ASUCI 2018 Elections: Candidate Interviews

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The New University reached out to Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates to further discuss their platforms:

Presidential Candidates:

Annie Le

Why are you running for this position?
By announcing my candidacy, I hope to continue advocating for students’ rights in higher education, combining an enduring work ethic with the platform and honor of being your next ASUCI President. ASUCI President has the privilege of working with various members of the administration and being in meetings that normal students and other members in ASUCI do not have access to. I want to ensure that students’ voices are represented in the decision-making processes. I also aim to increase the opportunities for administration to meet directly with students, not just with a few student leaders, to solve issues related to campus climate and basic needs.  

Why do you feel you’re the best person for the job?
Those who have worked with me have seen my work ethic and the consistency of my action, how I have kept my promises and uplifted the work of those around me, not confining myself to the job description.

Currently serving as your ASUCI President’s chief of staff, I oversee more than 100 members in the office, work closely with the ASUCI President, assist various office duties and officially represent the president in meetings during her absences. There are six commissions under our office: Mental Health, Research Mobilization, Campus Climate, Housing Security, Media & Communications, and the Student Programming Funding Board (SPFB).

Not just working with the UCI community, through our extensive network, I’ve traveled and learned by seeing how leaders across the UCs operate, generate ideas. Those who are most committed to change are also those who value the people’s voices, on if something could be done differently or even better.

What specific goals do you hope to achieve?

My goals include: acknowledging and advocating for basic needs, normalizing mental health narrative discussions, necessitating resources for an inclusive campus climate, investing time and implementing ideas to inform and empowering to expand students’ political engagements.

What’s the one thing you want students to know about you and your platform?
My passion for advocacy and empathy for the traumatized were formed from my own personal trauma. I am a domestic violence survivor from Vietnam. I experienced first-hand the barriers of coming forward, and that sparked my passion to reform the broken system in communities, starting on our campus, speaking about the unspeakable, giving voice to the voiceless.

Moving across the world at age 12, the United States has since become a safe haven where I’m an immigrant who calls it home. In addition to the trauma and mental health battle, I experienced the difficult journey to obtain citizenship. I just became a U.S. citizen two years ago, the day my family, and I could finally breathe … I am now an undergraduate at UC Irvine and a first-generation student. Navigating basic needs in a new environment is no easy task. I acknowledge demands, strive to accommodate and advocate for basic needs of all students. It’s also part of my platform to necessitate resources for inclusive campus climate, providing legal aid to those in need. I will invest time and implement ideas to inform students, as well as empower them to expand student’s political engagement, especially with the local elections coming up. It’s important that students are registered to vote and stay engaged in the process, so the next elected politicians would be those who fight for higher education and student’s rights.

What do you believe is the most pressing issue that you need to address if you win the Election?
In my opinion, the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed on this campus is the apathetic culture. Many students choose to stay silent, have not realized the power of their voice and the changes it could achieve. To improve a college environment that’s inclusive for all, I feel the need to empower my peers to engage more with the community, so diverse opinions are represented.

Less than a year ago, I stood with UCI delegation and students from across the UCs at California State Capitol, Sacramento, to lobby politicians on issues affecting higher education. The legislative won and the passings of Assembly Bill 214 (Weber) to tackle college hunger with improved access to CalFresh, Senate Bill 68 (Lara) to address nonresident tuition exemption and Senate Bill 54 (de Leon) for California’s ‘Sanctuary State’ status are among countless examples of what we can achieve together by raising our collective voice.

 

Sui Feng Xu

Why are you running for this position?

I just see that there is a lack of connection with ASUCI, and I realized that their budget is pretty big. ASUCI has $1.3 million from student fees, so I think we should hold them accountable for our student fees, so I’m mainly running to give transparency to the organization and their use of student fees. I also have heard that in ASUCI there is a lot of drama going on, so I want to try and unite everyone so that we work together to help make ASUCI an organization that works for everyone. I just believe that you need someone from outside to be there and help out. I have been involved a lot with the ICS community. I was president of Quizball at UC Irvine last year. I was part of the Student Senate advisory boards, so I know the way things are run in ASUCI.

Why do you feel you’re the best person for the job?
I am independent of [ASUCI], and I do have a lot of experience outside of ASUCI. I personally believe ASUCI needs reform. I think I would be the best person to do reform because I have a lot of experience outside of ASUCI and I have an outside perspective.

What are some of the things you have done outside of ASUCI?

I worked with Professor Pattis with the tutoring program in the School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). For a student, it is a form of free tutoring.

So part of your platform would be to ensure that students understand the resources available to them?

I would organize committees  and student led initiatives that would allow students to ask the dean directly for the resources they need  rather than top-down president-led or Senate-led initiatives. I think there is a problem with publicizing these resources, and these committees would ensure that students receive the resources they need. Another part of my platform is to publicize the Student Program and Funding Board, a $140,000 fund that would give student orgs the possibility of organizing events without worrying about their funding. ICS only became aware of this though our ICS senator, and the board itself is not very transparent. We don’t know what the $140,000 goes to: what club, what even, so I want to make it more transparent so students can know where their tuition money is going.

What are some of your other goals?

I learned from the president of the Senate that ASUCI is not utilizing a lot of their money. The Senate is deciding how the funds are being allocated. In the debate, [current Senate president and ASUCI presidential candidate] Boparai criticized the New University in particular for having a student fee referendum, and then he was saying well, they’re not utilizing their entire [funding] so that’s one of the reasons why [Senate] made the decision to cancel the referendum. I personally believe that the Senate should not have the ability to decide where students’ funds are being allocated, as in this situation.  I think the students should be the people deciding on fee referenda, not the president of the senate. And the senate itself is hardly democratic. If you look at the election list, a lot of the positions have one spot open and only one person running, so you can’t claim that they are representing the entire student body if there is only one person running. I feel like we should have less ASUCI fees and more student-led initiatives like the New U and Anteater TV, or a wellness center for resources. My goal would be to make ASUCI funds and positions more transparent so that students would be able to have more of a say in how their funds are used.

I want to implement measures to unite the student government instead of them fighting over things that happened in the past. I think there is potential for a better climate for ASUCI. If they were completely independent of student funds they could do whatever they want, but because they are using student funds, I think we need to hold them accountable.

What are some of the steps you would take to make that transparency happen?

I think we should publish a Google spreadsheet with every single expense in the budget to be shared every time we have an expense instead of having a bunch of missing money everywhere. And ASUCI is one thing. In the administration, I think instead of trying to hide the story, we should expose the story and seek ways in which a problem would not repeat itself. Ideally, those spreadsheets would be published to students as well as administration and ASUCI, so students could see where their money is going.

How would you approach the Senate to make your goals a reality?

I would talk to the chief of staff and interns. If more people believe there should be transparency, and I believe that a lot of people do, then more people will be willing to volunteer their time in order to build something that works.

 

Vice Presidential Candidates:

Sanjanna Ellur

Why are you running for this position?

I want to engage in an active conversation with the UCI administration to bring initiatives that make our campus accessible, affordable and equitable to the student body.  It has been my passion to dedicate time and energy to working and advocating for students’ interests on campus.

Why do you feel you’re the best person for the job?

I currently serve as chief-of-staff for the ASUCI Office of Internal Vice President. As a chief-of-staff, I lead and train a group of 10 commissioners to carry out the yearly goals and assist them with training over 100 interns.  During my sophomore year, I was the food security commissioner under the same office in ASUCI. Through this position, I have worked to provide resources and services for my fellow Anteaters to engage in critical conversations about food security and have helped develop a long-term strategy model to help increase food access and security at UCI. As a food security commissioner, I started a program called Zot Out Hunger here at UCI. It is a program that redistributes excess meal swipes and guest swipes to students who are in need of them but cannot financially afford it. Throughout my time at UCI, I helped host UCI’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week twice, addressed critical parking issues, helped make parking open for 24 hours during finals week for students as an ASUCI Campus Task Force intern and helped pass the Food Pantry Referendum. In addition, I served as a mentor twice in the Summer Multicultural Leadership Institute (SMLI), served as the co-president for the Scientastic Club, worked as a marketing intern for the California Higher Education Food Summit 2016 (CHEFS) hosted at UCI, served as the marketing lead on the Food Pantry Initiative, have been serving as a student representative on the Bren Events Center Advisory Board since winter 2016 (chair since winter 2018), as a chair-designee on the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee (SHIAC) since fall 2017 and as the vice president of the South Asian Student Union (SASU) at UCI since spring 2017. It has been my passion to dedicate time and energy to working and advocating for students’ interests on campus.

What specific goals do you hope to achieve?

Improve mental health accessibility and disability services.  Establish a Wellness Lounge incorporated with high-tech nap pods.  Prioritizing our own needs isn’t always an easy thing to do. And focusing on self-care can be especially challenging for students, as day-to-day rhythms are oftentimes flooded with too much to do and not enough time. But self-care for students is extremely crucial. Additionally, as the chair for the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee (SHIAC), I will ensure that the office advocates for the expansion of mental health services through increased benefits under the Student Health Insurance and for making the USHIP affordable, accessible and of great quality.

As your Internal Vice President, I will also advocate for an increase in educational programs about disability access and ensure that they are being delivered to staff, faculty and administrators on campus. I will advocate for an expansion of the Disability Services Center which will enable it to provide programs and services to facilitate disabled students’ full participation at UCI.

I will advocate for on-campus dining locations to accept EBT cash to ensure that students receiving the benefits are actually able to use it to their convenience. I will advocate to bring more healthy, affordable and culturally diverse food locations to UCI and to increase the student discounts to all the food vendors at UTC.  According to the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey 2016 (UCUES 2016), roughly 5 percent of undergraduates at UCI experience homelessness. I will advocate to ensure that UCI Housing puts together a more transparent budget and hold a budget presentation that is accessible to students. I will also advocate for better urban planning methods to ensure that we are giving students a better and affordable price for on-campus housing while maintaining sustainable practices.

       I will advocate to bring free sanitary products to all the university washroom facilities with Student Center being the first phase of the project to create a central location on campus for ease of access. Not all people who menstruate are women, and I want to set a tone of trans-inclusivity and not forget that they’re an important part of the population as well.

I will continue the ongoing efforts of research by the current Internal Vice President to introduce parking occupancy meters in the parking structures that will help students reduce the time wasted to find available parking spaces by nearly three-fourths. I will also advocate to ensure that UCI Transportation and Distribution Services put together a shorter budget report that is easy to comprehend for students and the general population.

What do you believe is the most pressing issue that you need to address if elected?

Establish UC Irvine’s first permanent Legal Clinic.  The main purpose of bringing a Legal Clinic to UCI is to provide free legal advice to students attending the University of California, Irvine so as to support student retention by improving their ability to stay in school via high-quality counseling and assistance with their legal issues including but not limited to immigration assistance, sexual assault, domestic violence and harassment and landlord/tenant issues. However, this is not something that is possible within a year but the need for it will not go away. Therefore, in the short term, I will host quarterly resource fairs with Pro Bono services provided by our community members to ensure that students are getting access all the help they need. The UC Irvine School of Law has a Pro Bono program that encourages each student at the law school to participate by providing legal services to underserved communities and causes while being supervised by either a Law school faculty member or an attorney. I will advocate to bring these accessible services that the Pro Bono program provides to the student community here at UCI in the form of strategizing to bring a Legal Clinic, in the long term.

What is the one thing you want students to know about you and your platform?

Advocating for yourself is important, advocating for others is more important but advocating in solidarity with others is the most important.

Kyle Dimla

Why are you running for this position?

For the past couple years, I’ve seen a lot of potential for the office and a lot of things that could have been done differently, and a lot of people expressed their frustrations [for] how the office is set up or things that could have been done better. I think a lot of people, especially interns, [have] had their foot half in the door. Like academic affairs is not their priority and it comes down to the culture of what it means to be in the office of academic affairs. So the office of academic affairs has five different commissions. And the Antleader Mentorship Program is one of them, that’s the commission I’ve been a part of for three years. Our work is very different from what the rest of the office does but it’s still allowed me to be involved with the rest of the office [and see] what students need, how they interact, and what goes well. And I hope to really apply my experience there to the office and the projects that we do.

Why do you feel you’re the best person for this job?

I think a lot of it has to do with structure. Structure and organization and intent. I think a lot of the things I have done in the Antleader Mentorship Program are socials or structures, and little things, to workshops. They’ve all been done with intent, and it’s all centered on community building. And I think that’s something that’s really lacked in the office. It got a lot better this year, where I feel like the office, and especially staff, has been a lot closer. When you enjoy working with the people that you’re around, it’s suddenly like you’ve put a lot more intent or a lot more energy and it’s less tiring.

What would you be doing in your position? And how would you do it?

I definitely want to deconstruct hierarchy. This is my first goal. And this comes in with community building. But deconstructing hierarchy — when we diagram AS and offices like that, it’s always like, a schematic diagram of a tree. Under this, under that, but I feel that when we have a hierarchy like that, or even down to the details of the language we use, it really kind of it changes the culture of how people are going to function in this space. So how I want to function as a VP is, emphasize that it is a ripple diagram … circles within circles. And I really want to push leaders in this space to take ownership of the position that they are in. Because I feel that a lot of times, when we say interns, it really makes it seem like you’re going to be given a task rather than you’re going to be thinking critically on how to serve a purpose

What are you goals in running and what do you hope to accomplish if you win?

I think another really big one is bridging the gap between AS and the student body and building … transparency is such a cliche word, and I really hate it. Because everyone and their mom when they’re in any kind of leadership role or campaign, they always say, “Oh, build transparency.” But it’s like there is a reason why everyone always says build transparency every single year. It’s because it’s not being done. It’s not being done effectively. So I definitely want to create spaces where people are welcome, and general students are aware of what the office is capable of. Because I want to brand the office… as a service. This is a service for the students.

What’s the one thing — out of all this — that you want students to know about your platform?

I think it’s primarily about student empowerment. All these spaces, these events, these projects, are for the improvement of the academic experience for students. And so I want to be genuine, especially as an executive of ASUCI because I know with the student body, AS doesn’t have the best reputation and that’s something that I want to change by making sure that people understand that this is a service role. This is for the students and that actions speak louder than words. Because you know we can say that we’re serving the students, [that we’re] here for the students all that we want but if we don’t act like it, then what’s the point?

What do you believe is the most pressing issue?

Externally, in terms of that gap between AS and students, [the biggest issue] is definitely how we portray AS or how we communicate with students. I’m very big on public relations and communications and marketing and I really think that the reason why a lot of students do tend to be jaded is because they see AS as the leaders responsible for certain things when sometimes AS doesn’t have that in their control. And… because ASUCI [leaders], we are students too, and so I think we need to be able to communicate policy better, because when people think government, people think politics, [and] they instantly have the energy to try to understand it. Because it is complex… so how do we arrange things or communicate things in a more effective way so that the student body understands?

Dilraj Toor:

Why are you running for this position?
I’m running for Student Services Vice President because, as the name suggests, I want to serve the students. I personally think college should be a memorable experience and that people should enjoy their time on campus. While education should be the top priority and people should work hard to succeed academically, they should also get out of their room and enjoy their days here by participating in school events and making memories they will remember forever. I want to help create opportunities for students to make college a memorable part of their lives.  

Why do you feel you’re the best person for the job?
I have been in the office for two years now — this year as a commissioner — which entails working closely with this year’s vice president as well. Basically, I know really well how this office works and would not waste any time learning the intricacies, but instead jump right into the position and begin work on my agenda immediately. In addition, I genuinely do love event planning and have been doing things of this nature since high school, from small to large scales and everything in-between.

What specific goals do you hope to achieve?
My hope is to get as many people as possible involved in this campus in one way or another, and help them create at least one memory pertaining to UCI that they will carry for their entire life. I think the way to reach the most students is through large-scale events like concerts, athletic rallies, spirit days, Homecoming, film screenings, etc. I want to strengthen these events and, as always, take them up one (or two, or three) levels.

What’s the one thing you want students to know about you and your platform?
I’m a student myself and I’m here for the students. I love a good concert and a fun spirit day as much as the next person, and because of that I will always advocate for the best events. I want people to know that I will work tirelessly to make sure these events we put on are actually enjoyable and that they strengthen students’ college experiences. My platform is built on the trust of other students believing in me and my ability to express their best interests to my team and the school administration.

What do you believe is the most pressing issue that you need to address if you win election?
In regards to the office of Student Services, I feel some of the most pressing issues we face is displeased students. It is extremely hard to put on events that all 33,000+ students enjoy, but I think it is extremely important to try my best. To combat or address this issue I think the best thing to do is to put on as many events as possible that are varied so as to please as many people as possible.

Overall, I just want students to know that I genuinely love event planning and truly believe students should love college and make the most of it, and I want to help do that.


Galina Birko:

Why are you running for this position?

I always thought that advocacy plays an important role in public education. Championing by fellow students for the right causes is admirable and honorable. Connecting with students on campus and engaging in meaningful matters that can potentially change lives is very rewarding. There is power in connection and I would like to unite students and educators to improve our lives to the highest degree possible.

Why do you feel you’re the best person for the job?

I believe I have the qualities and experience to do the job well. I am reliable, trustworthy, good at communicating, friendly, outgoing and passionate about people and equality.  Contributing to someone else’s success drives me and gives me purpose. I understand the value of having someone believing in you and supporting you along the way at school.

What specific goals do you hope to achieve?

My main objectives would be to support students to achieve greater academic and career success and reach his or her potential, use my resources and influence to protect students’ rights and interests and empowering students to become their own advocates.

What’s the one thing you want students to know about you and your platform?

I believe social advocacy is one of the great ways to empower and reach students, faculty and alumni. I would be using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to share inspiring news and stories about the school as well as newsletters via email.

What do you believe is the most pressing issue that you need to address if you win election?

Being a Student Advocate General, it’s hard to pinpoint one specific issue. I would address equality/fundamental human rights in general as I believe that anything that promotes inequality promotes separation. I would focus on oneness and tackle the issues that come out of inequality such as: gender, race, age, sexual orientation, transgender, religion or belief, bullying and harassment.

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Responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness. Candidates Gurneel Boparai, Holly Woods and Priscilla McGregor did not respond to interview requests by the time of publication. More information can be found at www.elections.uci.edu/asuci/.

Voting opens week 3; ballots will be available online from Monday, April 16 at 9 a.m. until Friday, April 20 at 5 p.m. Results will be available week 4.

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