Vote for Traci Ishigo

For those of you who do not know, ASUCI elections are this week. That means that, once again, you will be asked, begged and, in some slate’s cases, bribed, into  voting for this year’s candidates. Personally, I had high hopes when I started interviewing the good men and women who were running for office. Unfortunately, it did not take long before I realized that most of them were just as terrible as the politicians I elect in Washington.

Let’s start with Vikram Nayudu. Running for ASUCI President as the current incumbent would appear to give him a leg-up on the competition. Although, after one talks to Vikram, it’s clear why over 90 percent of the students I polled said they were going to vote for “anybody but Vikram.” Mr. Nayudu talks a lot about how he has such great relationships with the administration and that is how he wants to make change.  But then he lets slip something revealing about his views on ASUCI: “We don’t actually make change. We just suggest it.” Next to candidates like Traci Ishigo, who say he cannot actually make anything happen, this really does not make him look good.

He also mentions that he is the only candidate who has worked in the Office of the President. However, a few minutes of research shows that as a blatant lie. One of his main opponents, Sam Shaw, also worked in the Office just last year. While Nayudu claims to have the most experience in ASUCI, his actual conduct in Student Government has left a skeleton or two in his metaphorical closet. Almost half-a-dozen students within ASUCI brought up Nayudu’s lackluster work ethic. One ASUCI student, who works directly with Nayudu and prefers to remain anonymous, noted that he is well-known for coming to presentations unprepared, leaving in the middle of meetings or not even showing up to things at all — like the latest referendum meeting. Megan Valladao, who has worked under Vikram and many branches within ASUCI, noted that Vikram takes a lot of credit for work and legislation that he did not do. While fact-checking these claims with other students, it became clear that neither Nayudu nor his slate was all it was making itself out to be.

Listening to Vikram talk to a group of students is like watching Santorum speak to a group of people. He has all the qualities of the ex-GOP candidate (he seems insincere, stands for absurd things, and has nothing to back-up his lofty goals) except he has not dropped out of the race, which would have been the one positive thing going for him. Talking to one of his supporters is pretty revealing of who his target audience is. Robyn Hayley said that she is voting for Vikram solely based on two things: 1) her friend told her to, and 2) Vikram had more posters on campus. She did note though that “Andrea [from the [Rooted in] campaign] talked too fast, so I don’t want to vote for her.”

Nayudu’s running partner, Benny Khorsandi, has absolutely no experience in ASUCI or political advocacy and makes his slate look like a joke. Lena Hu is the only person on the slate who has experience and who is not relying on her Greek connections to win an election.

Nayudu was initially disqualified in last spring’s elections  in the decision Ip. vs. Nayudu, which was overturned in the ruling Nayudu vs. Elections Commission. Perhaps, he should consider running a cleaner campaign.

The “Expect more. Get more” group seems alright. As President, Sam Shaw wants to address the lack of cellular access. Presumably, he would want more dodgeball games, but I cannot be sure on that. One thing that is clear is that Sam seems to stand more behind improving our sports and spirit than our academics. On his website, there is no mention of increasing fees, tuition or academics. Unfortunately for Sam, well-developed triceps and a square jaw does not qualify one to be President. It seems to me that a vote for Sam would be like a vote for Swag Man.

Mr. Sean Tannenbaum. If you have not heard of him, it is because, well, no one has. He does not believe that money should influence politics. Thus, no shirts. No posters. No anything. Except political rhetoric reminiscent of early Apple commercials. Tannenbaum’s “We The Kids” movement may seem idealistic, but does he really have what it takes to be President? There is no mention of any qualifications, goals or anything.

I am going to be honest. I was not looking forward to my interview with Traci Ishigo. It was a blazing hot day, I was hungry and sore, and I had just interviewed Benny Khorsandi, who was, by far, the most condescending, rude candidate I talked to. However, when I talked with Traci, instead of being met with the usual dismissive pre-practiced speeches and political rhetoric, she was friendly, down-to-Earth and quite welcoming. She was the oasis in the desert of liars and Greek life politics.

Ishigo radiates passion when she talks. You can tell she believes in all the change she wants to bring to campus. She has extensive lobbying experience, especially at the state level, which is something her opponents cannot say. She approaches things with a cross-cultural perspective in mind, and actually offers solutions to problems, as opposed to just complaining about things. Her work with organizations, like Ethnic Students Coalition Against Prejudicial Education (E.S.C.A.P.E), is clearly indicative of not just her grassroots advocacy, but her ability to give voices to the student not often heard by the administration. Her views are reflected in the rest of her slate, because everyone in the [Rooted in] campaign fits Traci’s messages of “we need people who are passionate, not just people who want to build resumes.” Clearly, the most qualified of all the presidential candidates, she still manages to come off like a normal student. She nods her head when you talk. She smiles when she is explaining something she enjoys. She asks how you feel about what she is saying. She was the only person I talked to that day that asked my thoughts on the issues. Fact.

She talks about how ASUCI is not bringing the real issues to the administration and how she would actively pursue critical advocacy. She talks about how she wants UCI to go back to its activist roots (which I found very appealing, given my article “It’s All Uphill From Here” in the Feb. 21 issue where I addressed just that).  She talks about how she wants to work with labor unions and create alliances between workers and students, so it is clear that education affects more than just a handful of college kids. Then, when you mention that she seems very in-touch with what students actually want, she smiles and says, “If you want to lead the people, you gotta know the people.” While I could not sum-up everything she believes in, I think that her views and policies on more student representation, collaboration between ASUCI branches (and other organizations on campus) and her demand for accountability and transparency are absolutely what is best for this campus.

Traci Ishigo and everyone in her [Rooted In] slate are people I can stand behind.

Justin Huft is a third-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at jhuft@uci.edu.