Associated Student President of the 2022-23 term Gurleen Pabla reflected on her personal growth as a leader and goals to fulfill student needs amid a challenging year of internal turmoil for the association. 

Nisha Malley / Daily Nexus

Pabla, a fourth-year political science major, had a long career in Associated Students (A.S.) before her presidency, including a year as the A.S. Office of the President (ASOP) Chief of Staff. Although she knew the role would be challenging, Pabla said her experience in the presidency subverted all her expectations. 

“Coming in, I thought that I had this really great understanding of what students want and what students think … I had this sense of, ‘I could do it if I wanted to, and I would be the best person for this job,’” Pabla said. “While I am extremely proud of the work that I’ve done, and I don’t have any regrets about coming into this position, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about what it means to actually learn from the work that you do.” 

While she’s satisfied by her time in the office and the succinct fulfillment of many of her platform points — including advocating for students’ opinions on the controversial Munger Hall project and continuing the basic needs work of her predecessors — Pabla said leading the association also opened her eyes to its flaws. 

“I know that this association isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of things that need extreme working on and there’s a lot of cleanup that needs to happen. I’ve always had a difficult time reflecting on those things — but I feel like I’ve become a lot more open to constructive criticism than I have been in the past and also to critiquing things,” she said. 

Regardless, Pabla noted her Munger Hall survey as a highlight of her student-needs advocacy while in office. During her tenure, Pabla organized a data-driven survey and analysis of over 1,400 student opinions on Munger Hall and regularly conveyed the resoundingly negative student opinion of the windowless dormitory towards administrators who are publicly insistent on continuing with the project. 

She’ll also be attending the upcoming UC Regents meeting to discuss Munger Hall next month.  

“Whatever decisions the Regents make moving forward, or the campus makes moving forward, they can’t say that they weren’t educated on student voice during that process. And so I’m really proud of that. I really wish there was more that I could do, but I’m just going to continue advocating and hope that the next president is as passionate about it as I have been,” she said. 

Pabla also worked on a successful movement to change pass/no-pass grading deadlines until Week 10, set to go into effect for Fall Quarter 2023. 

“It was just one of those things where we were like, ‘why aren’t we doing this?’ There’s literally no reason that it needs to be so punitive. So I’m really excited about that,” she said. 

While Pabla acknowledged that “a lot of being in this position means ensuring that you have time to respond to situations that you could never have expected,” her tenure in the role was marked by conspicuously unprecedented circumstances. 

The functioning of A.S. came to a halt last fall when former Internal Vice President (IVP) Bee Schaefer went on strike and did not call the A.S. Senate to session for eight weeks. During the strike — as well as before, during the summer — Senate was not able to convene and perform many of its financial duties, including paying A.S. employees honoraria. 

The strike followed allegations of negligence and failure to perform her duties against Schaefer and allegations by Schaefer of institutional anti-Blackness within the Association. Ultimately, Pabla issued an executive order Nov. 28 deeming Schaefer’s IVP position vacant and calling for the election of a new candidate to the position. 

“I issued this executive order to restore legislative function because that was really the big thing, the big problem that I felt like I could tackle, and that I could actually help everybody else to be able to function,” she said. 

The decision was met with criticism that the executive order overstepped the boundaries of her presidency. Pabla said although she stood by her choice, she worked this year to put legislation in place that would ensure similar situations would not occur in the future. 

“It was always a difficult decision. And even now, I look back on it, and I can’t see how I could have done anything differently, because I had tried everything,” she said. “Since then, we’ve [begun] to try and write all of these pieces of legislation to try and fill those gaps, so that it never has to get to that point.” 

This includes working on legislation for restorative justice and anti-discrimination training, protocol for an executive officer leave of absences, protocol for situations in which the Senate is not consistently convening and establishing the boundaries of presidential executive orders, according to Pabla. 

She expressed the difficulty of the situation as it pertained to her external policymaking goals. 

“I had to take on this presidential role in a very internal way that a lot of presidents don’t typically have to do. And that was okay, it just meant that [it] took me a little bit away from being able to focus on students, to the degree that I was really planning on in the very beginning,” Pabla said. 

She also worked to reform A.S. training for incoming members — a traditional sticking point of bureaucratic failure for the institution and impetus for disagreement about the former IVP’s leadership regarding training new members last fall. Pabla established a training task force to reform educational processes for new members, who previously would regularly not receive any formal job training if they joined A.S. during winter or spring quarter. 

“We were able to look through the entire structure of what training looks like within associated students, so that we could reformat so that it can be updated [and] it could be accessible and so whenever we want to add new training about anything, that process could be simpler,” Pabla said. 

She hopes in-person trainings — particularly those offered on restorative justice and anti-Blackness — will help address some of the problems students took with A.S. after the divisive issues of the past year. 

Despite the challenges, Pabla’s office also managed to work on her original platform points. Although not all were implemented — for example, the elimination of Saturday exams — Pabla said she takes pride in the fact that she explored all avenues for their execution. 

“While I still think that we definitely need to eliminate Saturday exams, I’ve been shut down by basically every department on campus, and it’s difficult for them to even open up that conversation. And so I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t really have as much time as I thought I was gonna have to really tackle this one,’” she said, noting that she chose to pursue the extension of the pass/no-pass deadline instead. 

The potential elimination of Saturday exams was also an extension of her interest in advocating for students’ mental health, which was also accomplished through other avenues like the Mental Health Town Hall — the first in-person iteration since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“[The town hall] really gave me some new ideas and some new perspectives on groups that I could work with, departments that could collaborate, and also just like what students really wanted, because I think that sometimes, even as a student, [it] can get a little difficult to understand what students really are asking for,” she said. 

During Pabla’s tenure, she also helped to facilitate the installation of a second Basic Needs vending machine in El Centro — a project begun by her predecessors — as well as communicating student needs, like mental health days and time off for religious holidays, to professors. 

When asked about her major critiques about her performance in the role, Pabla noted her tendency to completely isolate her emotions from making big decisions.

“I was like, ‘Oh, they have to be separate and you can’t have emotions in your decision making at all,’ and now that it’s been a while, especially coming into this quarter, I’ve had so much time to reflect on the years of leadership that I have had — not just this year — [and] I think it is important that you allow your emotions to at least be a little part of it,” she said. 

“While I don’t think that it’s made me make any decisions that I necessarily would say that I regret, at the same time, I think that it could have helped me to learn, in a lot of situations, more compassion in the decisions that I’ve made,” Pabla continued. 

To her successor, incoming president and third-year political science major Tessa Veksler, Pabla advised connecting directly and honestly with the student body. 

“Always have this understanding that at the end of the day, you’re a student. And it is really important that you listen to other people as students,” she said. “For the most part, I think it’s however much time you put into it, and however much effort you put into putting yourself out there, which is really scary. But it’s really worth it.” 

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the May 11, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Holly Rusch
Holly Rusch (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2022-23 school year. Previously, Rusch was the University News Editor and co-Lead News Editor for the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at or