeping ticket prices low is crucial to maintain student attendance of Art & Lectures events, and these subsidies reduce the price by as much as 83 percent for students.
Arts & Lectures currently receives a $2.93 A.S. lock-in fee, a $6.24 campus lock-in fee and a $7.56 graduate student association lock-in fee.
Despite the fees Arts & Lectures already receives, their contributions to the intellectual and cultural vitality of the campus and local communities cannot be overlooked and their needs, seeing their specificity and clear plans for funding, should be met.
Office of Student Life: ABSTAIN
The Nexus abstains from endorsing the Student Life Program Increase fee due to its vague wording and its proposal for a steep fee increase of more than triple its current amount.
Though the Office of Student Life (OSL) covers a variety of campus groups and organizations whose activities we do support, its increase imposes an additional fiscal burden on students already struggling with other finances. The increase will be $7.13 per undergraduate student per quarter in comparison to the $2.20 per currently collected through A.S. and the $1.75 per undergraduate per quarter collected through a campus lock-in fee.
If passed, the fee will begin next fall and would be subject to joint reaffirmation as well as an increase from the $7.13 to $8.88 Spring 2018. This would bump up the total of the Student Life Program fee to $11.08 per undergraduate per quarter and $10.33 in the summer. The fee will be broken down in the following ways: $1.78 will be for return to aid, $5.35 will go to the OSL and seven percent of the $5.35 will be charged to all non-capital expenditures. Funds for the OSL are aimed to support a full-time staff position, Student Programs Coordinator and general budgets of operating programs and supported organizations.
Counseling and Psychological Services: YES
The Nexus endorses the proposed mandatory fee increase of $21.39 per student per quarter to support Counseling and Psychological Services.
The proposed fee increase would begin in the Fall of 2014 and be up for joint reaffirmation. Along with the current $10.85 lock-in fee during the Spring 2018 elections, this would bring the total fee to $34.93, including the other $2.69 lock-in fee CAPS currently collects.
The fee seems high, but CAPS has demonstrated a legitimate need for the money, citing a 23 percent increase in student demand for private counseling sessions. While these services are free of charge, it can take over a month to set up an appointment due to the lack of staff.
If passed, the proposed fee would fund three additional psychologists to reduce wait times for appointments and enhance the staff’s linguistic diversity. These psychologists, which would include Spanish-speaking and Chinese-speaking professionals, would help meet student demands for more diversity in the CAPS office.
With wait times for appointments clocking in at eight weeks or more for some individuals, CAPS cannot just hope to adequately provide its services to all the students who need to see a psychologist sooner. Additionally, the fee would also allow CAPS to continue providing critical suicide prevention services, such as the #saysomething campaign and 24-hour phone counseling.
*Although Beatrice proposed a sales tax as an alternative to a property tax or a parcel tax, a Community Services District could in fact only be funded by a property tax. Beatrice’s poor understanding of a project she performed “extensive research” on only reinforces our decision to endorse Daniela Bayon instead.
A version of this story appeared on pages 5, 6 and 7 of Monday, April 21, 2014′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.