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2017 ASUCI Senate Candidates

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By Emilia Williamson

The ASUCI Elections Commission held a Senate Candidates Forum on Tuesday, April 11. Each of the candidates was given approximately two minutes to give a prepared speech about their campaign platforms. The ASUCI Senate branch is composed of elected students from each of UCI’s academic schools. Members of the Senate are responsible for approving the budget, passing or vetoing legislation, and holding weekly office hours for their constituents to speak freely with them.

Of the 13 students running for the At-Large Senator position, seven spoke at Tuesday night’s forum. There are seven seats available.

Justine Hernandez is a second-year student running on the Access UCI Slate. She has participated in several political clubs on campus, including a current board position in College Republicans at UCI, and has worked in the UCI Extension program. She is concerned with increasing access to internships, mental health services, and decreasing parking prices.

Jacob VanDrunen is a first-year student running an independent “grassroots” campaign to increase transparency between students and ASUCI. He is determined to “ensure that every student has access to a safe learning environment on campus,” increase mental health services, and create new sustainability initiatives.

Sara Baggia is a second-year public health sciences major running for reelection as an At-Large Senator. She has worked in the SOAR food pantry and is dedicated to increasing food and hygiene security. Her goals include creating “more opportunities for clubs and students and faculty to interact” and transparency between students, ASUCI, and faculty.

Celine Ton is a first-year biological sciences major. Her platform is based on three main issues: Advocating for improved mental health services and working to “destigmatize mental illness,” creating food security through expanding the SOAR food pantry, and increasing sustainability efforts in order “to become a zero waste campus by 2020.” She also feels that there is a disconnect between the student body and ASUCI and hopes to increase transparency.

John Rodriguez is a second-year student. His goals include increasing transparency, listening to constituents, and improving UCI’s parking accessibility. He believes that with enough “diligence and effort” students can work together to bring about change and improvement.

Olivia Shin is a first-year physics major. She advocates for campus safety and recognizes the importance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Olivia promised to stand up for students and promote equal opportunities for all.

Gurneel Bopari is a first-year computer science student. He admitted that he initially struggled to meet people at school, and he feels that this is a problem many new students face. Gurneel is dedicated to serving others and being active in the community.  Some changes he hopes to make as senator include housing and parking security for commuter students, supporting a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, and increasing awareness and preventing sexual assault.

Ashar Khan, Zainab Khan, Jeanine Erikat, Brandon Newberg, Bryant Gunaman and Jessica Gabra are also candidates for the At-Large Senator Position. They were not present at Tuesday’s forum.

The Arts Senator seat is currently vacant, and Kimberly Chin is running unopposed. She was absent from Tuesday’s forum.

There are two seats available for Biological Sciences Senator, and there are five candidates running: Murad Aldoghmi, Brian Damavandi, Mercedeh Mirhosseini, Eashan Kotha and Jude Noureldine.

Noureldine was the only candidate present at the forum. She is a third-year student running to be reelected to her Senate position. Noureldine’s vision for the school of Biological Sciences includes increasing research opportunities and creating workshops as tools to increase students’ opportunities. She also wants to create a culture of “open-mindedness” and “increase acceptance rates for minorities.”

There is one business senator position available.

Isaac Rubalcava is a first-year student who believes that there is not enough communication between the Business School and ASUCI. He wants to “bring more opportunities and ways to get involved” in programs in addition to increasing parking services, mental health resources, and bringing awareness to sexual assault.

Julie Lim is the current Business Senator. She is involved in the Finance and Investment Club and hopes to promote stronger relationships between the Business School and associated clubs. Julie also hopes to “bring the real world into our classes” by bringing representatives and guests from relevant companies to speak to students about internships and careers.   

There are two seats available for Engineering Senators.

Tin Hong is a fourth year student who has served as the Engineering Senator for two years in addition to serving on the Finance Committee. He aims to lessen the “divide between professors and students” and to actively practice being “transparent, honest, outspoken, and responsive.”

Yasmeen Abuzeid is also running for reelection as an Engineering Senator. She was not available for comment. Jacky Wan, Christopher Bravo, and Esteban Granizo were also not in attendance.

Diego Quispe Huaman and Brian Felix are both running for one vacant Humanities Senate position. Neither candidate attended the forum.

Cary Xiao is up for reelection for the one available ICS Senator position. Robert De La Cruz and Kenneth Flores are also running. None of the candidates from the school of Information and Computer Science were in attendance.

Bernadette Marie Abadilla is running unopposed for the one open seat on the Nursing Sciences Senate. James Ritter is also running unopposed for the one open seat on the Pharmaceutical Science Senate seat. Neither candidate was present at the forum.

There is one open seat for a Physical Science Senator.

Gissel Enriquez is a third-year Earth System Science major and is co-president of the ESS club. She hopes to “create a better tutoring system” and add mentor opportunities to benefit science students. She argued that many professors only teach to pass their tests instead of focusing on teaching applicable concepts to enhance students’ future careers. She advocates for this practice to change and also to create easier access to research.

Tin Math is a first-year physics major. He believes that “the Physical Sciences department deserves someone who will listen and care about their issues.” He also wants to have professionals speak to students in their classes about what opportunities their futures hold.

There is one open seat for the Public Health Senator. The candidates are Homam Almahdi and Valeria Roman. Neither were available to speak at the forum.

There are two open Senate seats for the School of Social Ecology.

Melissa Safady is up for Senate reelection. She strives to strengthen the voice of students by creating an inclusive culture and promoting the idea of “you think, not groupthink.” “We have opportunities to make bridges through dialogue instead of dividing ourselves through prejudice,” Melissa asserts in her ASUCI online statement. She encourages her constituents to communicate with her to make their voices heard.

The two other candidates, Hannah Tompkins and Mi Tran, were not in attendance.

There are ten total candidates running for Social Science Senator and four seats available.

Micah Johnson is a member of UCI’s TransPolitical Forum and was involved in his previous school’s Law Society, Honors colloquium, and mentored international students. If elected to the Senate, he says he will strive to create a climate where students can “let their voices be heard” in an open-minded environment. He also is interested in improving parking, sustainability, water resources, and mental health resources.

Helary Yakub currently serves as the Senate’s Vice Chair of the Rules Committee, mentors first generation college students, and is a coordinator for UCDC. “It is very important to me that everyone’s voice is heard,” she claimed at Tuesday’s forum. She strives to be transparent in her communication by making herself available for her constituents “online, in person, however and whenever.” Helary also practices honesty and says she will not hesitate to let students know where she stands on the issues.  

Cole Hubbard is a Political Science major “actively seeking the opinions of my constituents” and prioritizes “representing their needs and wants.” He vocalized that “the biggest obstacle is ASUCI themselves” and criticized the low Senate meeting attendance rates. Some of his goals are increasing access to better mental health services and improving parking.

Mitchell Stern is a second-year Political Science Major who is also President of College Republicans at UCI. He advocates for transparency between ASUCI and the student body, claiming that if elected he will advertise the issues, post the occurrences of Senate meetings, and “host a town hall to hear my constituents’ concerns.” Some of his other goals are creating a “more inclusive” campus climate, bettering mental health resources, and improving access to parking.
Mitchell was asked by an audience member how he plans to stay unbiased serving both ASUCI and the College Republicans at UCI.
Mitchell assured the student that he is “not running on behalf of [his] club” and will abstain from votes concerning College Republicans. He wants students to “trust” that he will remain unbiased; “There is not much else I can say at this point . . . I hope and expect that people will hold me accountable if I go away from my promises.”

Jessica Santiago, Anthony Valentin, Rayan Galaidos, Qoodseya Afredi, Rafael Hernandez, and Nasir Asad are also candidates for the Social Science Senator position. None of these candidates spoke at the forum.

There is one Senate transfer student position available.

Jagmanpreet Kaur is representing transfer students. She has been at UCI for one year and is majoring in International Studies. She has experienced first-hand the unique problems that transfer students face: “not knowing where to go to ask for help, not having friends, being uprooted from the city you grew up in, and not being able to afford expensive university costs.” She hopes to increase transparency between students and ASUCI by holding informal office hours and getting to know her constituents on a personal level.

Brennan Gonering is a fourth year Neurobiology student who believes in holding the transfer center accountable for communicating with new students. His goals are reconstituting the transfer student committee within ASUCI and “giving students the space to advocate for themselves.”

There are three candidates for the International Senator positions with one senate seat position available.

Xuan Deng is an international student who has faced challenges in America such as a language barrier and cultural differences. Yet she has acclimated with the help of  mentors and peers and feels that “it’s time for me to give back to the vibrant community.” Her goals include maintaining diversity at UCI, increasing job opportunities for international students, and increasing awareness of available resources.

Zhuonan (Steven) Jiang is a first year international student from China. He was a member of his high school ASB program and recently joined the ASUCI Mental Health Commission. “My ultimate goal will be making UCI resources more accessible to international students and letting foreign students feel like home during their studies at UCI.”

Jai Yeon Yu is the third candidate running for the International Senator position. She was unavailable to speak at the forum.

An all-inclusive list of running candidates and their platforms can be found at https://www.asuci.uci.edu/elections