The Daily Nexus endorses Carlos “Andy” Ruiz — a fourth-year sociology major with the experience and vision to carry UCSB through its third presidency of the 2020-21 academic year — for Associated Students president in this week’s special election.
Ruiz is running against Lea Toubian, a fourth-year political science and environmental studies double major. Former Associated Students (A.S.) President Daevionne Beasley resigned in October amid a sexual assault allegation and recall effort against him. Internal Vice President Tianna White stepped in as interim president shortly after until a special election could be held this quarter.
Amid the new normal of the pandemic for UCSB students, Ruiz laid out a comprehensive but realistic plan to specifically assist and advocate for marginalized communities who are most affected by the pandemic.
“I want to use my experiences that I have, not just with A.S., but as a community member myself and someone who’s [been] impacted a lot when it comes to marginalized communities,” Ruiz said. “I want to use that to further fuel my presidential campaign in a way that I can reach out to these communities and let them know that I speak for them because I’ve been there and I am willing to listen [to] what we all need.”
Both Ruiz and Toubian are exceptionally qualified for the position and have the ability to carry the office through the end of its term in the spring. While Ruiz has been the deputy chief of staff for the External Vice President for Local Affairs (EVPLA) for the past two years, Toubian is the current chief of staff for the office of the president, which could mean a quicker transition time if she was elected, as she said in her interview.
But the A.S. president is meant to serve and represent all students, not just those in A.S. We believe the scope of her platform focuses too heavily on fixing problems within the association rather than addressing the student body as a whole.
Toubian specifically mentioned she wanted to “rebuild and repair a lot of the hurt that’s been done in the association,” citing the “toxicity” and “dark sides” she has witnessed in A.S. While this is an admirable goal, it should not be one of the top priorities for a president at a time when students are struggling to adapt to remote learning, need access to in-person and online resources, and are dealing with the impact of COVID-19.
When asked about how to reach out to students outside of A.S., Toubian pointed to the A.S. Pearman Fellowship, which teaches first- and second-year students about the A.S. by pairing them to one of the five executive offices. Toubian said that the fellows would help her access new circles of people and communities, but students in the fellowship make up only a fraction of the student body. Fellows already have a clear interest in A.S., while many students remain unaware of the resources available to them through the president’s office.
When Ruiz was asked the same question, he said his office would focus its outreach on first-year and international students who are unfamiliar with the campus or I.V. Ruiz said his outreach would be done through counselors and professors who teach freshman-level courses in order to promote various A.S. resources through both targeted emails and class presentations.
Toubian also mentioned putting efforts toward the creation of an A.S. Voices Scholarship, which would provide aid for low-income students involved in A.S., in addition to the existing stipends. While A.S. students shouldn’t have to choose between being a part of A.S. and their financial stability, there are students across campus who have lost jobs because of the pandemic and are struggling to get by.
Toubian is the co-chair of the A.S. COVID-19 Task Force, which has put a significant amount of money back into the hands of students during the pandemic via A.S. funds allocated through the executive office and various boards, commissions and units (BCUs).
Both candidates support increasing on-campus COVID-19 testing and opening up some spaces on campus, but Ruiz’s plan is more targeted to specific, vital student resources. He plans to focus on re-opening the A.S. Pardall Center, which provides student employment and resources such as WiFi, printing, scanning, and access to first aid kits and contraceptives.
Additionally, Ruiz says he will advocate for administrators to reopen parts of the University Library, which he said is “key for academic success.” He specifically plans to push for more in-person textbook rentals and scanning to be available, and said he will advocate for online textbook options and digital course readers.
“I know students have issues with getting textbooks, [and] not everyone has a printing station at home. Sometimes people can’t do remote learning; sometimes people live in a house full of eight, nine, ten people and they can’t study at home,” Ruiz said.
“The Pardall Center and [University] Library are resources that I would like to see open available for students, because I feel like just wishing everyone the best and hoping that they stay safe through an email every now and then is not effective.”
In light of the sexual assault allegation which preceded Beasley’s resignation, the needs of survivors of sexual assault have been at the forefront of this election. Toubian said she will invite student organizations that support survivors of sexual assault, A.S. leaders and Greek life organizations to meet together to address issues within student government and UCSB as a whole.
Ruiz directly refuted this strategy in his interview.
“I just feel like when it comes to survivors, oftentimes they’re forced to meet and out themselves,” he said. “And it kind of alludes to putting them in vulnerable positions with people who oftentimes don’t respect them or adhere to what their needs are, so when it comes to like survivors and Greek [life] community, I mean, there’s a long history there.”
Ruiz said that he sees supporting survivors not just as a platform, but as “something that I incorporate into my everyday ideals.” He said he plans to meet with organizations including Students Against Sexual Assault and Standing Together to End Sexual Assault, to be an ally to “hold the administration accountable when it comes to the promises that they give.”
Another policy to support survivors that Toubian mentioned is to “bar those accused of sexual assault from running for student government,” which she cited as “tangible change that can be made [and] that can be quickly implemented” through A.S. Senate and A.S. Elections Board.
A.S. Legal Code does not specifically prevent this policy, but the Nexus doubts the feasibility of preventing a student from running for office without due process and a formal decision from Title IX or another local jurisdiction.
Toubian said that former President Beasley has been one of her friends since freshman year, and Beasley first hired her as his chief of staff last summer. She said that in her role as chief of staff, and if elected as president, she would put the needs of the student body first “completely aside from that relationship.”
While both candidates have years of experience in various A.S. offices, there’s no denying that Toubian’s resume speaks for itself. As the former chief of staff of the Internal Vice President (IVP), co-chair of the A.S. COVID-19 Task Force and current chief of staff of the president, she may be able to more seamlessly navigate the transition. In fact, she said a large reason why she’s running is because she was “the backbone” behind the transition from Beasley to current interim President Tianna White, and she “[doesn’t] think the office can handle another transition.”
If elected, Ruiz would have the power to appoint a new chief of staff. When asked by the Nexus if she would be willing to stay on as chief of staff if Ruiz is elected, Toubian said she’s “not really interested in training and transitioning someone else.”
While it may take more time for Ruiz to fully transition into the role, the Nexus is confident that his years of A.S. experience have prepared him to make that transition quickly and effectively, and his plans for the office outshine Toubian’s plans enough that a longer transitional period is justified.