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ASUCI 2021-2022 Vice Presidential Debates

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The Associated Students of UCI (ASUCI) held debates over Zoom for the internal, external, student services and academic Vice Presidential (VP) positions on April 7. The debates were held in preparation for the spring election, for which official voting began on April 12 at 9:00 a.m. and will end on April 16 at 5:00 p.m.

Candidates for the various vice president positions were able to declare candidacy as either an independent or part of a slate, which is a group of candidates applying for different positions but run together on a common platform. The registered slates for the ASUCI Spring 2021 Elections are Anteaters United 2021-2022 and Anteater Alliance.

In past years, ASUCI’s senate had been surrounded by controversy, which eventually led to the recalling of six senators in Winter 2020. The recalled senators were known to have re-run for different positions in the following years as part of the slates Fund the Clubs and Friends of Peter. According to research done by the New University, this year’s candidates for the VP positions do not seem to be associated with either of these slates.

The first debate was between Internal VP (IVP) candidates — third year Asian American studies and East Asian cultures student Naja Christmas (Anteaters United), who has past experience within ASUCI as a primary commissioner of the budget management board, and third year business administration student Alyssa Naigan (Anteater Alliance), who has been involved in the IVP for three years as an Anteaters in Action and Recruitment and Retention intern, the Recruitment and Retention Commissioner, and is currently one of the IVP Chiefs of Staff.

Naigan opened her position with an acronym summarizing her areas of focus if she were elected as the next IVP: Amplify marginalized voices; Navigate through the COVID-19 transition alongside UCI administration; and Transparency and Representation (ANT).

“A lot of what my campaign is based on is opening the door for students to directly talk to administration,” Naigan said when asked how she would continue to advocate for students. “I know that the international student community is lacking support in the time of COVID. And I know that providing the platform, providing the space for them to talk to the vice chancellor, to the dean of their school, just giving them platforms to discuss face to face, or I guess Zoom to Zoom, would be very beneficial to have.”

Both candidates agreed that ASUCI holds a lot of power. Naigan said that she hopes to use that power by reallocating funds to areas that would benefit students the most as a way to give back to the student body. She was also the first candidate of many to bring up the recurring topic of student mental health awareness and help. Christmas and Naigan agreed on many points, such as transparency of money flow and inclusion of all students regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic standing, etc. Christmas also said that communication is key. 

“First and foremost, we have to talk,” Christmas said. 

Christmas’ concluding statement included a promise to advocate for students. 

“We are their advocates, right? … And we have to sit in the room and fight for the things that they want. If we don’t do it, there’s no one else on campus to do it,” Christmas said. “Disagreements are going to happen. People have differences of opinion all the time. But, I’m going to sit in the room, and I’m going to fight.”

Naigan concluded with a final statement regarding her full intent to carry out her campaign promises.

“I recognize that there’s a lot of overlap between my opponent and I, but what sets me apart asides from experience is approach. Every point on my platform is a goal that can be achieved. I created this campaign on the basis of student feedback and the positions I’ve held … With your support, you’ll be able to see these goals succeed for every student at UCI,” she said.

Photo by Clara Chao / Staff

The next debate featured candidates for External VP (EVP) — third year business economics student Steven Dauglash (Anteaters United), who is currently one of the ASUCI Social Science Senators, and second year political science and social policy and public service student Victoria Montalvo (Anteater Alliance), who’s past experiences include being an intern to the Legislative Affairs Office, the coordinator for state affairs, and the current legislative director of the EVP.

Dauglash opened by saying he is dedicated to prioritizing the needs of the student body. 

“I know that I will because I always have,” Dauglash said. 

He also said that his biggest achievements as senator this year were advocating for the Pass/No Pass deadline extension and getting funding for the Anteater Safety-Net Grant. Dauglash said that he fights for diversity, inclusivity, advocacy and basic needs support. 

When questioned about potential statewide partnerships, Montalvo cited her experience collaborating with state officials.

“I authored the UCI mental health bill along with several other team members within the EVP office. This is something that you really have to work on with ties … And so, through the years I have been able to develop relationships with Senator Dave Min’s office, congresswoman Katie Porter’s office, [and] assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris’ office. I’ve really gotten to talk to these elected officials and their office reps and get to see how we can put mental health at a top priority for students,” she said.

Montlavo and Dauglash share a stance on the topic of increasing Cal Grants. This topic was initially brought up by Dauglash, who wants to increase the awards amounts by taking on the state legislative branch. Montlavo said that she had been working on doubling the Cal Grant and that she hopes to continue fighting for the Double the Pell Grant cause.  

“I sincerely hope that it has become clear that I have the experience, the passion and the ability to advocate for you, the students,” Montavlo said when making her closing remarks.

Dauglash closed with a promise to the UCI community. 

“As EVP, I will not take no for an answer. I will make the UC system and governments accountable to their students and I will continue to advocate for all of our needs,” Dauglash said.

Photo by Clara Chao / Staff

The EVP candidates were followed by the candidates running for Student Services VP — third year Chinese studies and political science student Joshua Ma (Anteater Alliance), who has experience as the 2019-2020 Commissioner of Spirit and Assistant Commissioner of Student Talent, and third year philosophy major Aaron Garcia (independent), who is currently a part of ASUCI’s mental health commission.

Garcia, a transfer student whose first year was completely remote, said that more attention should be placed on welcome week events and claimed that the first week is a crucial transition point for new students such as himself. 

Ma agreed with Garcia’s points regarding significant improvements to welcome week events, but said that safety was his number one concern due to the pandemic. According to Ma, the situation is improving, with California set to reopen mid-June. He proposed the idea of a public concert in addition to a socially distanced night market with music and cultural foods; Ma said that these proposed events could bring back a sense of community as the transition to returning to in-person instruction is made. 

In addition to activities such as paintball and hamster balls that Garcia said he hopes will greatly increase student participation, Garcia addressed the idea of a commission being built around activism. He said that protests may help boost a sense of school spirit and will give students an outlet to voice their frustrations surrounding the injustices currently happening. 

Ma’s closing addressed the changes he hopes to bring and his own goals and years of service. 

“I’m looking bigger than just providing people with that social life experience, I’m looking to create a cultural [change]. And so, when you’re voting for me, you’re really voting for someone who understands what has worked at UCI and what has not worked at UCI,” Ma said.

In contrast, Garcia closed his debate by relating himself to a large majority of students who are owed the college experience which they were promised. 

“I definitely want a great senior year and I want it to be full of events where I could get this college experience that I’m waiting for and that many of you are owed. I don’t feel like the obligation of having a social life should be relied on the students but on the Student Services VP. It’s going to be the burden and obligation of myself and my commissioners to ultimately give you this experience, and I definitely feel like I’m able to,” Garcia said.

Photo by Clara Chao / Staff

The final debate was between the candidates for Academic Affairs VP (AAVP) — third year business administration and psychological sciences student Angel Hoang (Anteaters United), who was a mentor in Visions Leadership and is the current Speakers Commissioner under the Office of Academic Affairs, and third year biological sciences student Mikie Phouthavong Jr. (Anteater Alliance) who has been involved in ASUCI as a past Recruitment and Retention (RAR) intern and commissioner and as a current mentor in the Antleader Mentor Program (AMP).

Both candidates are first generation college students and spoke of a desire to enrich the experiences of undergraduates as they continue their education by bettering the academic office at UCI. 

Both Hoang and Phouthavong advocated for changes to be made when in-person classes resume in the fall, and they stated their intentions to make academic resources more accessible to UCI students. Hoang said that she understands that many may have financial issues when returning to in-person instruction and proposed a campus-wide initiative to provide free testing materials.

“I will personally work with [Dean of Undergraduate Education and Vice Provost] Michael Dennin to ensure that there is no need for [physical] testing materials,” Hoang said.

Phouthavong also addressed the looming problem of financial difficulties and proposed a solution of increasing course supplement grants. 

“I believe that it is very important to give back to the students as much as possible because, again, these are student fees that are going into our organization and giving back is the right thing to do,” Phouthavong said.

Photo by Clara Chao / Staff

Clara Chao is a Campus News intern for the Spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at clarac4@uci.edu.