In their interview with the Daily Nexus, Zion Solomon told the Nexus that they believe they are the most qualified person for the position of Associated Students president – and the Nexus agrees.
The Nexus endorses Solomon, a second-year history of public policy major, for Associated Students president, a position that requires intense advocacy, poise and the ability to hear all students on campus, and one we believe Solomon is beyond well-suited for.
The Nexus acknowledges that Solomon’s opponent, Alison Sir, is a formidable candidate in her own right – and we firmly believe that no matter who emerges as winner in next Thursday’s elections, the campus will be in safe hands – but Solomon’s tangible track record of creating change, and their concrete goals for the future, is what gave them a leg up over Sir.
While both candidates have past experience as senators, Sir as an off-campus senator with the 68th Senate and Solomon as an on-campus senator with the 69th Senate, their experiences while at the table vastly vary.
Solomon has gone above and beyond what the student body elected them to do during their term on the Associated Students (A.S.) Senate. It seems Solomon has a resolution on the table nearly every week, if not every other week.
Sir drafted three resolutions during her entire term as a senator.
In their interview with the Nexus, Solomon cited their primary reason for running is because they genuinely wanted to help students, and because, having been engaged in so many spaces on campus, they understand what students need.
Solomon firmly believes in the term “trickle-up social justice,” which they explained as helping the most marginalized, vulnerable people on campus: “the people who have their voices silenced the most.”
Furthermore, Solomon’s resume sprawls all over campus – they have worked in Ortega Dining Commons, the Davidson Library, the UCen Bookstore, the A.S. Cashiers and Ticket Office and beyond.
However, their most prominent role came in being the A.S. Finance and Business Chair, during which they kept track of nearly $15 million dollars in student fees while also holding an unwavering commitment to transparency through weekly graphics that showed students exactly where student fees go.
Solomon has also reached outside of the senatorial role to organize the Trans Joy Take Over, a survivor solidarity event, and worked hard to promote the A.S. Book Bank in order to help students who may otherwise not be able to afford textbooks.
“I’ve seen so many aspects of student life, I feel like that makes me very equipped and qualified,” they said in their interview with the Nexus.
“I kept telling students this year, this is your money. A.S. needs to be less of an elitist thing, it takes work from people within it to share with people out of it and people who don’t know very much about it.”
Their proudest moment as senator came when they drafted a resolution supporting the Black Student Union Demands and were able to see the tangible change being made for Black students on campus.
As a senatorial candidate in Spring Quarter 2018, Solomon centered their platform on mental health education, pushing for decreased wait times at Counseling and Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.).
While this goal was not nearly unique at the time, Solomon won the most “first” votes out of any other on-campus senator during the Spring Quarter 2018 elections.
They have further solidified relationships with UCSB administration, working with Vice Chancellor for Students Affairs Margaret Klawunn to lower the fee waiver for students who have been charged in the College Alcohol and Substance Education (C.A.S.E.) program, as well as supporting former A.S. Advisor LaDonte King’s legacy by creating the “King’s A+ For Excellence” scholarship in his name.
Solomon said they had to work hard to get that fee lowered. “I really had to show them that I’m not just a student who enjoys drinking and wants people to not get charged for that. It’s a serious issue… students were put in really bad financial situations because of the C.A.S.E. fee and sometimes it was just because they were caught with alcohol in a dorm or just very minor things when the real issue is actually binge drinking.”
Solomon also has a self-described “working relationship” with the Office of Financial Aid, putting on workshops with them and becoming familiar with the department’s director.
They further spoke to their attendance of conferences, noting they have a “really good network” at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. They have learned from those campuses and their student governments with the aim of making UC Santa Barbara’s A.S. better.
GOALS IF ELECTED:
It appears Solomon has not forgotten the C.A.P.S. goal that they ran on as a senatorial candidate, as Solomon noted in their interview with the Nexus that, if elected, they want to continue to push for more funding for C.A.P.S., along with a dozen other agenda items, which include:
- Supporting the Black Student Union Demands;
- Working to make textbooks more affordable;
- Creating UC-wide coalitions between student activists and student leaders;
- Pushing the UC President, Janet Napolitano, to make sure students’ voices are heard;
- Creating a peer mentor program with the Office of the President, in which students would be more informed about their financial aid and advising options;
- Continuing to put out surveys to gauge students’ needs;
- Expanding the A.S. Book Bank;
- Creating a “legitimate” test bank so students can share notes, which Solomon believes will help with retention rates;
- Creating an academic excellence initiative to create part-time jobs through the expansion of the book bank;
- Creating a program called Gaucho Career, which is a career development program that would help students get a headstart on a future career;
- Redesigning the A.S. website so it is more interactive;
- Expanding the A.S. fellowship;
- Working with the Alumni Association to develop a mentorship program that would connect successful alumni and students;
- Moving beyond just the A.S. Senate’s live stream and live streaming meetings with all administration officials to make them more accessible;
- Create a lock-in fee that would support the cost of gender reassignment surgery, creating a grant similar to the ones given out by the Educational Opportunity Program;
Sir is running on a platform of making college more affordable by lobbying legislators, introducing an app that would contain a list of all A.S. resources, purchasing a subscription to Headspace – a guided meditation app – for every student using A.S. monies and putting a vending machine in I.V. that would provide free meals to students with financial need and undocumented students.
Sir has been working on the latter project during her “gap year” between senate and her candidacy.
The Nexus acknowledges Solomon has a tendency to lean away from impartiality: a few weeks ago, they went as far as to call the other party “Colonizers United” in a tweet on their Twitter page, which was public at the time. We were disappointed when Solomon did not fully respond to our question about the tweet and a question about a judicial council case they were involved in.
They did, however, admit that the tweet was a “momentary lapse” in judgement.
If elected, Solomon said they would not use their private social media accounts for A.S. and political business.
The second point of concern with Solomon’s candidacy – and one that gave the Nexus pause when discussing endorsements – was the fact that they deceived the student body during Fall Quarter 2018 by not living amongst their constituents.
During their interview with the Nexus, Solomon admitted to living off campus during Fall Quarter 2018, a possible violation of their term as an on-campus senator – an offense that fellow On-Campus Senator Yasamin Salari was removed from her position for.
They spoke candidly about their situation, citing financial struggles as the reason.
“In the beginning of the year and throughout the summer, I could not afford to live anywhere. So I didn’t have a lease… anywhere fall quarter,” Solomon said.
Solomon added that they did tell Internal Vice President Steven Ho about the situation; however, the fact remains that their constituents did not know.
“I was living with a friend until I could afford to pay for winter and spring [quarters]. And I’m in a pretty bad place financially. I was trying to save up money.”
Solomon said the reason they didn’t speak about the issue publicly at the time is because they did not want “the additional burden” that came with the publicity that Salari had experienced.
The Nexus acknowledges that Solomon’s deception was troubling.
However, given Solomon’s ability to be candid and open with us now, combined with the financial hardships that they had faced, we do not believe this should affect the student body’s decision on who to choose as the president.
Despite the Nexus’ specific concerns, we fully recognize Solomon’s cracks as a candidate are far and few compared to their successes.
Solomon has created change in every corner of this campus. Even those not involved in A.S. circles – which are admittedly rather insulated – know Solomon as someone who has accomplished a lot in their short time at UCSB, a fact the Nexus found as we were deciding who to endorse.
Solomon is a current second year, and while we realize that having a third-year A.S. president is a bit unorthodox, they appear to be naturally suited for the position.
They are open about their struggles and their qualifications, and aren’t afraid to take on the realities of the job – they noted that their identity as a queer, Black person helps them to understand the struggle of all students, particularly marginalized ones.
In their interview, Solomon put it aptly: “The most marginalized people [on campus] experience all the bugs in a system, like all the things going wrong with the association or the university… We’re able to feel it the most and then we’re able to advocate for them and make this university better in a way that benefits every single student on this campus.”
As echoed before, the Nexus believes that either Solomon or Sir would serve the school well; no matter who takes home a victory on the night of April 25, our school will be in good hands.
However, the fact remains: our choice is Solomon – we have faith in them to not only do the job required if elected, but to also go above and beyond to advocate for UCSB students at every possible level.
The Daily Nexus Editorial Board is comprised of the editor in chief and the news team.
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the April 18, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.