Candidates who arrived late had less comprehensive interviews due to time constraints.

The Daily Nexus endorses third-year art major Açucar Pinto for Associated Students Internal Vice President. 

The Internal Vice President (IVP) chairs the weekly Senate meetings of Associated Students (A.S.) and represents the organization in all internal affairs. Of the two candidates in the running, the Nexus believes Pinto’s student leadership experience and passion for transparency in comparison to opponent, A.S. Off-Campus Senator and third-year chemistry major Eric Carlson, lends itself to a successful tenure for the 2024-25 school year. 

Pinto displayed a comprehensive understanding of the campus climate, and understood the importance of facilitating productive dialogue among members of A.S. Senate. Maddy Fangio / Daily Nexus

Pinto currently holds four positions on campus — the community outreach liaison for the Office of External Vice President for Statewide Affairs, the Students Enacting Environmental Defense (S.E.E.D.), vice chair for UC Student Association, the project chair and community liaison for Environmental Justice Alliance and the audio visual assistant for the MultiCultural Center (MCC). This slate of experiences indicates Pinto’s exposure to the breadth of communities on campus, which would bring a fresh external perspective to a historically insular position. 

Following an increase in political hostility on campus this academic year, the Nexus has witnessed an escalated discourse during Senate meetings, with polarized discussions around Israel and Palestine during public forum. These discussions escalated in multiple meetings, with little mediation from Senators and current IVP Sohum Kalia, with examples including the Nov. 15 and Feb. 28 meetings. 

Pinto displayed a comprehensive understanding of this campus climate of distrust and disconnect in discourse between A.S. and the greater student body, and understood the importance of facilitating productive dialogue among members of A.S. Senate within the position of IVP.

“Our senate and the committees that fall under the position of internal vice president need work and attention,” they said. “The Senate is supposed to be representing students, but they never get checked for misrepresenting students.”

Citing experience in campus organizing and departmental entities, Pinto believes they are well-equipped to take on remedying the lack of guidance and support from the university and A.S. regarding hostile dialogue regarding Israel and Palestine and divestment on campus. 

“I feel so lost because of the campus climate and there isn’t much being done about that, and there isn’t a lot of perspective being offered. And those are all things that I can offer in service because I take what people say so seriously.”  

Regardless of his shortened interview, Carlson’s platform of “overhauling financial policies” and standardizing Senate committees included few tangible steps and did not include representing his constituents in the process, which the Nexus believes impedes any effort to repair relationships between A.S. and the greater student population. 

Pinto showcased a wealth of experience in A.S., the UC Student Association and multiple UC Santa Barbara campus departments, such as the MCC and Student Affairs. They emphasized that A.S. and its constituents must find commonality in humanity to heal the campus climate amid rising tensions this academic year. 

“Sensitive topics are always going to come up, and people need to make sure that they feel heard and regarded as human beings, which doesn’t really have room in politics,” Pinto said. “And I feel like that’s where I’ve really come in.” 

“At the end of the day, we’re all flesh and blood … and that’s what I hope people are coming to public forum with — their actual, real feelings,” they continued. 

The Nexus has witnessed an increase in hostility on campus following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by militant group Hamas, which occurred following decades of territorial and Indigenous struggle between Israel and Palestine. Israel’s military campaigns in Rafah and the Gaza Strip in the months following inspired campus protests and discontent. 

The recent closure of the MCC following pro-Palestine and anti-Zionist signage during a Feb. 26 gathering prompted the University to temporarily suspend the MCC and its social media thereafter. The signage named A.S. President Tessa Veksler, Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead and other campus figures in its dissent, leading to claims of these signs being threats to the named individuals and further fueling campus tensions. 

While discussions on the aforementioned issues during Senate have followed all technical processes of public forum, they have made Senate meetings an arena for hostility among students — demonstrating a need for the next IVP to be someone who can re-establish trust with their constituents and foster a climate of mutual respect and productive legislation that reflects the needs of students. 

Pinto also wants to establish community guidelines in A.S. Senate, saying the idea is “backed up” by Armistead. Pinto said the guidelines will aim to establish trust and a safe space in Senate for the student body to voice concerns or complaints during public forum.

These community guidelines would include accountability measures through the expansion of existing bias training — citing their experience working on anti-Blackness training in A.S. this year — anonymous feedback forms for senators, expanding the existing code of conduct and Title IX guidelines regarding discrimination to generally foster an empathetic public forum.  

Expansion on the code of conduct, they said, comes from seeing disproportionate ratios of representation in the number of people of color on the Senate in comparison to the campus community, as well as personal experiences of experiencing harassment. Moreover, Pinto described their ideal public forum to be a collaborative effort with Counseling & Psychological Services to train “culturally competent workers” and establish a decompression space, though they did not specify the steps to hire such staffing. 

Pinto proposed a mutual aid fund through expanding the financial crisis team that would be directly catered toward students in discussing equitable resource distribution. However, they did not address potential monetary restrictions or other details regarding this endeavor, which the Nexus hopes will be fleshed out in greater specificity if they’re elected. 

Speaking to committee and coalition building, Pinto discussed the importance of “holding parties accountable for misconduct,” transparency to repair broken trust and the creation of community in light of the current campus climate. 

“That is something that I fully intend on doing: enforcing code of conduct,” Pinto said. “I really want to push forward that this is meant to be a safe space. We are meant to be helping each other and communicating.” 

Pinto alleged that some boards, commissions and units (BCUs) reported that their assigned senators didn’t attend their meetings until the middle of the year and spoke to these instances as a lack of historical accountability in this year’s Senate. Thus, they emphasized wanting to find a more “appropriate” approach to Senator appointments to BCUs as well as building dialogue with BCUs before Senator appointments to ensure trust between these organizations and the Senate. 

When discussing his priorities as IVP candidate, Carlson spoke to his “love for parliamentary procedure.” He has been involved in Senate since his second year, being re-elected to the off-campus position for his junior year and appointed first president pro-tempore in the summer after spring elections as a second-year.  

In terms of direct Senatorial experience, Carlson possesses a longer tenure of interacting with administration and law enforcement as a Senator, working with and writing Senate legislation and understanding the bureaucratic processes of committees and legal code of A.S. in comparison to Pinto.

Regardless, when asked to describe his platform points or his prospective accomplishments in the IVP position, Carlson vaguely described “overhauling financial policies” and standardizing Senate committees without identifying tangible steps toward these goals. 

Moreover, Carlson argued to unify A.S. executives to propose policy change to administration and departmental entities, emphasizing that “strength in numbers” is what will bring forth substantive change from A.S. While this approach to leveraging the association to improve campus needs may be a viable one, Carlson did not discuss including his campus constituents in this process. The Nexus believes this speaks to a disconnect between Senate and the larger campus community that has been a consistent and voiced concern in each Senatorial cohort.

The Nexus does credit Carlson’s ongoing project in addressing campus and local policing — a testimonial survey that asks UCSB students to report their interactions with law enforcement and inform executives on such incidents — to combat “predatory policing.” 

Carlson also authored a Committee Rework Act — written and passed during winter quarter — that established five standing committees under finance, liaison, outreach, advocacy and executive categories to ensure longevity and collaboration amongst Senatorial committees. Beyond policy, Carlson has also named and acknowledged the polarization within the Senate surrounding Israel and Palestine. 

“It’s really hard to motivate students to come to sit down and change,” Carlson said. 

The Nexus still holds some reservations on the transferability of Pinto into the IVP role, which is primarily in charge of Senatorial appointments and calls for a deep understanding of legal code as well as A.S. internal affairs. Pinto has not held an official seat in Senate, nor has worked with the IVP office in an official capacity, and therefore needs to thoroughly familiarize themself with Senate procedures if elected. 

However, Pinto noted working with Senators on legislations like the bill to condemn anti-Blackness with second year political science and sociology double major Nayali Broadway, as well as working with Senators on legislation despite not having a position in Senate. 

The Nexus acknowledges that Carlson held and continues to hold a direct Senatorial position while Pinto does not. However, both candidates have contributed to Senate’s impact this year, and Pinto expressed a prioritization to mitigate hostility in campus climate and Senate’s role in that more clearly and thoroughly in comparison to Carlson. This is a commitment that the Nexus believes is needed next year following the heightened campus polarization this year. 

“Even though I’m not in Senate, I’ve still been working with Senators to develop resolutions,” Pinto said. “I’ve had a lot of senators come to me with proposals for resolutions, and looking through these together [made me] figure out, ‘Where are those gaps and what perspective could I offer?’”

Pinto discussed their identity being “politicized” in their professional experiences this past year, fueling their passion to emphasize accountability in language as well as prepare them to have hard conversations with individuals across belief and identity spectrums. 

“I’m no stranger to conflict or confrontation … and I’m going to sit down with you, and we’re going to have a conversation,” Pinto said. “When your identity is politicized to that level, you can either cower and feel shunned or you can stand in that and create community.”

In critiquing current IVP Kalia — who announced his intention to yield his IVP duty to chair the Senate at a Jan. 24 Senate meeting — Pinto discussed his “hands-off approach” leaving the Senate with a lack of accountability and opportunities for collaboration. However, they expressed admiration for his follow-through with work. 

“I don’t agree with the way he’s running things because it makes this whole tense situation, and people are not being led in the right direction. That leadership is definitely necessary,” Pinto said. 

The Nexus was unable to ask Carlson for critiques on Kalia due to time constraints. 

Pinto described their identities as “shifting wherever [they are],” but said their multiple identities as a multiracial, financially independent, queer transfer student allows them to “feel connected to a lot of students.” They spoke to their personal experiences in facing barriers due to this intersectionality. 

“We can create an artillery of resources for our community by figuring out how you show up for each other,” they said. 

Above all, Pinto emphasized that they would continue supporting the Senate and fostering a healthy campus climate regardless of if they are elected to the IVP position. 

Considering the experiences and passions of both candidates, the Nexus has confidence in Pinto productively conducting the Senate and its public forum, reflecting the needs and concerns of their campus community and effectively executing the duties of IVP.