The Nexus has compiled profiles of our current Associated Students elected officials to reflect on their past year in office. Looking 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 — IVP, EVPSA, EVPLA and S.A.G. — can be viewed at dailynexus.com.
[Editor’s Note]: Daevionne Beasley was accused of sexually assaulting another UCSB student during his freshman year, an allegation the Nexus reported last spring. Term in reviews are specifically intended to examine an executive’s work during their time in office, which is why the allegation is not being addressed in the piece.
If there is any indication of an unprecedented year for UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Students, look no further than its Office of the President.
Any president leading Associated Students (A.S.) would have led the office during a year full of obstacles, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and a far-flung student body. But the term was marked by three separate leadership changes — Daevionne Beasley, Tianna White and Lea Toubian — which made for a stressful year marred by vexation, turnover and inconsistency.
That isn’t to say, however, that the office’s work was left to dry. Each president, despite the brevity of their leadership, made bonafide efforts to keep the office running smoothly and catered to students’ needs during what will be looked back on as one of the most unique years in A.S. history.
Beasley, a fourth-year sociology major and the office’s first president of the year, began his term after winning the Spring Quarter 2020 A.S. election with Campus United over his Isla Vista Party opponent, fourth-year sociology and communication double major Daniel Segura-Esquivel.
White took over from October to mid-January following Beasley’s resignation, after which Toubian, a fourth-year political science and environmental studies double major and independent candidate, was sworn in as this year’s final president after winning the Winter Quarter 2020 special election over Carlos “Andy” Ruiz, a fourth-year sociology major.
Beasley, who served as the External Vice President for Statewide Affairs in the year prior to his presidency, said his path to the office was straightforward.
“I had already held an executive office as I was finishing up my junior year. And I figured that I’ve already been doing the work, so I might as well take it to the next step and run for president,” Beasley said in an interview with the Nexus. “I thought the transfer of power would make things a lot easier for myself, for the Association and for the students, and I figured that I would be the best person to move that forward.”
Once elected, Beasley said he established a three-pronged approach to guide his work in the office. This included collaborating with on-campus and off-campus entities for various events and issues, bolstering the university’s COVID-19 response and spreading awareness about social justice and activism.
To address student advocacy, Beasley said he collaborated with and served on a panel for Jopwell, a career-advancement startup for Black, Latinx and Indigeneous students, where he represented UCSB and spoke to the challenges afflicting marginalized students here. In addition, Beasley said he and his office collaborated with and allocated funds to UCSB’s Know Your Props Coalition to help garner support for propositions like Proposition 16, which was later defeated with a 56.7% no vote last November.
When it came to COVID-19, arguably his largest sticking point, Beasley said he tried to address the pandemic from multiple angles. His work in this respect consisted largely of communicating with UCSB’s Student Health Services Medical Director Ali Javanbakht, “dispelling rumors” through information campaigns and publicizing information about COVID-19 testing, contract tracing and isolation housing.
Additionally, Beasley said he worked with other A.S. executive offices to order masks and other personal protective equipment for the student body while keeping former A.S. President Alison Sir’s COVID-19 Task Force working with funding to provide financial support to students and organizations in need of it. Lastly, Beasley said he met with university leadership — including Chancellor Henry T. Yang — to secure $750 in “severance pay” for Resident Assistants who lost their contracts, and subsequently, their jobs, last fall quarter.
“That was obviously an imperfect solution,” Beasley said. “But it was at least better than what they were given, which was absolutely nothing.”
When it came to social justice and activism, Beasley said he worked with the Graduate Student Association, other A.S. executive offices, the student body presidents at other UC campuses and UC President Michael V. Drake to reaffirm support for Black students, stand against anti-Blackness and reform the UC Police Department.
But from the beginning of Beasley’s term, allegations of his past began to circulate and calls for him to resign came along with them. As the Nexus reported in the first month of his term, Beasley was accused of sexually assaulting another UCSB student during his freshman year.
By October 2020, nearly six months into his term, a petition to recall Beasley from the Office of the President had reached the threshold of verified signatures needed for a recall vote.
Immediately after the petition reached its voting threshold, Beasley filed a petition against the A.S. Elections Board on Oct. 21, alleging that the petition violated Legal Code procedures by allowing freshmen and first-year transfer students — who were not students during the spring election — to sign the petition. Beasley’s petition shocked other A.S. senators and executives, many of whom publicly called for the recall election to move forward in response.
But mere days before the recall election was expected to begin, Beasley announced that he was resigning from the presidency.
“I realized that by me holding the position, it wasn’t the best for the Association and it wasn’t the best for students as a whole. There was just too much going on,” he said. “For me to be able to accurately represent students, I had to realize that it wasn’t all about me and wasn’t all about what I wanted to do.”
Through all of Beasley’s tenure, Toubian served as his chief of staff, helping to keep the office moving forward as Beasley became “pretty preoccupied” in fighting his removal, Toubian said.
“That sort of caused me to step up and fill certain roles that the president was not able to do at the time,” Toubian said. “Through the recall process and the interim presidency, I had to fill in the executive roles a lot more.”
She said she was involved “briefly” in the filing of Beasley’s judicial council petition, but removed herself quickly and distanced herself from the recall “for the sake of the office.”
When Beasley resigned, White, a fourth-year political science major and the 2020-21 Internal Vice President, succeeded Beasley, as is outlined in A.S. Legal Code. White was officially sworn in during the Oct. 30 Senate meeting and began transitioning into the role with the help of Toubian.
White described the abrupt transition to president and the weeks leading up to it as “tumultuous.”
“I would say that the transition was difficult because it’s kind of transitioning to a whole new game,” White said. “For my two years as an elected official, I was [pro tempore] and then [first pro tempore] and then I was internal vice president — very administrative sides of the association, and that has been my forte for the past two years.”
“So then transitioning from this administrative side to this more representative side was very, very interesting,” she continued. “[I was] dealing with high-level administration, making sure that they’re listening to student voices and taking student concerns into account when making these big decisions.”
During her term, White said she worked closely with Toubian to continue Beasley’s ongoing work and to make headway on larger projects, like finalizing a plan for the A.S. Bike Shop and meeting with Chancellor Yang, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn and other administrators to bolster the university’s COVID-19 response as cases skyrocketed in the county during winter quarter.
Having entered the Office of the President by way of A.S. Legal Code order of succession as opposed to an election, White said she regrets not reaching out to A.S. Boards, Commissions and Units (BCUs) to “see what they wanted to do and what they’re interested in,” as she had no platform points to guide her work.
“I thought it would be a way of continuing the work of the office while also bringing on new stuff,” White said. “One of the suggestions that I got was an A.S. rebrand. It was going to be in collaboration with one of the BCUs … but in combination with the transition back, I tried to take it to my office, but it fell through eventually.”
Despite frustrations, White said she is proud of the work she and her office produced during her term. Though the position was temporary, White said her term as president taught her timeless lessons for the future.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you can’t just snap your fingers and change something, but you can definitely work towards it,” she said. “And you can start to set that precedent for the office, for yourself [and] for future senates.”
White’s time as president was always intended to be an interim role, until a new president could be elected by the student body in another special election in January 2021. Toubian ran as an independent candidate against Ruiz, winning with 53.83% of the vote. She was sworn in the following week, but emphasized that stepping into the presidency was a seamless transition because she had already been doing much of the same work in her role as chief of staff.
“There was a lot of shifting around, and a last shift to someone completely outside of the office would have definitely killed a lot of the momentum of the work,” Toubian said, explaining why she was most qualified to take over as the third president in one year.
Toubian’s top priority was continuing the work of the A.S. COVID-19 Task Force, which she served as chair for during the entire year. She said it was an “unexpected” role to take on, but called it her “most proud and most rewarding work” she’s done in A.S.
Since summer 2020, the task force has approved nearly 700 need-based grant applications to give money back to students, with more to be approved this quarter, totaling $208,800. The task force also partnered with other A.S organizations who put out their own grant applications, including the Student Commission on Racial Equity (S.C.O.R.E.), Trans & Queer Commission, Basic Needs Committee, Global Gaucho Commission and Black Women’s Health Collaborative. Toubian said that no grant applications like this have been offered before at UCSB or any other UC.
“Just like we wish that the university would give us tuition money back, this was our way of at least trying to more equitably redistribute some of the student fees that are given to A.S.,” she said.
Through the task force, Toubian also pushed Chancellor Yang to increase free COVID-19 testing to all students, which was made available at Santa Catalina residence hall and Loma Pelona conference center.
“I would find that often my meetings with [Yang] tend to be the only time that he does actually consult students, so it’s a pretty large privilege and a pretty large platform to be able to tell him what students want,” she said.
Another key initiative Toubian prioritized during her time as chief of staff and president was advocating for grade change policies within the Academic Senate. There, Toubian served as the student representative, where she noticed a severe disconnect between faculty and students in understanding students’ academic challenges brought on by remote learning.
“Until I sort of placed myself as the undergraduate representative, they had not consulted any students, which is why they didn’t know to extend the Pass/No Pass deadline in the fall,” Toubian said. “The effects of the pandemic were being downplayed a lot.”
Toubian, along with other students involved in A.S., pushed the Academic Senate to extend the deadline to the end of Week 10, but Toubian said she was disappointed that the Academic Senate didn’t institute further changes.
The Academic Senate had the option to tell all departments that classes taken for major requirements could be taken as Pass/No Pass, but instead they instead allowed individual departments to make that choice for themselves. Toubian said that decision was a “huge mistake” that caused a lot of confusion among students and put many at a disadvantage.
The end of this year’s presidency brings with it old and new projects which will continue under incoming president Yuval Cohen, a third-year political science and philosophy major. The new A.S. Bike Shop — which began taking shape under 2018-19 A.S. President Brooke Kopel — is now in the final planning stages, which construction set to begin this October. The Basic Needs Vending Machine — a personal project for 2019-20 President Sir — is currently in the pilot stage. The project was stalled this year because students did not have indoor access to the MultiCultural Center, where the vending machine is located.
Toubian is passing down a few of her own projects to Cohen. She hopes to see the COVID-19 Task Force and its student grants continue through the transition back to in-person instruction. She’s also begun the planning stages for installing lightbox therapy boxes across campus for students to use to fight seasonal affective disorder, and she’s currently working with the Community Services District to install a community fridge in I.V., filled with food from community donations.
The 2020-21 A.S. Presidency was marked by the natural fractures that came with three different leaders at the helm, on top of a pandemic that dispersed the student body across the state, country and world.
“This year has been definitely unconventional, it has been quite the roller coaster. But I think especially since I’ve been doing work in the office since June , I’m feeling really good about how the year ended up at least, and the consistency and work ethic that me and the staff have been able to maintain,” Toubian said.
“I’m really proud of the way that we were able to salvage what could have just been a really unsalvageable year.”