IVP candidate Jacob Eisner declined to be interviewed by the Nexus, and thus is not included in the decision of this endorsement.
The Daily Nexus unanimously endorses third-year chemical engineering and biochemistry double major and Deputy Head of Staff in the Office of the External Vice President for Local Affairs Jessy Gonzalez as the next Associated Students Internal Vice President.
The Associated Students (A.S.) Internal Vice President (IVP) leads the Senate and serves as the representative for A.S. in all internal affairs. Given Gonzalez’s extensive history of legislation, student advocacy work and familiarity with senatorial processes, the Nexus believes that Gonzalez would impactfully restore function and efficiency through exceptional leadership to the 74th Senate.
The Nexus also endorsed Gonzalez for IVP during the 2021-22 school year election.
The IVP position experienced several shifts in leadership this past year following the removal of Bee Schaefer as IVP via an executive order issued by A.S. President Gurleen Pabla, citing Schaefer neglecting her duties. The removal followed Schaefer’s months-long strike from her position, citing allegations of anti-Black harassment within A.S.
The Senate did not convene for eight weeks during this period, with External Vice President for Local Affairs (EVPLA) Hailey Stankiewicz stepping in as interim IVP. A special election was held in winter quarter and Sydney Kupsh was then appointed as IVP for the remainder of the 73rd Senate.
These shifts have resulted in a fractured Senate — with several empty seats due to resignations this year — and a loss of institutional knowledge that impacted Senate function this academic year.
Both Gonzalez and his opponent, economics and philosophy double major and current Off-Campus Senator Sohum Kalia, had differing views of restoring function to the Association in the wake of such disarray — Kalia through primarily internal overhaul and Gonzalez through a balance of rebuilding infrastructure and mending the relationship between A.S. and the student body.
Gonzalez’s experience in both internal and external A.S. roles provide him with the appropriate skills and perspective to dually amend Senate dysfunction and address student needs. Though both candidates understand the internal dysfunction the Senate has endured, Kalia’s strategy lacked a broader inclusion of student interest.
“There has been a lack of trust between the leadership and the student body, and that shouldn’t be there,” Gonzalez said. “I’m running for this position to correct [the] Senate, so we can fix the issue; it can trickle down and our association can do what it was intended for.”
Gonzalez’s primary platform points are improving cohesion of Senate procedure, increasing transparency of A.S. to the student body and increasing visibility and resource access for students in the S.T.E.M. field. Coupled with his experience in a variety of A.S. entities, Gonzalez possesses the appropriate vision, skills and experience to lead the Senate and represent the Association.
Gonzalez is currently deputy head of staff in the EVPLA office and vice chair of the Isla Vista Tenants Union. He was a senator on the 72nd Senate and utilized this experience by informally aiding the Senate during the transition of Stankiewicz to interim IVP this year, including helping senators format legislation, he said.
Gonzalez’s experience with the Training Analysis Task Force (TAT) presents an opportunity to implement a cohesive training for senators, a much-needed strategy after the lack of uniformity in onboarding and sensitivity training of the 2022-23 senators.
“A lot of [new senators] don’t know proceedings, don’t know the financial policies or don’t know how to work with Robert’s Rules of Order,” Gonzalez said. “I want to make sure that is running smoothly. Senate is a big part of our association, and if that’s not functioning properly, the majority of our association doesn’t function properly.”
A major responsibility of the IVP is serving as chair of the honoraria committee — the entity responsible for distributing checks to A.S. employees. This year, the absence of several necessary appointments on the honoraria committee — only able to be made by the IVP — delayed payments to A.S. employees.
In TAT, Gonzalez is currently working on establishing the Finance and Business Committee as the entity to take over the Committee on Honoraria in the absence of the IVP. More broadly, TAT is also creating a uniform process on trainings for all A.S. employees, addressing an area Gonzalez said has long “not been taken seriously.”
“There’s been issues in the past with either training on actually how to do things or anti-racism training,” Gonzalez said. “Making sure these trainings and activities are fixed will go a long way for [the] association.”
To streamline the honoraria process, Gonzalez is also working on creating a digital pathway for approval through the A.S. website.
“We’ve tested it already, and the process has gone from approving 100 people in three hours to a nice 20 minutes.”
The Nexus believes Gonzalez’s current work and directives will lend itself well to a 2023-24 tenure, and his tangible efforts to mend internal issues showcase his potential in restoring function to the Senate and, furthermore, the association.
Gonzalez’s opponent Kalia — a candidate with a wealth of experience in A.S. — served as senator for two years and was temporarily pro-tempore during winter quarter. His primary goals, implementing Senate cohesion and improving financial management, indicate a proper understanding of the issues that the upcoming Senate should address.
“We have a lot of money flowing through us, but there’s very little oversight on that money,” Kalia said. “Internal control is lacking, and I have a lot of plans for repairing that and rebuilding the infrastructure.”
These plans include creating a better collaborative Senate environment, forming a line of communication between the Senate and executive officers and streamlining the honoraria process.
Kalia — by his own admission — believes the IVP should prioritize internal issues.
“I am very focused on internals. My entire time in A.S., I’ve only really been focusing on internals, because I believe a huge reason the student body doesn’t really care about A.S. is because we as A.S. don’t seem to care about the student body,” Kalia said.
However, the Nexus felt Kalia’s initiatives lacked cohesion. The 74th Senate requires an IVP that looks not only to restore cohesion and functionality to the Senate but also focuses on mending the Senate’s relationship to the student body by focusing on student needs directly.
Gonzalez’s external experience gives the Nexus confidence that he understands the true impact of senatorial decisions on the student body. Where Kalia sees a primarily internal issue, Gonzalez sees the necessity in factoring in student constituents’ needs while implementing internal change, an essential quality of the IVP position.
Kalia hopes to implement transparency through quarterly public forums with the student body, updating the Senate website and a weekly newsletter synthesizing A.S. happenings if elected. The Nexus applauds Kalia’s interest in establishing regular communication with the student body amid declining student interest in A.S. affairs.
“We have to progressively outreach to the student body so they do form interest in the happenings of A.S., because we do directly impact their lives,” Kalia said. “If that email was in every single student’s inbox, sure, a lot of them wouldn’t open it. But that’s a lot more outreach that we would get that we’re not doing right now.”
Kalia demonstrates extensive knowledge of A.S. happenings and internal functions, but is edged out by Gonzalez’s broader experience. Though both candidates could adequately complete the duties of the position, the Nexus feels Gonzalez would be able to better engage the student body in Senate happenings.
On the issue of conducting public forum — a primary avenue for students to voice concerns to the Senate — both Kalia and Gonzalez felt it should have less barriers.
Gonzalez pointed to his personal experience presenting at the Senate as an EVPLA officer and experiencing delays in presentation due to the Senate’s inexperience.
“It took a long time for me to even reach the Senate to ask, ‘Hey, can I present this at public forum?’” Gonzalez said. “We need to make that process easier, [give] a Google Form where they can sign up and attach any material that they would like to present and how much time they want, so everything’s well prepared, and it’s not all messed up like right now.”
It is this perspective and experience from outside of the Senate that the Nexus believes make Gonzalez a better candidate to chair the Senate in a manner representative of student body interests.
While both Kalia and Gonzalez present tangible ideas and a thorough understanding of the issues the 73rd Senate has faced, the Nexus believes Gonzalez’s experience and platform points will lead to a necessary shift in the productivity, engagement and efficiency of the 74th Senate.