The Daily Nexus endorses Marvia Cunanan — a third-year sociology major running with Isla Vista Party — as the next External Vice President for Statewide Affairs.
The Nexus believes that Cunanan’s experience in the External Vice President for Statewide Affairs (EVPSA) office, UC Student Association (UCSA) and Commission on Disability Equality (C.O.D.E.) equip her with the institutional knowledge and on-the-ground skills to run the office. Cunanan demonstrates a zeal for advocacy that is critical to representing students at a statewide level.
Cunanan — who is running unopposed — is focused on advocating for disability justice, protecting funding for safe spaces for marginalized students and calling for accountability in UC investments.
Additionally, the Nexus commends Cunanan’s emphasis on strengthening cultural and community resource centers to preserve the space they provide for marginalized students. This commitment to continuing current EVPSA Esme Quintero-Cubillan’s provision of direct funding to campus entities is of indisputable value to the UC Santa Barbara community.
“Making sure that we protect the funding for these programs that offer safe and affirming places for students to feel like they can belong on campus is something that I prioritize in my work and also plan to prioritize as EVPSA,” she said.
Outside of her platform points, Cunanan’s experience in the EVPSA office as current campus organizing director gives her familiarity with the office’s functions and structure that would facilitate a smooth transition. Their current role in the office also gives them direct experience in organizing, such as assembling a student delegation for the annual UC Student Organizing Summit and helping plan large community-oriented events like the Students of Color Conference.
Cunanan is additionally involved in UCSA as the Campus Action Tactic Committee chair, giving them experience in organizing UC-wide for advocacy efforts like affordability for students and defunding the UC Police Department.
Additionally, the Nexus feels Cunanan’s progressive work as internal affairs coordinator for C.O.D.E. is indicative of her ability to institute structural change. Cunanan said she found issues in the commission when she initially joined because of the lack of community and discussion it provided among disabled students.
“I first started in the commission looking for space to connect with the disabled community where we could discuss things like how the experience with disability intersects with race or sexuality. That is what I was looking for, but I couldn’t find it because the commission itself was not designed to acknowledge disabled students as a community but rather something that we need to advocate on behalf of,” Cunanan said.
In response to these shortcomings, Cunanan instituted two new outreach positions in the commission — the gender and sexual equity outreach coordinator and the racial justice outreach coordinator — and organized workshops and events to foster the discussion she sought when entering the commission.
The Nexus believes this is demonstrative of Cunanan’s ability to analyze systemic problems in organizations and work to remedy them and believes she will apply this skill to the EVPSA office.
Cunanan describes herself as a “disabled student with multiple marginalized identities” which they said informs their advocacy and strengthens them as a leader and representative of the student body.
“I identify as a disabled student, and I bring that up because in too many ways, the institution has excluded us and told us that we don’t belong here,” Cunanan said. “I am committed to creating an inclusive future where students like me and unlike me can thrive in a university.”
Cunanan noted that advocating for universal design — or the designing of infrastructure for greater universal accessibility — is critical toward the work of disability justice and for the wider student population. For instance, she cited remote learning during the pandemic as beneficial for not just disabled students but transfer and commuter students as well.
“When you think about pandemic learning, there was accessibility in ways that hadn’t previously been seen before … [I want] to make sure that accessibility is protected, even after the pandemic,” Cunanan said. “There’s this broad population of students that benefit from universal design and accessibility, and it’s my main priority to champion those needs.”
Cunanan’s accessibility work and the benefits that knowledge will bring to the position of EVPSA are clearly commendable. However, the Nexus believes that if elected, Cunanan should place a larger emphasis on advocating for students at the statewide level and the office’s liaison position between UCSB and statewide entities than demonstrated in her interview.
During her year in the EVPSA office, Cunanan organized the “I Stand With Immigrants” day of action event, distributed over 600 days worth of menstrual products to the campus community and has plans to advocate for issues regarding Munger Hall, a controversial dorm development, and to divest from the Thirty Meter Telescope project on a statewide level if elected to office.
Ultimately, her lived experience as a disabled student and a queer person of color navigating university institutional structures gives her a thorough understanding of obstacles and issues marginalized students face. This, combined with years of productive and successful work both within the EVPSA office and outside of it, makes Cunanan an excellent candidate for this position.
A version of this article appeared on p. _ of the April 14 print edition of the Daily Nexus.