The 75th cohort of Associated Students Executives and Senators were sworn into office at the May 22 Senate meeting. Outgoing executives and senators reflected on a year where external political conflicts, allegations of misconduct and budget contentions divided the campus and the association.

Lizzy Rager / Daily Nexus

The Associated Students (A.S.) Senate convenes weekly on Wednesdays in the University Center’s Flying A Room to pass legislation and discuss campus and student issues.

The A.S. 74th Senate convened at around 6:30 p.m. at their regular Wednesday meeting to discuss the last of its old business items. They passed a motion to give $1812.05 to I.V. Arts SWANK Motion Films and a motion to craft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) draft for a basic needs vending machine. The Senate also passed a resolution amending the A.S. Office of the President’s legal code, expanding the role of the President’s Commissioner of Community and Climate position.

Senators MingJun Zha and Eric Carlson presented “A Resolution Honoring Sohum Kalia’s Service To The Associated Students,” specifically to acknowledge Internal Vice President (IVP) and fourth-year philosophy major Sohum Kalia’s work in reforming the honoraria — or A.S. stipends — process for Boards, Committees and Units (BCUs) and parliamentary procedure for Senate among other contributions since 2021.

Senator Amelia Rowe called the resolution into question, claiming that student fees from the IVP budget were wrongfully allotted by Kalia for an American Society of Mechanical Engineers event. Kalia said the incident was discussed and resolved with Attorney General Jessica Hellman. The resolution passed in a 13-2-2 vote with Senators Ephraim Shalunov and Alejandra Martinez abstaining and Senators Rowe and Alvin Wang voting against.

After old business deliberations, the senators and executives delivered their final reports.

Second-year computer science major, Off-Campus Senator and First President pro-tempore Shalunov said his role in Senate has been a “fantastic opportunity” but has been colored by conflict and “the most intensive media coverage” of an A.S. senator “in the history of this association.”

“When you’re not in this chair and when you don’t see the scope of the decision-making that you’re being asked to do, it’s very easy to antagonize,” Shalunov said. “It’s incredibly easy to see us and see us here as the enemy, for so many different people, because our role is balancing the different interests of so many different people and everyone loses.”

Shalunov also said he is proud of the A.S. budget and thinks the financial future of the Senate is in “good hands,” but is concerned the association is turning into a “political stomping ground.” He added that BCUs don’t benefit from being in A.S. and the bureaucratic process staff and students must undergo with the organization is “difficult” and “confusing.”

“It creates an institutional culture that I could best characterize as a sort of bizarre sluggishness mixed with a complete and utter lack of vision,” Shalunov said. “The Associated Students doesn’t have to be any particular thing and I invite the next Associated Students leadership [to] seriously consider what they want this bizarre experiment to be.”

Shalunov questioned the use of student fees this past year, claiming A.S. does not efficiently utilize their funds, and said that for the last two years, his Jewish identity has “been a dominant factor” in his life — not by choice, as “no one else will fight for” his community if he doesn’t. He called Senate debates surrounding Israel-Palestine “unintelligent and unproductive.”

In her final address to the Senate, fourth-year communication and political science double major and A.S. President Tessa Veksler reflected on her three years in A.S., saying when she was first elected, she “was full of hope.”

“All I’ve ever wanted within this role was to leave UCSB better than how it was when I arrived. But many factors were unfortunately out of my control,” Veksler said.

Veksler said no one could have predicted the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by militant group Hamas and the rise of Islamophobia on campuses nationwide, and that she had to “balance her personal pain and loss with her responsibility to her community” and representing the student body.

Incidents such as the MCC signage calling for divestment and expressing dissent against University administration and Veskler, the petition to recall Veksler and a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of Veksler against UCSB have been significant events during her presidency.

“While being Jewish was not a part of my campaign, it became the sole part of my identity that people focused on, erasing my accomplishments, character and humanity. I was expected to excel in a role that I had to fight to maintain,” Veksler said.

She also said she had to fight for the betterment of the campus community in talks with the administration and felt “immense discomfort” working alongside those she felt contributed to the harm she experienced.

Veksler believes she is leaving UCSB better than she found it, but is leaving at a turning point for campus, citing how this year’s A.S. elections were characterized by single-issue voting. 

To end, Veksler thanked those who stood by her and those who critiqued her, the campus community and the Jewish community — apologizing for the “hatred they have endured.” She also apologized to those she disappointed and was not able to help this year.

“While I cannot tell the future, I’m proud of myself for the past three years and I would not change anything about them,” Veksler said. “Thank you for the honor of letting me serve you. Thank you for making it hard to say goodbye and for giving me the most challenging year of my life. Thank you for giving me a brighter future.”

Student Advocate General (S.A.G.) and fourth-year economics and history double major Nathan Lee also delivered a final address in which he thanked Michael Young, a former senator, for saying he wanted to do “real shit for students,” which deeply resonated with Lee. Lee also said he started his term with no staff and two case workers who had taken on zero cases.

The S.A.G. office intensified its legal code education over the summer, and their first case had a 50 to 60-page defense. In total, the office helped 84 students at the time of the report, over eight times the cases the previous S.A.G. took on. 

“We can always do more, we can always reach more students. But we were able to process as much as we could because I really think the people in the office were able to really work with me and put in the hours and energy,” Lee said.

A motion to dissolve the 74th Senate passed unanimously at approximately 7:30 p.m. 

Former A.S. executives swore in the incoming executives, starting with second-year political science and sociology double major and A.S. President Nayali Broadway. 

Third-year art major and IVP Açucar Pinto, third-year history of public policy and law major and External Vice President for Local Affairs Owen Meyers, third-year communication and sociology double major and External Vice President for Statewide Affairs Monica Mekhlouf and second-year computer science major and S.A.G. Alvin Wang were subsequently sworn in.

The outgoing senators left their seats, exchanging hugs and appraisals as the 75th Senate took their seats to commence new business in the second half of the meeting chaired by Pinto.

A version of this article appeared on p. 11 of the May 30, 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.
Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at lizzyrager@dailynexus.com