Presidential candidate Lucian Scher did not respond to requests for an interview and thus was not included in the Nexus’s endorsement process.
The Daily Nexus endorses third-year political science and statistics and data science double major Jack Stein as the next Associated Students President.
While Stein’s opponents — third-year theater major Andrew Devine and third-year political science major Tessa Veksler — are also qualified for the position, Stein has the most robust combination of experience and goals to transform the stagnation and dysfunction that has plagued Associated Students (A.S.) this year.
Stein boasts an impressive résumé that makes him especially qualified for the office. He served as a case worker in the A.S. Attorney General’s office, as the vice chair of the Committee on Committees — which oversees all A.S. Boards, Committees and Units (BCUs) — as the vice president of Anacapa Residence Hall and he served in several fellowship programs on and off campus.
Stein’s work experiences have provided him with a unique understanding of both internal and external A.S. functions. Through his work in the attorney general’s office, he showed understanding of legislative functions of Senate and other internal offices, and his work with BCUs and faculty members has provided him a holistic, direct perspective on the student body’s needs with respect to A.S. functions.
“As president it’s my job to represent the whole student body. It’s my job to represent them to the administration,” Stein said. “And we have to meet people where they’re at. I’m tired of hearing ‘we’re gonna post on social media,’ I’m tired of hearing ‘people are gonna come to us.’ They’re not going to come to us. We need to be at freshman orientation. We need to be at cultural events. We need people to see that we care.”
One of Stein’s largest platform points to achieve this objective revolves around strengthening and expanding the relationship between A.S. and the BCUs, academic groups and Registered Campus Organizations (RCOs) it serves. According to Stein, these campus organizations often struggle to obtain funding through convoluted A.S. guidelines.
To solve these systemic problems, Stein suggested the digitization of requisition forms and building a more efficient long-term requisition system, virtual financial accounts for student groups and fewer legal code restrictions on lock-in fee usage.
He is also running on a platform of basic-needs advocacy — including expanding the A.S. Food Bank, increasing student knowledge of existing food security programs like CalFresh, updating anti-Blackness training for A.S. members and expanding equitable technology programs by ensuring all devices are equipped with programs that students might need to utilize.
Throughout his endorsement interview, Stein also emphasized the need for those inside of A.S. to go directly to the general student population to advertise the resources and programs available to them.
“I think that what these underserved communities feel is that they’re being hindered, and there’s a few programs that can support them, but there’s not really a helping hand — they have to go out and get it themselves. We need to bring these programs to the people that need them,” he said.
However, Stein’s ideas for campus committees, including the Campus Planning Committee — which he would sit on if elected — felt half-hearted, and the Nexus believes that he could improve his campaign and develop solid plans for advocating on campus-building topics that students care about, like Munger Hall and the Ocean Road project.
While the Nexus chooses to endorse Stein, we acknowledge that Devine and Veksler both possess unique skill sets that could benefit the office of the president if they were elected to the position. All three candidates emphasized relevant student basic needs as a platform point and have leadership experience that would help them succeed in the role if elected.
The Nexus acknowledges that Devine is a strong presidential candidate. His platform points are specific, reasonable and thoughtful, particularly his initiative to expand food bank funding and partner with local stores to collect unused food with A.S. transport and distribution services and freeze budget increases until A.S. spending becomes more transparent.
“I would just love to see more intelligent spending, and I think that starts with examining where all of this money is going. There’s so many line items laid out where it’s like, ‘administrative budget 70 grand,’ and there’s no specific line items about where that administrative budget is going,” he said.
Devine also genuinely prioritized and clearly empathized with marginalized students and shared how his own lived experiences as a first-generation, low-income, gay transfer student broadened his perspective, informing the policy decisions that he could make as president.
But while Devine has substantial student government experience, the majority of that is at previous institutions. At UC Santa Barbara, he currently serves as Student Apartment Community Council president and oversees a budget of $120,000. However, in comparison to Stein and Veksler, Devine has less than a year of direct UCSB student government experience and none directly within the spheres of A.S.
Additionally, while the Nexus appreciates Devine’s “peace, love, unity and respect” campaign and community-centric joy, some components of his platform like the creation of a UCSB prom come across as somewhat trivial in light of the serious basic needs insecurity issues that he deleniates in his other platform points.
Ultimately, however, Devine’s lack of involvement in the intricacies of legal code, Senate and internal A.S. functions leads the Nexus to believe that between Stein and Devine, Stein will be more likely to successfully work within a recently dysfunctional and often convoluted system to achieve his goals.
While the Nexus appreciates Devine’s well-thought-out platform points — and in some cases even believe Stein’s ambitious goals could learn from Devine’s tangible solutions — we ultimately think that A.S.’s state of internal turmoil this year requires a leader like Stein with significant experience both inside and outside of the system.
Veksler has significant experience within A.S. She worked in 2020-21 A.S. President Yuval Cohen’s office as the mental health co-commissioner and currently serves as a Letters & Science Senator in the 73rd Senate, where she chairs the Basic Needs Committee.
She is running on a platform of basic needs initiatives — including free testing materials and caps and gowns — monthly meetings with RCOs, A.S. financial transparency, updating the A.S. website and continuing the advocacy work of current A.S. President Gurleen Pabla. When asked why she would make a better president than her opponents, Veksler spoke to her A.S. experience and intimate understanding of the office.
“I think that having that understanding, an inside view of what it means to be president, is going to help me hit the ground running a lot faster. The learning curve will be a lot shorter. I’m going to be able to get to work quicker because of my understanding for the position,” she said.
While the Nexus concurs that Veksler’s experience could help her step into the role more efficiently, we also feel that she did not substantially address specific solutions for solving the disconnect between A.S. and the general student body.
“I think that there’s a huge gap between A.S. and students because they’re not a part of the conversation, so the only way to bridge that gap is to have times where people are invited into our space,” she said.
Unlike Stein, who emphasized the importance of meeting students where they’re at and going into their space for feedback and advertisement, Veksler continued to suggest mostly traditional methods of communication with the student body, like hosting discussion forums and town halls for students to voice concerns and ask questions of A.S. leaders when they’re confused about policy and decision-making.
The Nexus is not confident that Veksler’s proposal to invite students into “our space” through these events will encourage further engagement with A.S. and prefers Stein’s student-first approach to outreach.
Additionally, the Nexus remains concerned by Veksler’s lack of specificity when she discussed collaboration between the Office of the President and entities like executive bodies, Students Against Sexual Assault and marginalized groups on campus.
Stein also demonstrated the most comprehensive understanding of campus functions during his interview, speaking knowledgeably about the impact that Isla Vista’s potential cityhood could have on students.
“When you think about our police presence in this university and in Isla Vista, it’s all because of the fact we don’t have cityship,” he said. “We need to ensure that we’re making concrete steps to get that cityhood so we can actually have our own rights … UCSB students represent 80% of Isla Vista, and that would allow us as students to not only make decisions on our campus, with A.S. but [to] make decisions that affect us in Isla Vista.”
Ultimately, UCSB’s slate of 2023-24 presidential candidates could all successfully hold the role of A.S. president. But of the three, Stein has the most complete combination of understanding what students desire and knowing how to make those needs a reality.
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