The UC Student Association hosted its annual Student Organizing Summit from Aug. 4-6 in Pomona, California. A delegation of students from the UC Santa Barbara External Vice President of Statewide Affairs office attended to discuss and vote on the coalition’s upcoming campaign goals.
The Student Organizing Summit (SOS) is an annual conference hosted by the UC Student Association (UCSA) to lead workshops in leadership, professional and personal development, listen to keynote speakers and weigh in on UCSA’s campaigns and executive officers for the year.
The UCSA is led by a board of directors that is composed of students elected from all nine UC undergraduate student governments — usually the external vice president — including UCSB’s 2023-24 External Vice President for Statewide Affairs (EVPSA) Vero Caveroegusquiza. The UCSB EVPSA Office was involved in the recruitment and programming of this year’s SOS, as in previous years alongside all other UC campuses.
This year’s two-day SOS featured keynote speaker Sophia Armen and multiple workshop sessions on topics like restorative justice, white supremacy in organizing spaces and strategic communication. The conference also held decompression spaces, campaign proposals and strategy discussions.
“All of the EVPs make up the UCSA board, and they generally invite around 20 to 25 delegates per school to come to this conference,” Second-year political science and philosophy double major and Internal Head of Staff for the EVPSA Office Dan Siddiqui said. “It takes place before all the UCs begin their academic year, and [the delegates] vote on campaign priorities that UCSA tries to achieve.”
Siddiqui said SOS’s delegates usually have leadership positions in their respective sects of campus, but diversity in the delegate pool is emphasized above all.
“Our goal this year was to really get a diverse group of delegates and get people to come to this conference who may not have had organizing experience in the past but do hold leadership positions on campus and do have something to contribute,” he said.
Third-year political science major and Organizing Director for the EVPSA Office Melody Torres echoed Siddiqui’s sentiment.
“It’s important to get perspectives from all different backgrounds, especially when it comes to UCSB,” she said. “It’s important to have everyone’s voices heard, so that’s why attending these conferences — it’s a safe space for them to actually tell their side of the story and their perspectives.”
The delegates vote on five primary campaigns for UCSA to focus on, and the following goals were chosen this year: Racial Justice Now!, Fund the UC, UCweVOTE, Acquire and Students Enacting Environmental Defense (S.E.E.D.).
Racial Justice Now! will aim for the UC Office of the President and Board of Regents to establish a permanent endowment fund of $1 billion toward Black student retention and recruitment efforts by 2026. This is one of UCSA’s permanent campaigns to battle mass incarceration in historically marginalized communities.
Two other permanent campaigns — Fund the UC and UCweVOTE — were also chosen. The former focuses on advocating for the elimination of UC tuition fees, restoring student funding and maintaining financial aid, and the latter aims to increase student voter turnout by 20% on UC campuses.
Acquire is a newfound campaign that aims to improve student health conditions through harm reduction. This includes increasing healthcare access, ensuring inclusive sexual health services, expanding mental health care and creating action against student suicides.
S.E.E.D. is another new campaign and the last campaign chosen for this year, which will focus on expanding sustainable transportation options through bike share programs and increasing usage of public transportation.
“Because we had that diverse coalition of people, we were able to come up with these campaign goals and we were able to understand some of the challenges that students who have different limitations or barriers [face],” he said.
Beyond these five campaign goals, SOS attendees discussed other topics through the breakout sessions, including topics on restorative justice.
“Right now, the UCs operate on a system of retributive justice when it comes to student conduct, which means that if you commit a crime, you get punished,” Torres said. “The tactic they use to de-incentivize people to commit crimes is fostering this culture of fear and shame and retribution.”
Torres said it’s been a long-time initiative of the EVPSA Office to promote restorative justice initiatives throughout the UC and hope to continue into the future.
“One of the longer term goals that we’re pushing for is establishing a permanent restorative justice center at every single UC that can deal with student conduct issues in a restorative justice manner,” she said.
Siddiqui reminisced that his favorite aspect of this year’s conference that marked his first time attending was the array of organizers and student leaders he was able to meet and make connections with.
“I was able to learn about so many different issues that I had never experienced or encountered because I was able to hear from people who were so different from myself and from other marginalized communities,” he said.
Torres emphasized that the annual SOS brings various campus-level concerns to the UC wide level and continues bringing conversations and initiatives to the forefront to further the progress and change that UCSA continues to fight for.
“Meeting other people from other campuses was a great way to connect and to understand how these issues that we see on our campuses are not only issues that are present here but present throughout the state of California,” she said.