The Daily Nexus news staff sat down with the five new Associated Students Executive Officers to discuss their goals for the 2015-2016 academic year. President Jimmy Villarreal, Internal Vice President (IVP) Kimia Hashemian, External Vice President of Statewide Affairs (EVPSA) Mohsin Mirza, External Vice President of Local Affairs (EVPLA) Paola Dela Cruz and Student Advocate General Joselin Garcia were officially sworn in on Wednesday, May 20.
Daily Nexus: What do you have planned for the upcoming year?
Villarreal: A big one that I talked about before and I still feel really strongly about is kind of looking more into the finances and how Associated Students is funded…
Number one going through all the finances for all the different groups that receive A.S. funding and saying, ‘Okay you’re a lock in, you get this, you know, $5 per quarter, but really over the last three years you’re only spending $4.25’…
If you can’t reach that then well, you know, we don’t really have a mechanism for lock in fees to ever go down, and very rarely they disappear. Sometimes there’s been something that’s been a lock-in fee and the service stops being something and students are still paying for it for a while. So I’m a little concerned about that, maybe not this year but just in the long term.
Another thing I’ve talked about is bringing mental health first aid to the campus … I can talk to the chancellor, I can advocate for CAPS. [CAPS] needs more services, CAPS needs more hours, CAPS needs more diversity … One thing that Associated Students can do is provide mental health first aid training which teaches you how to recognize friend to friend before you get to a very serious point where you’re going to commit suicide or anything like that … It’s important to create a safety net with the students. That’s something we can control whether or not CAPS gets more funding.
One of our senators Mika Kawakami…she’s got the hook up so somebody can come and train us for free and all we need to do is pay for the books, so it’s $22 per book per person and there’s like 50 people so that’s a lot cheaper than it could be. Over the summer she is going to get trained so she can also provide those trainings. So boom right there it is. There are a couple sessions per quarter that we can do.
Campus Wi-Fi … I don’t know how good our Wi-Fi is here. The thing we’re working on is making it strong enough to spread to Campus Point, but when I was thinking about how do that, I just figure let’s check out all of campus and see where our Wi-Fi is at. You can test that stuff. Full disclosure, I don’t know anything about Wi-Fi and I don’t know what our university’s role in the Wi-Fi is … It might be a problem. I know I have shitty Wi-Fi sometimes.
Hashemian: The concrete plan is my Gaucho Rewards program … I’m meeting with [Associate Dean of Student Life & Activities] Katya Armistead, the new [Residence Halls Association] president Matilda, my [Student Fees Advisory Committee] coordinator Matthew Santos, other people on my staff, whoever wants to join, to implement this app during Week of Welcome, so students can have on whatever we’ll call it, a list of all the events happening with RHA and A.S. and OSL [Office of Student Life]…
They attend these events and they can get points from it. So like ‘oh I’ve attended the Ice Cream Social or whatever, I get 50 points or something.’ Then they can come at the end of the week and get a prize from A.S. We haven’t really decided the specifics of it yet, but that’s what’s the main plan is that’s happening during summer. It’s really more to get A.S. to be well known…
I also want to put a map of the campus to help the first years know to get around and also what A.S. does provide and also what are OSL’s and what’s RHA and try to get students involved because through Week of Welcome is how I got involved.
Mirza: I really want to see us working on getting funding for undocumented students on this campus, because there is a big shortfall between what they receive and what other students of the same income brackets are able to receive.
We’re looking at different solutions right now. It could involve a student lock-in fee, partially funded grants and scholarships. What Berkeley has done is they have an endowment fund that the chancellor created using private donor money, so we could work with our chancellor to get something similar…
We’re going to be working on a UCSB-specific code of conduct for sexual assault policy, because right now we just copy what the UC one is which is ill-fitted for our campus’ unique challenges with Isla Vista and different police departments…
A lot of it will have to do with figuring out the different relations with the different police departments, I.V. Foot Patrol. We’re working out how that will play into it. For an issue like sexual assault a lot of it is going to be me deferring to the knowledge of people who are in my office, and the people who I’m going to be hiring for UConsent are going to be people who have a lot of experience in Take Back the Night who know the policy really well…
On mental health, working on expanding getting CAPS [Counselling and Psychological Services] more space. CAPS needs to be expanded, it needs to be more accessible to students. It needs to have more practitioners that reflect the diversity of the student body. They are very challenged right now because their space is limited.
What the average student will hopefully see is the stronger presence of the EVPSA office and have a policy person working on monthly op-eds so they will be reading what’s coming out of the EVPSA office. We will be hosting teach-ins and educational events, ones that will really focus on getting higher attendance using extra credit, food, etc., so that it’s not just like 20 people but maybe 200 people.
Dela Cruz: What I’m trying to do is to make sure the county allocates some space to the sobering center that has been introduced to us and this is also something that I included in my platform…I want to make sure the sobering center is used as a safe space and is available to all of our students and residents of Isla Vista, whether that be UCSB or SBCC or just families in Isla Vista. They can come here if they feel unsafe regarding safety, sexual assault, racism, or any form of discrimination that they are encountering. So I want to make sure I’m lobbying the county appropriately so that they can give us the space downstairs that was previously [Third District County Supervisor] Doreen Farr’s office so that we can use the space for that…
The second one I’m working on is a community resource deputy. As a senator, I worked on this and introduced a bill to senate so that we could support the efforts to have two resource committee deputies. One in the UCPD and the other in the Isla Vista Foot Patrol. I met with [IVFP] Lieutenant Plastino and he encouraged us to meet with Sheriff O’Brown and to have a committee forum following up with that just to make sure that he commits to this and that the community wants this. So ultimately I am going to the budget hearings and meetings of the county to lobby them and to make sure they give us this funding that we need to have these deputies and officers in our community…
This community resource deputies’ main and only priority is to collaborate with the community and try to have community policing and how can we improve our relationship with the community. They would be attending meetings with Take Back the Night concerning safety issues and other A.S. related community entities. They have lots of years of experiences with the community, with I think the least number of years that they need to have for a diverse community is 10 years, so they are very well qualified.
Something I personally feel so passionate about and I am currently working on is a Latino’s in Isla Vista Association. I identify as a Latina and to me it was really important to help organize a group that is not based on our association [Associated Students], that is not a student led group, but a group led by Latinos, whether they’re families out in Isla Vista, students who have graduated and have remained in Isla Vista or students themselves.
Garcia: El Centro is a historical space for a lot of communities on campus and for a long time students have been working to maintain that it’s a permanent one. It’s under the threat of it being taken down, a lot of students have been fighting over the years to make sure that doesn’t happen. I really do value this space personally…
Tuition on a larger scale in regards to Pell Grants and a budget proposal that would eliminate a $163 billion from Pell Grants and a lot of other programs people depend on. I just got back from an action in Bakersfield where we were holding [California] Representative [Kevin] McCarthy accountable for his support of this budget proposal.
One of the things I want to implement is a survivor bill of rights…We’ve been speaking to students who have been very involved with the issue in terms of what this bill of rights can look like and what kind of resources do we need, what type do we already have. I really supported the sit in that happened with Chancellor Yang a couple weeks ago, I was in the meeting while the meeting was being negotiated. Myself along with two other students were helping the students negotiate the demands, I’ve been reaching out to the students who organized that action.
Advocacy is obviously defined very differently between individuals, there has been an emphasis on casework which is a very crucial part of the office however this is an exec office and you are the SAG and advocating for students on a larger scale is what has been missing.
DN: What will be your biggest challenges this year?
Villarreal: What I want to finish off is during Jonathon Abboud’s year, Ali [Guthy] and I were on Senate, and she and I kind of worked on the restructure of A.S. … We definitely saw this year it was an improvement on how we functioned, but there was that one year of growing pains, so I just want to solidify all the roles.
Also constantly trying to be engaged with the students this year as much as possible. I really want to work on our relationship with OSL groups … them coming for money is often the only time they realize they’re working with A.S. or getting anything from A.S.
Hashemian: Challenges I would say is the senators and A.S. together to know everyone, the advisors, the admin, the chairs of the boards and commission units and any academic senates they have to be a part of. That’s vital and my role would to introduce them and make sure they actually know what each unit does.
Mirza: The biggest challenge is going to be keeping up, because we’re going to be planning things with concrete goals, but as you’ve seen in two weeks the ground changes very quickly in statewide politics, and we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know what the governor’s going to be funding. We don’t know how Napolitano is going to be reacting to some of our policies and suggestions, and we don’t know how the university is going to react to the changes that we’d like to see.
Garcia: I would say probably it’s this different direction that I’m taking. It’s a change, there’s not really somewhere I can go with it, and it’s being created on its own. I’ve had to explain to them my vision and because this is something new, I’m open to criticism as well as guidance throughout the year for this very different manner.
DN: What changes do you plan to make to your office?
Villarreal: One of the things I want to do is really work with my cabinet this year … I was disappointed that [Ali] didn’t meet often with her cabinet, and that’s a lot of people so it’s a little tough to manage I understand.
Chief Marketing Officer is going to be a big thing … I think that will be a really great way for students to understand what’s going on with A.S.
Hashemian: My deputy chief of staff and the president’s deputy chief of staff will be the heads of the fellowship program where before it was just the ASOP [A.S. Office of the President] deputy chief, so that’s really going to get not only students more involved with the IVP but the IVP office more involved on campus so they have to find the resources for the fellows. And the big thing coming with that is with the fellowship is what we want to do with that is to make it fall and winter rather than just the one fall quarter event.
Senate comes in handy because they’re technically part of my staff. I have 25 people to help with the projects that I envision such as Gaucho Rewards and bringing senators into the summer time to work on it and having them work in my office not just with my Officer of Accountability.
Dela Cruz: I will be changing some of the [A.S.] Legal Code to change the name of some of the positions. I want to create a new position in my office. The name of my “deputy chief of staff” is actually called “special assistant” and I feel like they need to be called “deputy chief of staff.” I also feel the need to change the name of some of the other positions because I feel they’re not appropriate and they don’t relate at all.
The new position I want, I don’t know what to call it, but I want this person to focus on Isla Vista self-governance … Senate will vote on it during the summer and come fall, someone will be in that position. I’ve talked with staff from our Assemblymember Das Williams and they are in support of this because they want to make sure someone is constantly going to the meetings. I think it will help me and also help them knowing that someone is always present.
Garcia: Basically how the staff would look like is it would include caseworkers and there would be new positions added which are community organizers and there would be outreach and a chief of staff. But again I really wanted there to be a focus on both types of advocacy which is why I decided to implement these different positions that would focus solely on that type of advocacy and case workers that would focus on that aspect of it.
I really want to incorporate fellows into the office, they would most likely work on outreach to get the name of the office out there and with the community organizers they wouldn’t be working on casework because that’s confidential but that would be another way to ensure that this balance is created.
A version of this story appeared on page 1 of the Thursday, May 28, 2015 print issue of the Daily Nexus.