The Daily Nexus endorses second-year computer science major Alvin Wang, who is running unopposed, for Student Advocate General. 

The Nexus believes that Wang’s experience in Associated Students (A.S.), student-centered platform points, empathic approach to the position and focus on basic needs for next year make him equipped to serve as Student Advocate General (S.A.G). Wang is currently serving as the A.S. College of Engineering Senator and chair of the A.S. Basic Needs Committee. 

Wang’s background and focus on basic needs enable him to address student issues with an informed and empathetic perspective as the S.A.G. Maddy Fangio / Daily Nexus

The S.A.G. is an executive, nonpartisan position that acts as a liaison between the University and its student body, provides free and confidential peer support to students and directly advocates for students in the face of administration. As UC Santa Barbara’s “campus public defender,” the S.A.G. works with other staff in the Office of the Student Advocate (OSA) to handle university matters pertaining to academic and financial issues, student conduct and personal grievances, among others.

“The reason why Student Advocate General is listed as nonpartisan is basically because it’s the only executive position that’s sole job is to serve the student body and advocate for the student body, and that’s something that I fully believe in,” Wang said in an interview with the Nexus. “There’s a lot of room to make an impact and to make change, because what the Student Advocate General does is so important.”

As a senator, Wang extensively collaborated with current S.A.G. Nathan Lee, equipping him with the institutional knowledge and relevant experience to serve as the S.A.G. next year. He worked with Lee to author a Bill to Revise AS Restorative Justice Policy, as well as passed a bill increasing the number of caseworkers within the OSA.

Wang said he views running for S.A.G. as a continuation of his work as a senator and as the chair of the Basic Needs Committee, where he has advocated for students in his current roles in A.S. and wants to continue doing so in a non-partisan position. 

The Nexus believes that Wang’s background and focus on basic needs in his student leadership positions enable him to use the office of S.A.G. to address student issues with an informed and empathetic perspective. 

Unlike Lee, whose office has primarily focused on academic issues, Wang’s primary platform points encompass providing basic needs support for UCSB students. 

“If you were to ask me, ‘What do I think the biggest issue is facing the student body?’ It would certainly be basic needs,” Wang said. “When an increasing number of students are unable to even know where their next meal comes from, how can they be expected to focus on academics?”

Wang worked on several bills concerning the basic needs of students during his term as a senator, including a Resolution to Conduct Research on Basic Needs Vending Machine and a Bill to Revise Basic Needs Committee Legal Code

While Wang’s projects in store for OSA next year effectively execute what the student body needs from the S.A.G., some initiatives did not outline tangible steps toward its accomplishment. The Nexus hopes these steps will be fleshed out prior to the execution of the next term. 

As the S.A.G, Wang said he hopes to gather data on how many students are food insecure to make informed decisions on how to combat basic needs issues like housing and food insecurity and how existing resources can be better utilized. However, beyond gathering data, Wang was vague in the next steps of actually addressing the basic needs challenges that students face.

Wang also said he hopes to make CalFresh more accessible to students by lowering the minimum income threshold from $14,000 to $8,000 and making it so undocumented and international students can qualify for benefits. Wang did not outline a specific or tangible plan for how to reform CalFresh on campus, as it is a federal program.

Another one of Wang’s platform points is to lower the GPA threshold for academic probation from 2.0 to 1.7 since a precedent exists at other campuses such as George Fox University to do so. He cited the disproportionate impacts of going on academic probation for BIPOC students, and the punitive consequences for undocumented students and part-time students when facing academic probation. 

Wang acknowledged that the OSA does not have the jurisdiction to change GPA requirements, but said that he hopes to begin conversations with the Academic Senate on this issue.

Other areas that Wang said he hopes to address as the S.A.G. are utilizing restorative justice policy to divert from traditionally punitive approaches by the University. 

Wang identified the internal dysfunction that Senate faced this year following Internal Vice (IVP) President Sohum Kalia’s decision to yield his chairship of the Senate to his first president pro-tempore — as well as the first and second president pro tempores’ subsequent calls for Kalia’s resignation — as an example of a situation that would warrant restorative justice.

“With the IVP and the Senate’s dysfunction, that was purely caused because of interpersonal relationships outside of Senate,” Wang said. “That wasn’t caused because of any policy decisions or any difference in how Senate should be run, it was just purely caused by conflict, and I feel like those can be addressed with restorative practices with facilitated discussions.”

Wang also proposed providing adequate training to the members of his office on how to handle casework during the summer instead of fall to ensure his office would be equipped to handle other duties right at the start of the academic year.

In discussing how he wants to differentiate his office from the current OSA, Wang said he believes the office can expand outreach efforts through sending mass emails — which has garnered more cases in the past — as well as tabling and distributing fliers.

Wang also said he wants to take a more “active approach” with casework, reaching out to students and extending his resources as opposed to waiting for students to come to him. When asked about how and in what situations he would reach out to students, Wang did not provide specific, tangible steps to accomplish this goal.

Despite Wang’s lack of detail of tangibility across several campaign points, the Nexus believes Wang’s expertise surrounding basic needs, restorative justice and the S.A.G office, as well as his empathetic outlook on the OSA and his demonstrated interest in advocating for students, make him an optimal S.A.G. candidate. Regardless of the specificity of his platform, Wang described his projects for the OSA with intentions that align with the mission of the S.A.G. role. 

The Nexus is confident that Wang will excel in the S.A.G. role, and effectively serve as an advocate for the student body during the 2024-25 school year.

“As someone who’s important and who needs to serve the student body, a S.A.G needs to be able to recognize that every single student that they serve is unique, has different challenges,” Wang said. “As a S.A.G., I see myself and I would want myself to be there for the student body because it’s literally my job description — to advocate for students — and how can we do that without empathy?”