Third-year political science majors Jason Garshfield and Brandon Morse formed a new campus political party last week, the Free Thinking Patriots (FTP), and plan to compete in the upcoming Associated Students elections this coming April.

Garshfield is considering running for A.S. President and Morse for A.S. External Vice President of Local Affairs (EVPLA) under the FTP platform, and both will make an official announcement at the Declaration of Candidacy meeting on March 5. The idea for FTP, which will be the first new party formed since 2010, came from a campus club Morse began in Fall 2013 while a student at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC).

According to Garshfield, FTP aims to preserve the freedoms of individual students.

“We’re about preserving the basic rights of the students, allowing people who are doing their own thing, minding their own business, to live life,” Garshfield said.

Garshfield said a major component of the FTP platform will be trimming down the A.S. budget to focus on essential services, stating that the library is an example of misaligned budgetary priorities.

“It’s going through this three-year renovation and that’s going to be going on almost until I graduate,” Garshfield said. “Before either using taxpayer dollars or student funds on these grand projects, we should be focusing on preserving the rights of the students, and that’s what we’re about.”

Morse said A.S. should not impose funds through lock-in fees, especially considering the low election turnout during fee initiative elections. According to him, FTP will instead give students the option to pay for activities and services separately.

“You’re voting with your dollar at that point,” Morse said.

Official People’s Party (OPP) Chair and fourth-year political science major Elijah Ettenger said in a statement that eliminating lock-in fees is not the solution to increase fiscal responsibility.

“We feel the solution is instead to have a more strict process for the enactment of new lock-in fees so that only the most critical are approved,” Ettenger said.

According to Garshfield, one of FTP’s main concerns is “police occupation” in Isla Vista, and he criticized OPP for not addressing this alleged issue.

“We’re very concerned about the police occupation,” Garshfield said. “The fact that our only elected representatives haven’t been dealing with it is something we definitely feel needs to be corrected.”

Garshfield said while he believes FTP’s goal to address police behavior will be “fairly noncontroversial” among students, the party’s views on how to address the issue may face opposition.

“A lot of the students are fed up with the police presence,” Garshfield said. “So that at least is something a lot of students will get behind. What I think might be controversial is that we’re willing to choose freedom over safety … There are some people who believe that without the increased police presence, we are not going to be able to maintain order.”

Morse said A.S. should view police relations through a framework of “community-based solutions.”

“I think that there are definitely ways that we can self-regulate,” Morse said, “We don’t need this sort of martial law.”

According to Ettenger however, OPP has already taken steps toward improving community and police relations.

“In order to achieve this we must first bring everyone to the table,” Ettenger stated. “OPP has already begun this process by organizing programs such as Pizza with Police and Coffee with the Cops.”

I.V. Foot Patrol Lieutenant Robert Plastino said he agrees that there needs to be increased efforts made to improve police relations with the student community.

“Positions like a Community Resource Deputy are sorely needed in Isla Vista, yet budget and staffing issues prevent such outreach,” Plastino said in an email.

Garshfield said the process he underwent to register FTP as an official party was unnecessarily complicated and could potentially discourage other student political participation.

“There’s also this very complex set of rules and regulations, and I think a lot of it is designed to stop ordinary students from getting involved,” Garshfield said. “That’s something that’s concerning to me and I’d like to see the elections code made … a little simpler for students to get involved with.”

Third-year political science, black studies major and former Democratic Process (DP) party candidate Mohsin Mirza said he agrees the process involves many barriers. According to him, the DP party has not announced any candidates for the upcoming election.

“The process is difficult, but more than just rules and regulations,” Mirza said. “If you don’t have the money, if you don’t have the time, if you’re a working-class student — it’s very difficult to be in those positions.”

A.S. Elections Committee Chair and second-year political science major Fiona Hayman however said starting a political party is a very accessible process for students.

“Anyone can start their own party if they fill out the necessary form and appoint a party liaison, who will be the point of communication between the party and the Elections Committee,” Hayman said. “I see this as beneficial for the UCSB community, as the accessibility of the processes of forming a party and running for office is essential to the efficacy of democracy.

Morse said he and Garshfield decided to register a party for this spring’s election in part to ensure there is a party to compete against OPP.

“It seems like the OPP party is the only one that is running, so we thought that it was important just to have a competition of different ideas,” Morse said.

Garshfield said he is worried OPP is gaining complete control of the campus’ political conversations.

“Over time, I’m worried that it will become more and more of a political machine that simply turns out candidates for the sake of winning,” Garshfield said. “Someone needs to challenge the status quo, and we were the ones to stand up and do it.”

According to Mirza, multi-sided political party competition is important to represent the variety of student voices that exist on campus.

“I believe we need to have multiple parties,” Mirza said. “The fact that there’s just two parties I think is a failure, because I think students think in more than two different ways.”

But Ettenger said OPP is committed to representing each and every student on campus.

“Every year our party brings together a diversified group of students that provide a consistent influx of new and innovative ideas to best represent all students,” Ettenger said in a statement.

According to Morse, FTP has gathered support and would like to run more candidates in the upcoming A.S. elections.

“We’ve found some other people who are interested in running with us,” Morse said. “Generally, we have gained a lot of support.”

Morse said while FTP’s conservative ideas may face challenges, he hopes the party will be seen as a vehicle for representing common student interests.

“The Free Thinking Patriots is not about representing one party as a whole,” Morse said. “Its specific mandate is to rise above that and come up with common ground solutions.”

According to Mirza, the rising cost of education makes collective funding for student groups vital in order to ensure student empowerment and diversity.

“At a time when education is so expensive, we need well-funded organizations advocating for us,” Mirza said. “The idea of having students pay for things themselves, out of pocket, undermines the idea that we are stronger when we act together and pull all our resources together.”

Mirza said he runs the A.S. Lobby Corps, which uses A.S. funding to take students to Sacramento to meet with California legislators and lobby on student-related issue like affordability of education. Mirza said he thus feels A.S. funding for particular student activities is important.

“That money is used for very important things that help students,” Mirza said.

Mirza also said the A.S. budget could be made more efficient without having to reduce collective student funding.

“Do I think that we could be doing more with the resources we have? Yes,” Mirza said. “But I think it’s absurd to say the solution is to weaken our own power by taking away our ability to fund ourselves and our projects.”

According to Morse, although he does not “think that it’s a secret that [he is] a conservative,” he said he hopes FTP will be seen as a vehicle for representing common student interests, not as a platform for his and Garshfield’s politics.

“The Free Thinking Patriots is not about representing one party as a whole,” Morse said. “Its specific mandate is to rise above that and come up with common ground solutions.”

While Garshfield called FTP an “underdog,” he said believes in its ideals and is ready to compete with OPP.

“If I didn’t believe in shooting high I wouldn’t be doing this,” Garshfield said.