The Nexus has compiled profiles of our current Associated Students elected officials to reflect on their past year in office. As they look back on their campaign platforms, we asked our elected officials to tell us about their successes and shortfalls throughout their terms in office. The term in reviews for the other executives — President, IVP, S.A.G. and EVPLA — can be viewed at dailynexus.com.
Despite carrying out her entire term in a remote environment and navigating the impact of the recall efforts of former Associated Students President Daevionne Beasley on her office, External Vice President for Statewide Affairs Alia Sky believes that she was able to focus on and accomplish the pursuits she prioritized when first running for the position.
Sky, a fourth-year philosophy and global studies double major, said that because she did not have previous experience in Associated Students (A.S.), she did not come into the External Vice President for Statewide Affairs (EVPSA) position with clear expectations for the office but rather with goals and priorities in mind.
“I was very much coming in with, ‘These are my goals and priorities that I want to accomplish, and that is what I’m going to focus on,’” Sky said.
“[Something] I realized after running is that some of my platforms were not achievable, and I wish I knew that before. I want to be completely honest about that.”
Sky said that one of the challenges she faced this term was lobbying — a core aspect of the EVPSA office that was heavily impacted by the remote environment.
“We’ve never, ever lobbied completely online for a whole year,” Sky said. “I do think that there were major positives, though, because we could bring more students into lobbying since they don’t have to travel, so we got a lot of students involved in lobbying conferences and things like that.”
Despite this challenge, Sky still organized lobbying opportunities for students. Sky said she brought a delegation of students to a virtual student lobby conference, where they lobbied on UC Student Association (UCSA) priorities. Additionally, she worked with Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) to organize a Sexual Assault Awareness Month Lobby Day, which involved lobbying on various bills that concerned survivors of sexual assault.
One of Sky’s main campagining platform points was protecting student survivors of sexual assault and their rights.
In office, Sky allocated $10,000 to Thriving, Not Just Surviving — a program that seeks to provide a safe space for survivors of interpersonal violence through specialist-led workshops involving self-care activities — and further supported the initiative by increasing recruitment for the program.
“They ended up getting hundreds of applications, and they were only used to taking 10 to 20 students at a time,” Sky said. “So they were really underfunded for what they wanted to do, which was taking about 60 students into this program. So, through my office, I was able to give them the extra funds they needed.”
By serving on the UCSA as UCSB’s EVPSA and on the board of SASA, Sky was also able to give testimony for a California state bill sponsored by both organizations called Bill AB-524. The bill would mandate all campus-recognized fraternities and sororities to publish an annual report detailing all instances of sexual assault that occur in chapter houses, chapter facilities and satellite houses, beginning in 2023.
While the EVPSA office has no decision-making power in financial aid itself, Sky said her office increased other financial options for students by dedicating $20,000 to a COVID-19 relief grant — a collaborative effort between the EVPSA office, A.S. Lobby Corps and A.S. Human Rights Board.
The office also increased the maximum amount that students can receive from these types of grants.
“I think before, other grants that have gone out gave $300 or something, and we didn’t think that was appropriate for students that are in massive financial [need],” Sky said. “So we now have a maximum of $750, so we’ll be able to fund a good amount of students.”
Sky also drew attention to creating more mental health resources during her term. Expanding the funding of Counseling & Psychological Services (C.A.P.S.) and Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education (C.A.R.E.) services was her initial first step in doing so, but this faced obstacles from a resistant administration.
The office aimed to provide another avenue for students to seek mental health support separate from C.A.R.E. and C.A.P.S., such as through the UCSB Peer Support Program created by the office’s mental health special projects director Britney Walton, a third-year sociology and dance double major. The program allows students to talk directly with other students who are trained in providing mental health services.
“It’s not like therapy, but we paid for a service from this group to train these students,” Sky said. “We think it’s really good for students to talk to peers of their own age because sometimes it can be weird to talk to a therapist that is in a totally different area of life than you.”
Sky had also wanted to prioritize students by reallocating money that UCSB had given to private companies, but she realized this was not possible after entering office because A.S. Senate, not the EVPSA office, has purview over the issue.
However, Sky did attempt to reallocate the funding given to private companies by directly advocating for the UC system to divest from the Thirty Meter Telescope project. She also ensured that the Mauna Kea volcano protectors and affiliated groups have the opportunity to speak at the UC Board of Regents meetings.
In addition to the remote environment, Sky said that the month-long recall efforts of Beasley, the former A.S. president who announced his resignation on Oct. 26 following allegations of sexual assault, complicated her term. Prior to his resignation, Sky said that it was difficult to function with the rest of the executive team.
“I am a survivor myself, as well as an advocate for survivors, and normally I would just never engage with a person that’s accused of sexual assault,” Sky said. “But I was put in a position where I had to; otherwise, I was going to be left out of all the decision-making processes as an executive.”
“I was like, am I betraying survivors? But if I don’t do this, then am I betraying the constituency that elected me? I honestly didn’t know what to do,” she continued.
Sky said that while Beasley was in office, she made sure that the staff only took meetings that they were comfortable with. Thus, the majority of the communication between the EVPSA office and the executive team was done through Sky herself.
“Every single one of those meetings was triggering for myself, and I’m sure [for] any other survivors that were in those meetings,” Sky said. “I was the first executive to speak up in Senate and say that my office refuses to work with [Beasley] and his office and that I’ll no longer be participating in executive activities if he’s involved, which was very difficult for me because I knew that if no one else spoke up, I might be completely cut out of the executive team.”
Sky said that because Beasley was the previous EVPSA, she was not comfortable with receiving his help in transitioning into the position.
“So I was not transitioned into office, and I’ve learned everything that I’ve done on my own with no help from the past EVPSA,” Sky said. “That was a major learning experience because I didn’t know what the budget looked like, I didn’t know what the office looked like. I had to learn all of that within my first few weeks.”
Now, Sky is confident in passing the torch to EVPSA-elect Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan, a fourth-year political science, sociology and environmental studies triple major and current off-campus senator, and will work to transition Quintero-Cubillan into office.
“I think [Quintero-Cubillan] is overqualified for this position,” Sky said. “They have done more work than I can even imagine someone doing in two years at UCSB and have done so much work for so many different communities.”
“We are already in communication, and we’ve worked together several times before. So I’ll be transitioning them over the next few weeks,” she continued.
With her term coming to a close, Sky advised the incoming executive team to focus on using their positions that were elected by students to serve students.
“A.S. is a bureaucracy, and its power structures are very, very vertical. It always serves the people on top the most,” Sky said. “So if you’re one of those people on top, you have to recognize that and use all the resources at your disposal to make sure the funds and resources go back to the students.”