The Nexus compiled profiles of our current Associated Students elected officials to reflect on their past year in office. As they look back on their campaign platforms, we asked our elected officials to tell us about their successes and shortfalls throughout their terms in office. The term in reviews for the other executives can be viewed at dailynexus.com and/or in our May 16, 2024, print edition.

Associated Students Student Advocate General Nathan Lee reflected on his term for the 2023-24 school year, which placed focus on casework, outreach and advocacy projects.

Lee said his most important accomplishment was “revamping” the S.A.G. office’s casework system, designed to push peer driven advocacy on campus. Nexus File Photo

The Associated Students (A.S.) Student Advocate General (S.A.G.) holds a nonpartisan role at UCSB and advocates on behalf of students in legal and disciplinary disputes with the university. Fourth-year economics and history double major Nathan Lee expanded the office’s reach through his work this year.

Lee said his most important accomplishment was “revamping” the S.A.G. office’s casework system, designed to push peer driven advocacy on campus. Prior to stepping into the office, there was a “nonexistent system” and no trained network of caseworkers, according to Lee. It was his mission to establish a staff that understood the needs of the student body and could be on-call to handle issues between students and the university.

“When I first started at the office, there were no trained caseworkers who understood either the conduct, or grievance or academic housing procedures at the university. So those are some things I have [had] to pretty much start on my own,” Lee said.

During his term, the Office of the S.A.G. processed over 80 student cases, a sizable increase from the previous year’s approximately 10 cases. Lee’s office was able to accomplish this through increased quarterly outreach efforts. This came in the form of both email pushes sent to the student body, including announcements and resources, as well as flyers handed out to students and inserted in housing pamphlets.

Lee said he strayed from the previous S.A.G.’s approach by being more reliant on his staff and prioritizing longevity and the transfer of knowledge within his office — an aid Lee said he did not have at the start of his term.

“I had very little communication with the previous S.A.G. … In fact, I will say that the previous S.A.G. was not very reliant on their staff. I think the biggest difference in what I was able to do resulted in not only more output from the office, but also passing down that institutional knowledge,” Lee said. “The biggest difference I was able to make was to actively delegate and actively passing down institutional knowledge to the caseworkers, to my internal chief of staff, to the rest of the staff.”

As S.A.G. Lee emphasized the use of restorative justice in “actively seeking a reconciliation rather than punitive or corrective action.” He pursued this by sponsoring the “Bill to Revise AS Restorative Justice Policy,” co-authored by second-year computer science major and S.A.G.-elect Alvin Wang.

“I think it’s about clearing the misunderstanding first, to make processing welcoming to both people alleging and also to people who are being alleged of something,” Lee said. “A.S. has recently been more divisive than ever. The thing I would like not to see is this office becoming almost like a place that you’re going through trial.”

Additionally, Lee’s office took measures to educate students about the suspension of the restorative justice program during Deltopia weekend. They collaborated with the External Vice President for Local Affairs Office on a restorative justice town hall, hosted an informational workshop with international student groups and tabled on Del Playa, handing out water, Liquid I.V. and first aid to over a thousand students during Deltopia. Lee noted that approximately 20-30% of the cases brought to the S.A.G. Office came at the heels of Deltopia weekend.

In his endorsement interview with the Nexus last year, Lee discussed his plans to address academic obstacles students face such as unit caps and drop deadlines. This year, his office worked with Dean of Undergraduate Education Michael Miller to increase the number of units for intro-level courses with teaching assistant-led sections to five units. They are also pushing the Office of Undergraduate Education to reconsider making the Pass 2 cap 16 units, rather than the current 15, in order to combat the increasing issue of over-enrollment.

Furthermore, Lee shed light on a project to introduce local perspectives into the UCSB curriculum. In collaboration with the religious studies department, Lee helped propose a course taught by a scholar from a local community, set to hit the course catalog Winter Quarter 2025.

“There has been a project to introduce local perspectives in our academic curriculum, so what UCSB teaches to students not only reflects the forefront of the world when it comes to humanities, technology, sciences but also should reflect the land that we sit on,” Lee said.

Another side project Lee pursued in his term was reviving events.ucsb.edu — an online space compiling student events into one centralized location — in the form of the app Go Gaucho. Lee’s office partnered with the engineering students behind Go Gaucho to merge it with his vision, creating a presently functioning app with class schedules, a map, dining hall menus and a planned section for posting events.

“We will be making it into a one-stop-shop for all UCSB engagement,” Lee said. “I don’t want this to be a [Registered Campus Organization] thing, like only if you’re an organization you can put up events … A good example I bring up to all the administrators is that a bunch of friends are looking for people to play volleyball with at San Cat. They are able to [post an event].”

In a year of increasing polarity on campus and within A.S., Lee said he did his best to remain neutral throughout internal conflicts to stay true to the S.A.G.’s commitment to serving the student body as a nonpartisan executive.

“I did not take a more proactive approach because I believe in the mission of not only nonpartisanship but also accessibility for the most amount of students as possible. Because I’m afraid that if a side is taken, students who are more resonating with one side of the conflict will be hesitant to come to our office if they have problems,” Lee said.

Lee claimed members of A.S. commented he was not doing “enough” to facilitate discussions within A.S., but stood by his decision to remain nonpartisan. In doing this, Lee said he was able to provide counsel and mediation between students from a range of differing viewpoints.

“I think it has worked in that I have students who come to me for Policy One violations, which is the internal A.S. conduct and ethics measure, from both sides of the situation. Like students who are alleging that the [MultiCultural Center] has violated Policy One, or students have come to me inquiring about senators or A.S. officials who have violated the Policy One on the other side. So I think that to maintain maximum accessibility is what I would like to do,” Lee said.

As Lee prepares to turn over, he expressed confidence in Wang’s ability to step into the role of S.A.G. and has worked with Wang to educate him about the case working process.

“The emphasis I put on the most when it comes to transitioning, is to understand the caseworking process. Because it is not a process that is easy for people to learn right away. That is a very institutionalized, very technical aspect of the job as S.A.G.,” Lee said.

Lee hopes Wang will continue his work with Go Gaucho and maintain strong working relationships with the Office of Student Conduct and housing groups.

“The most important thing that I think he should continue up with — more communication with the Office of Student Conduct and keep up the good relationship with housing; it’s a good thing to have them recommend our service to students who have been charged.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the May 16, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Anushka Ghosh Dastidar
Anushka Ghosh Dastidar (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. Previously, Ghosh Dastidar was the Community Outreach News Editor for the 2023-24 school year and the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at anushkagd@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.