As spring Associated Students elections near, four newly formed political parties will be participating
In the upcoming spring elections, four new Associated Students (A.S.) parties will be participating: Campus United, Peer Action Coalition (PAC), The Response and QutSB (Queer and Trans Student Body). Open People’s Party (OPP), which accomplished a near-sweep in last year’s elections, will not be participating, and many of its old members now identify with the new groups.
In October, A Bill to Change Associated Students Elections to a Single Transferrable Vote (STV) passed and will be implemented this spring. Under STV, each voter will rank the candidates to their preference and will have a single vote that is initially allocated to their most preferred candidate. As the votes continue to be counted and candidates are either elected or eliminated, the vote is transferred to other candidates according to the voter’s stated preferences in proportion to any surplus votes. The reallocation of votes may vary.
Nawar Nemeh, author of the legislation and second-year history of public policy and global studies double major, said the new system will create more proportional representation in A.S.
“The single transferrable vote was a new voting system we passed in the fall to increase proportional representation,” Nemeh said. “The idea behind STV and proportional representation is that on the ballot, voters can rank their candidates, and there’s a mathematical formula that takes all your choices into consideration. So if you’re a party that wins 60 percent of the vote, you’ll win 60 percent of representation.”
Campus United, in its introductory letter to the student body, said students “are its priority.” They recognized the achievements of their party members, saying “although we are a new party, we take pride in the past accomplishments of our party leadership,” and are “eager to accomplish more on [the students’] behalf.”
Letters and Science Collegiate Senator, Campus United member and third-year history of public policy major Ashcon Minoiefar said Campus United is focused on bringing attention to student fees and general student services because UCSB students pay the most in student fees amongst all 10 UCs.
“Our party is focused on getting some of the conversations and things A.S. does refocused on student fees and general student services. Our party wants to focus on student fees and their proper use and management because we have the highest student fees out of any UC by a longshot,” Minoiefar said.
Minoiefar said Campus United is focused on moving forward based on reforms to the old structure of OPP.
“The new party implemented a lot of changes I wanted to see in OPP, mostly internal and structural changes; nothing grandiose. We wanted to start something new and give everyone some breathing space,” Minoiefar said. “I didn’t leave [OPP] because all these things were wrong, I just realized that I’d rather to start something new. My concerns weren’t what OPP had done in the past, but what I could do in the future.”
Off-campus Senator, Campus United member and third-year political science major Austin Hechler said the party has yet to develop a specific platform, but is focusing on including all students and making resources and services available to all students.
“Campus United doesn’t have a specific platform yet, we’re still a new party, but we really want to focus on inclusivity in A.S.,” Hechler said. “Making sure that everyone feels like they have a spot there because it’s the student union that represents all students and making sure that the services that we put out there are being utilized by everyone and accessible to all students.”
Campus United plans to support the formation of a CSD in Isla Vista, a fee initiative detailing the funds allocated to various campus organizations, utilization of the new A.S. website and more universal use of A.S. Publications for course readers.
“We value inclusivity; we believe that everyone has a spot. We want everyone to know more about A.S. and to feel like they can get involved. We work for all the students, so we want to make sure everyone feels welcome to the services and resources we provide,” Hechler said. “What we want to see changed is representation of Isla Vista as a community service district, the new fee initiative, utilization of the A.S. website that just launched and tagging different parts of campus that use student fees that are A.S.”
Hechler ran as a senator with OPP last year and said that he left OPP to work alongside students with a more similar set of goals, but supports the creation of many new parties. He also said Campus United has learned from OPP and will be using the aspects OPP members thought were successful.
“I left OPP because I found a group of like-minded people that also didn’t agree with certain things OPP did. It’s not any hard feelings, I feel like it’s just better to have more parties to come in and not just have one mega party that everyone knows. I think it’s awesome that so many new parties have formed,” Hechler said. “We’re not OPP anymore, I feel like we’ve learned from OPP and [are] using the aspects we thought were successful in our campaign.”
Campus United party member and fourth-year anthropology and global studies double major Sarah Tagger said Campus United values the students’ voices, the representation of students in A.S. and the fulfillment of student visions.
“Campus United values the amplification of the student voice and the fulfillment of student visions. We aspire to focus on clear consensus student issues, increase services, provide safety, and improve academic accessibility,” Tagger said in an email. “We believe that every student should be represented within Associated Students and utilize its resources. We are dedicated to transparency and open channels of communication.”
Tagger also said Campus United was formed because party members were “dissatisfied with the status quo” and provides a new perspective and leadership for students that pledges to provide students with essential needs.
“Campus United offers an entirely new perspective and new leadership that pledges to provide students with the essential needs that we have been collectively advocating for,” Tagger said. “We are a fresh, new party with a vision for a bright future.”
To learn more about Campus United, visit ucsbcampusunited.com and facebook.com/UCSBCampusUnited or attend any of the informational sessions on Feb. 18 at Santa Barbara Hillel (781 Embarcadero del Norte) at 7p.m., Feb. 22 San Nicolas Classroom at 7p.m., or Feb. 23 at Santa Catalina Fiesta Room at 8p.m.
PEER ACTION COALITION
Peer Action Coalition (PAC) outlined its platform in its letter to the student body. They named their affiliates, saying, “current affiliates of this party include experienced members of A.S. Senate, A.S. entities, RHA, the Office of Student Life, and other student groups,” and “PAC is intended to be unique in nature as we strive to mobilize students, increase involvement and transparency in Associated Students.”
College of Creative Studies (CCS) Collegiate Senator, PAC member, and third-year CCS chemistry and biochemistry major Dustin Larrazolo said PAC’s values fall under the categories of academic excellence, fiscal responsibility, increased inclusivity in university spaces, the destigmatization of mental health considerations and expansion services for those suffering from mental health problems, increased transparency in A.S. government and its entities, collaborations with non-A.S. groups and I.V. self-governance.
Larrazolo said PAC welcomes all students to express their concerns and ideas.
“We call ourselves the Peer Action Coalition because everyone can be a part of it as long as you follow the party’s main platform and you can develop your own individual platform and express concerns, ideas and where you want the party to go and it’s an inclusive space for all students,” Larrazolo said.
Larrazolo also said, as a former OPP member, he felt that OPP had been “corrupted” and deterred from its original platform, creating a need for a new party.
“The party was forced to diversify beyond what it traditionally represented. When you look at the party’s original core values of trying to represent all students and students to all have representation and non-toxic spaces where all students are able to have constructive dialogue, it veered away from that and it wasn’t really the centrist party it used to be,” Larrazolo said. “When you have a political party that runs for 10 years, it’s hard not to become a political machine.”
According to Larrazolo, PAC is the center-left party and hopes to promote inclusion and safe spaces on UCSB’s campus. Larrazolo also said PAC wishes to focus on academics and to reinstate the Academic Affairs Board A.S. dissolved last year.
“Academia is a big priority to us. The Academic Affairs Board was dissolved by A.S. last year, and that was very concerning as the CCS Senator because my job is to focus on academics,” Larrazolo said. “I think we’ve focused on that more than other parties.”
Larrazolo said PAC sees toxicity in previous A.S. elections and hopes to work collaboratively with the other parties to make sure elections are more transparent this year.
“We want to reach out to the other parties to make sure that everyone is a student leader; a student first, leader second, and taking care of their mental health and treating themselves because nobody wants to come out of this being personally hurt or victimized because of personal agendas,” Larrozolo said.
PAC member and third-year political science major Victor Garcia said PAC sees itself as a “hybrid” between Campus United and The Response, as they understand the need for activism and safe spaces on campus, but they also hope to represent the student population as a whole.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to serve the students. We’re not here to serve ourselves. Regardless of what we think is necessary or right, we need to give in to what the students want,” Garcia said. “Ultimately, we want students to know that we want to represent them. Even if they don’t think A.S. is a space for them, we want them to feel comfortable enough to come to us and express their ideas.”
To learn more about Peer Action Coalition, visit twitter.com/UCSBPAC and facebook.com/UCSBPAC.
The Response prides itself on being a progressive party and a “response” to students’ concerns.
Off-campus senator, The Response member and second-year Asian-American studies and political science double major Akshaya Natarajan said The Response was formed because of frustration with the lack of representation in A.S.
“A lot of our members are from different parties and wanted to create a change and bring in more communities,” Natarajan said. “Our platform is centered around that, a lot of community building.”
Natarajan also said tuition-free and debt-free education and student well-being are central to their platform.
“Our party also believes a lot in the right of education. One part of our platform that I don’t see in other platforms is the right to a tuition-free and debt-free education for all of our students,” Natarajan said. “Our party is also dedicated to the physical and mental well-being of the students.”
Natarajan also said that The Response views itself as the most progressive party.
“The other two parties don’t necessary pride themselves on being very socially progressive, but The Response stands wholeheartedly behind it,” Natarajan said. “We won’t back down even if there is backlash. We truly believe in progressive ideals and believe they benefit students and all types of different students.”
PAC member and second-year history of public policy and global studies double major Nawar Nemeh said The Response challenges engrained A.S. politics.
“Historically in A.S., there have been two parties that dominate the space and grapple for power, and The Response sees itself as a new alternative to the system,” Nemeh said. “We think of ourselves as representing the everyday student, representing the underrepresented students who have been marginalized and completely cut out of A.S. and have no voice.”
On-campus senator, The Response member and third-year Chican@ studies and sociology double major Alejandra Melgoza said The Response’s platform is still evolving.
“Our party’s platform is still being added to because we want to hear everyone’s input and we haven’t recruited enough people to get a proper proportion of the student body,” Melgoza said. “A lot of our members have worked in the past with mental health reforms, sexual assault policies and advocating for more resources for students, especially low-income students.”
According to Melgoza, The Response also wants to increase representation for underrepresented communities at UCSB and bring the party members’ identities to light.
“We created a new party because a lot of the party members feel that underrepresented communities have not been represented well in student government,” Melgoza said. “We can amplify those voices and build structures and build those relationships into the institution.”
To learn more about The Response, visit twitter.com/TheResponseUCSB and facebook.com/The-Response-229273187412212/ or attend any of the informational sessions on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. in the SRB, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in Santa Rosa Formal Lounge & Santa Catalina Fiesta Room.
QUEER AND TRANS STUDENT BODY
Queer and Trans Student Body’s (QutSB) mission statement is as follows: “We, the Queer and Trans Student Body, support and affirm the diverse identities and lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, LGBTQ, two-spirit, heterosexual, and same-gender loving as individuals above all else.
We strive to engage the student body in the propagation of inclusive spaces demanding greater accessibility to campus resources and taking action to end the silent epidemic of student hunger. We also acknowledge the systemic power dynamics existing in higher education are mirrored in the systematic misrepresentation of queer folk and people of color in Associated Students. We are F.I.E.R.C.E. (Food Insecurity, Inclusive Spaces, Education, Resources, Campus Climate, and Environment.)”
QutSB member and fourth-year black studies and feminist studies double major Ernesto Piña said the party is running on an education-focused platform rather than a student-government-focused platform.
“Instead of focusing on why you should run with our party or be in Associated Students, we are running on an education platform to make this space available to queer folk,” Piña said.
Piña said QutSB differs from the other parties because of its grassroots perspective and unique, novice outlook on A.S.
“If you see the current structure, every single new party that was started aside from ours were released by ex-senators or senators,” Piña said. “I believe each party has done tremendous work, but I do believe that it is a replication of stuff that has been done in the past.”
Piña said their party is focused on inclusivity.
“We are inclusive to students who are interested in learning about the process of Associated Students through an education lens to realize why they should care,” Piña said. “You don’t have to be queer or trans to join our party. We are inclusive of heterosexual and cisgender individuals.”
QutSB member and third-year environmental studies major Ryan Carr said QutSB wants to address forgotten issues in A.S.
“We’re trying to focus on issues like the silent epidemic and issues of food insecurity on our campus,” Carr said. “We feel there is a misrepresentation of queer folk in A.S., and we want to fix that.”
To learn more about QutSB, visit facebook.com/qutsb/ and twitter.com/qutsb or attend their informational session on Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. in the RCSGD (third floor of the SRB).
A version of this story appeared on pages 1,4,5,6 of the Thursday, February 18, 2016 print edition of the Daily Nexus.