Upon unanimous consensus, the Daily Nexus declines to endorse the sole candidate running for the position of Student Advocate General. 

We believe that third-year economics and history double major and Off-Campus Senator Nathan Lee is not qualified to hold this position. 

We believe that the sole candidate is not qualified to hold this position. Mark Alfred / Daily Nexus

Serving as UCSB’s “campus public defender,” the core of the Office of the Student Advocate (OSA) is advocating for students regarding university matters, ensuring that the Student Advocate General (SAG) and the office staff comprehensively work through these student cases. The divisions under the OSA’s purview are academic issues, student conduct, personal grievances and financial issues. 

Such interpersonal work requires an extensive understanding of student concerns and needs in the UCSB community and a fundamental level of compassion and empathy for students utilizing the office. However, Lee did not demonstrate these integral characteristics essential to the position.

Lee said he had a difficult time deciding between running for SAG and the Internal Vice President position. 

“I was just fascinated with advocating for fair policies when it comes to on-campus policies,” Lee said. “I’ve always wanted to advocate for different academic policies to institute offices to connect students to more jobs and more internships.” 

Connecting students to “more jobs and internships” is not a viable reason to enter the SAG position, one that is decisively outlined as advocating for student needs one-on-one. 

When asked about major concerns of students not involved in A.S., Lee said the following: 

“I am perfectly willing to say this: every senator, at least the ones that I know, are trying to do the best for UCSB.”

When prompted to answer the question, Lee said the number one concern of these students is “honestly about academics.” 

“A lot of times, students who are not politically active, they’re not concerned about A.S. They’re not thinking about financial transparency. They’re not thinking about divestment,” he said. “We should spend more time dealing with bread and butter issues. How do we get more resources for clubs that want to do a dinner or want to have pizza?” 

While the answer to the question of students’ biggest struggle on campus is subjective, the Nexus does not believe this answer realistically encompasses the greater needs of SAG’s constituents. 

Additionally, issues like funding for campus groups cannot be effectively addressed in a position like SAG has traditionally focused on issues like greater police accountability and COVID-19 response measures, among others, none of which was addressed by Lee. 

The Nexus appreciates Lee’s senatorial experience working on academic issues like increasing the unit cap and extending the drop deadline, among others. However, Lee has no experience working in or alongside the SAG office during his time at UCSB, nor does he have any knowledge with the external functions of A.S. due to his time with the association so far solely dedicated to the Senate. 

 The fundamental error the Nexus found throughout his interview was Lee’s predominant focus on academic issues like the unit caps and drop deadlines, with substantially no discussion of other concerns that the UCSB community faces, such as obstacles posed to marginalized communities in a predominantly white university. 

Lee said he’s aiming to be liaison within A.S. through the ethics and conduct committee if elected, though he “forgot what the committee’s specific name was.” Though addressing the Senate dysfunction this year, Lee made no mention of any ideas directly related to individual case work — the primary function of SAG. 

“There was a lot of miscommunication and abusive and bullying behavior, and I want to take a more active part in that as Student Advocate General and facilitate a lot of issues that are going on internally to achieve a more healthy working environment within Associated Students,” Lee said. 

Lee emphasized using the SAG position to facilitate internal Senate issues following its prolonged dysfunction this year, despite Senate affairs not being the SAG’s primary responsibility.  

The Nexus then asked Lee how he would handle individual casework if appointed as SAG. He evaded answering and countered the premise of the question instead. 

“Going to your premise about what is the major role of the Student Advocate General, I see it as a dual mandate rather than one being a primary focus and one being a secondary focus,” Lee said. 

When returning back to the prompted question, he, again, focused solely on academic conduct. 

“When it comes to academic conduct, I want to build a communication channel between each individual department to handle them in a more standardized and systematic approach,” Lee said. 

Despite being prompted multiple times to speak on this and exhibiting an understanding of the premise of OSA, this complete lack of addressing student grievances beyond academic conduct made the Nexus lose confidence in Lee adequately performing all duties of the SAG. 

The Nexus is also concerned with Lee adequately working with casework submitted by students of marginalized communities. When asked how he’ll support marginalized students, he simply noted the hiring of a “diverse staff” and vaguely described why.  

“The people in my office should represent the campus. People should have someone that they can trust and empathize [with] when it comes to working with people in my office,” Lee said. 

There was no expansion on how he would ensure such hiring of a “diverse staff” and how that would tangibly assist the OSA’s mission to address student casework in an adequate fashion. 

In addition, he spoke about concerns from international students, wanting to work with the Office of International Students and Scholars to implement virtual summer classes that accommodate time zone differences. However, Lee did not speak to advocating for any other marginalized communities on campus.

The SAG position is unique as an executive position in its intimate work with individual student cases, requiring institutional knowledge, sensitivity and personalized avenues of assistance. The SAG must be compassionate and empathetic toward every student that utilizes the OSA to feel that their grievances are being addressed.

There is more to the SAG position than academic assistance. The needs of the UCSB student community are individually unique, and Lee did not understand this diversity of  student concerns nor demonstrated desire to learn. 

Thus, the Nexus declines to endorse Lee as the next SAG. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 7 of the April 20, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.