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In the midst of Associated Students election season, a blog post went live that presented sexual assault allegations against candidate Beatrice Contreras, who was, at the time, running for the office of the External Vice President of Local Affairs. During this time, she and her political party very seldom addressed the allegations made against her. At the end of the election season, she was voted into the office of EVPLA.
Since then, the Open People’s Party has rescinded Contreras’ party membership and has called for her resignation. Despite this statement and other student concerns regarding this issue, Contreras has refused to step down from office.
Now, I and other like-minded students are circulating a recall petition to remove Contreras from office and to have her run for the office again at the beginning of next Fall Quarter. We believe that this is an appropriate action to take, and here’s why:
Voter integrity is the main concern this petition is addressing. The allegations against Contreras came out in the middle of the Associated Students election season, and many students had already cast their votes. We think it is essential that students have the ability to vote only once all relevant information is available. For example, I had voted on the first day of the election, and I know that I personally would not have voted for a candidate with such serious allegations levied against her. Therefore, we believe that voters should be given the opportunity to vote again with all of the developments of these accusations in mind.
We believe in supporting the testimony of survivors. As has been addressed many times during the last three weeks, studies have shown that only two to eight percent of survivors fabricate their testimonies. In the last month, Associated Students has been called out for contradicting its previous statement to support survivors when they come forward with their testimonies. We stand behind the previous statement, and feel that this is the appropriate legal action to take to both support the survivor and ensure that the student body is effectively represented by someone they can trust.
Finally, we no longer feel that Contreras will have the ability to be an effective representative in her office. Her recent removal from the Open People’s Party, combined with her distance from both independents and the Democratic Process Party, makes it likely that she will lose a large basis of her support in Associated Students. These developments will impede her efforts to enact policy or address local issues.
Additionally, the general discomfort that students face because of these accusations make it unlikely that she will be able to effectively raise awareness and address student concerns, particularly on issues surrounding sexual assault or sexual harassment. Both of these developments create a situation where Contreras will not able to build the coalitions and make the connections that are necessary to enact community building at UCSB and in Isla Vista.
The decision to create this petition was not an easy one. We have worked with the Associated Students elections committee every step of the way to ensure its legitimacy. I and others have been constantly concerned that the circulation of this petition may seem like an attempt to vilify Contreras. After careful consideration, I can truthfully say that it is not. It is an attempt to give students the chance to re-vote for the office of EVPLA with all information considered, and it is an attempt to support the testimony of a survivor.
If we reach the 514 signatures that are needed to enact the recall vote, it will not ensure that Contreras is removed from office. She will still have the opportunity to run again in the fall.
However, it will give the UCSB community the opportunity to voice their concerns through the ballot. It will give the student body the agency that is needed to make an accurate, representative choice for our elected student government.
No matter your opinions on the accusations that have come forward, I urge you to sign the petition. A recall is only the first step in the process. A re-vote will give students the chance to voice new considerations about their representatives. It will also give candidates and political parties the opportunity to reconvene and redefine their platforms.
Please consider using your politically constituted agency to make a difference in regards to this contentious issue.
Monte-Angel Richardson is a fourth-year political science and global studies major and a member of Associated Students. If you are interested in learning more about the article or the recall petition, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.