It is that time of the year again. While many may think them irrelevant, the Associated Students elections are more significant than merely choosing next year’s student leaders. At a time when our public education system is under attack, we must utilize our resources and collective strengths, both inside and outside student government, to advocate for the accessibility and affordability of our UC education.

As members of the Democratic Process Party (DPP), we have a clear vision for ensuring each student is supported in their personal and professional endeavors in an environment of crisis and uncertainty. While the diverse issues, communities and identities we represent give us a broad perspective, our commitment to dialogue, collaboration and advocacy make us a force for progress.

It was on these principles of engaging students in decision-making and leadership opportunities that we founded the DPP. Our candidates were elected through an open general primary, and we continue to be the only student political party that is formed using the primary process, truly upholding the principles of democracy and collective decision-making.

As individuals, the diversity of our experiences and the issues we work on is our strength. But as a party, we all stand by four C.O.R.E. principles: create, organize, retain and engage.

We will create class availability and job opportunities on campus. In just this last year I’ve facilitated the creation of student employment opportunities through new student services like the A.S. Food Bank and the Sustainable Food Café.

We will continue to organize around the UC financial crisis to prevent unfair budget cuts to our university. This year, DPP member Elysse Madarang led a campaign that successfully registered more than 8,000 student voters for the 2010 gubernatorial race. Because of our advocacy efforts, UCSB was recognized with the Campus Leadership Award at the 2011 statewide Student Lobby Conference.

We will continue to retain the quality of this institution by protecting resources for services that are important to students. Working in the A.S. Office of the President as well as serving on Legislative Council, I’ve led initiatives to provide new financial resources for students in need, such as extending and increasing A.S. emergency loans. This retention effort also extends for the specific needs of those who are differently-abled. I’ve co-authored a proposal for a student-run transportation system for students with permanent or temporary physical disabilities.

We will continue to facilitate discussion between students and key decision-makers. This year DPP member Joel Mandujano spearheaded an effort that successfully recruited over 900 students to apply to become involved in boards, commissions and committees. And Nicole Leopardo, Third Supervisorial District Representative for Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee, has experience working with elected officials advocating on behalf of students against the Social Host Ordinance.

Although we do not limit ourselves to these four principles, they represent our focus.

Over the next two weeks, remember that under these budget circumstances, we cannot afford to merely elect student representatives — we need advocates.

Stanley Tzankov is the presidential candidate for the Democratic Process Party (DPP).