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HomeNewsCampus NewsASUCI Presidential Candidate Debate Commences 2022 Special Presidential Recall & Election

ASUCI Presidential Candidate Debate Commences 2022 Special Presidential Recall & Election

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Editor’s note: This is a breaking news story and it will be updated as the New University receives additional information and quotes.

Update 1/12/22 at 3:50  p.m.: The portion regarding the Anteater Safety Fund has been updated to include that the emergency funds were relocated in January 2022 rather than October 2021, along with additional information of Yoseph Ghazal’s endorsements.

ASUCI announced a special presidential election for the remainder of the school year following the passing of the petition to recall ASUCI President 2021-22 Michelle Wei.

Wei made an attempt to appeal the recall on Nov. 21. Wei chose Logan Knight, a former Senator that was recalled twice, in 2020 and 2021, to represent her during the preliminary hearing on Dec. 12. This raised concerns among the UCI community on r/UCI, as shown in a post shared by u/art2angels. 

Election of the secondary candidates will open from Jan. 10 at 9 a.m. to Jan. 12 at 5 p.m should the recall be successful. The link to vote can be found here.

Three students — second year computer science and engineering student Simar Cheema, fifth year computer science student Yoseph Ghazal, fourth year philosophy student Wade Smith and fourth year computer science game student Joshua Wolfe — declared their candidacy and posted their statements online

Fourth year chemistry and public health sciences student Shayan Feiz has since dropped out of the election and removed his statement as of Jan. 10 at 4:45 A.M.

Because candidate Cheema was absent from the mandatory candidate meeting held on Jan. 4 at 9:30 a.m., he was given a Punitive Measure Level 2 and was unable to participate in posting campaign material. 

ASUCI hosted a debate over Zoom, which was streamed simultaneously on the ASUCI Facebook on Jan. 8 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

ASUCI Elections Commissioner Brandon Huynh moderated the debate. 

Only four of the candidates were present, with Cheema not in attendance.

The candidates were given a minute and a half to deliver their opening remarks, one minute to respond to questions, 30 seconds for rebuttals, and a minute and a half minutes to say their closing remarks. 

Ghazal, current ASUCI senate president and one of the seven At-Large Senators, stated that if elected, he would be able to “rebuild trust [and] prove to the student body that the student government does great work.” 

His main talking points revolved around properly allocating the funds to host more events for students.

Wolfe did not introduce himself as having been associated with ASUCI. He was previously recalled from ASUCI twice, once during his involvement as a member of the ASUCI At-Large Senators in 2020 and again as a member of the ASUCI Judicial Board alongside Knight in 2021. 

During the debate, Wolfe described himself as “being a voice and having the passion to represent for every single [student].” Wolfe also listed his many social and academic involvements, ranging from K-pop dancing to game production. 

Above: ASUCI Legislation: R56-51, excerpt from the petition for the Fall 2020 Impeachment of the Judicial Board.

Third year human biology, economics and political sciences student Steven Gong posted a set of slides back in October 2020, informing the student body of the corruption regarding the Board on the UCI Class of 2023 Facebook group. The slides were spread around through various social media platforms and were seen on Instagram as well.

Wolfe’s main talking points revolved around increasing mental health services and campus safety officers and limiting the spread of COVID-19 to resume in-person learning.

Smith stated what he believed ASUCI needed. 

“UCI needs someone with strong leadership and a successful track record,” Smith said.

Smith also shared that he had run a successful campus organization, but he stopped before he could list his specific involvements. His main talking points revolved around short answers with limited information on his specific policies.

Above: Smith’s candidate biography published on the ASUCI Elections webpage.

Feiz referred to Wei’s time as president. 

“When the president made her future bright, she made our future dim,” Feiz said.

Feiz’s main talking points revolved around “making classes more accessible, expanding mental health services and pushing a clean energy future.”

Following the candidates’ opening statements, Huynh began asking questions. Topics discussed during the debates ranged from the roles of the president, COVID-19, in-person sessions, transparency within the office, proper allocation of ASUCI funds, mental health issues and campus safety. 

All candidates stated that the role of the president was to represent the student population. 

“If [the president] were to do what all 10,000 students asked, the office would be inefficient,” Feiz said.

Ghazal offered a correction to Feiz’s point.

“I wanted to correct you, [Feiz]. There are actually 30,000 undergraduate students that the President represents,” Ghazal said.

Ghazal then referred to Wolfe, while laughing and holding up two fingers. 

“Interesting, Joshua Wolfe, in your opening speech, [you] did not mention that you used to be in ASUCI. There [were] corruption charges and Joshua Wolfe was twice recalled,” Ghazal said.

This prompted Wolfe to rebut.

“That is absolutely false. I was never ever recalled,” Wolfe said. “Look online. There was never an election. I don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. With all [of] us here trying to build people up, I don’t know why you’re trying to spout falsehoods about everybody here.”

Ghazal constantly made rebuttals to the other candidates’ statements and pointed out the flaws within them. This resulted in his opponents reacting strongly to his statements. 
Some viewers pointed out a lack of professionalism from Ghazal both in the Facebook Live Stream chat and in a Reddit post.

Above: Screen capture of a comment left by fourth year software engineering student Jack Qiu under the Facebook Live stream.

Ghazal mentioned specific policies unlike the other candidates, such as the Student Program Funding Board (SPFB) and the Anteater Safety Net Grant, a special committee, which Ghazal currently serves as chair, created in the 2020-21 school year to “promote the creation of a COVID-19 grant.” 

In his “President Campaign Statement Public,” Ghazal stated that “[the Anteater Safety Net Grant] will give 80 students $1,000 each for basic needs assistance.” 

Three different Commissioners from the Office of Student Services Vice President (SSVP), who wished to stay anonymous and whose identities were independently verified by the New University, insinuated the embezzlement of funds from Vice President of Student Services Joshua Ma in the Facebook Live stream comments. 

One Commissioner mentioned that “the reallocation was never mentioned to any of the commissioners of the SSVP before it happened” while another Commissioner stated that “the SSVP did not consult with any commissioners prior to the budget reallocation.”

“The grant money Yoseph keeps talking about came from the Student Services funds — the office that does concerts, rallies, etc. So, the events have less funding now,” a third Commissioner said. 

The New University took a closer look at the reallocation of the funds, which occurred in January 2022 and found out that with the amount of $126,000 from the SSVP Office, the total amount of money available under the grant would result in $206,000, rather than the total of $80,000.

If 80 students would be given $1,000 each, as stated in Ghazal’s campaign statement, $126,000 would still be unaccounted for. This poses the question of where and how the remaining money would be used. 

Ghazal said in his opening statement that he had “a track [record] of promoting transparency.” 

Yet, the discrepancy in the numbers of the total amount under the fund remains. He later referred to the grant as his “$200,000 safety grant” during the live debate.

As of Jan. 12 at 3:50 p.m., Ghazal updated his campaign statement to reflect that the Anteater Safety Fund would allow “200 students [to receive] $1000 each for basic needs assistance.” The rest of the money would be returned to the SSVP Office.

Feiz and Ghazal had an exchange of rebuttals, which led to Huynh intercepting and limiting the candidates to one rebuttal for each question.

When asked how the candidates would show transparency to the student body, all candidates stated that they would either open their meetings to the public, post minutes of their meetings or communicate with the students in some way or form.

Feiz went on to state that he would re-elect the entire presidential staff.

“I will fire all the staff of the current president because they are [as] corrupt as the President … my staff is [as] decent as I am, and everyone can tell I’m pretty decent,” Feiz said.

Above: Feiz’s candidate biography published on the ASUCI Elections webpage, which has since been taken down due to his withdrawal as a candidate. He refers to the recalled ASUCI President Michelle Wei as “the most popular person in school, who has a very bright future ahead of her.”

He also shared his views on COVID-19. 

“Omicron is not dangerous as we think it is. Omicron is transmissible, I admit, but Omicron will not kill you. It’s like the flu. However, it won’t kill you. It’ll get you, but it won’t kill you,” Feiz said. “At this point, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. [UCI is] forcing students to get vaccinated and boosted. [The students] are paying the fees and should be getting the amenities. This is getting ridiculous.”

During the debate, Feiz also held up a photocopy of a man twice, which he revealed later as Dick Cheney. He referred to Cheney as one of his role models. 

None of the candidates felt the need to create a new commission for the office. They each shared their respective views on ASUCI.

Ghazal spoke highly of the 500 students working under ASUCI. 

“ASUCI is the hub of advocacy. There are so many things that go on behind the scenes that get overshadowed by corruption and incompetency. It’s very easy to say a blanket statement that all 500 people are terrible, but I’m telling you there are people working hard despite people slandering their names,” Ghazal said. 

Smith felt differently about ASUCI. 

“It’s incorrect to say that ASUCI is a great place for advocacy. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here,” Smith said. 

The candidates were asked about the projects they would achieve if they were to become president for the remainder of the school year.

Wolfe introduced some new policies and events that he previously did not mention.

“I don’t know if everyone misses the dances from high school. It would be great if UCI could [do] something like that. It would be great to have events like live debates, town halls and other events to bring us together [and a] 24/7 mental health service line,” Wolfe said. 

Ghazal mentioned that he did not think Wolfe could work with the ASUCI Senate. 

“About a quarter of the current Senate was involved in [Wolfe’s] impeachment. Joshua Wolfe appointed himself to be a Judicial Board justice after he lost the election in 2020 [and] gave the Board a 233% increase in budget from $8,000 to $117,000,” Ghazal said. 

To this, Wolfe admitted that he was impeached. 

“Yes, there was a petition. But there was no election. So there was no recall … Yes, the entire Judicial Board happened to be impeached. I was also wrapped up in the mess … Yes, budget increase, but what — that’s not illegal. Can you please explain what I did was illegal activity?” Wolfe said.

Former ASUCI Senate President and Class of 2021 alumnus Ivan Fonseca commented under the livestream that Wolfe, Knight and other members of the Judicial Board were allegedly attempting to use the student body funds for personal use. These allegations are still under review by the New University.

Above: Screen capture of a comment left by Class of 2021 alumnus and former ASUCI Senate President Ivan Fonseca under the Facebook Live stream.

This led to a series of exchanges between Wolfe, Feiz and Ghazal. Smith commented on how “interesting” the other candidates were in terms of their previous involvements with ASUCI. 

“So [in this debate], we have one person who is enabling corruption and we have one noting legislation when one-third of the documents are appointments for ASUCI,” Smith said.

Ghazal introduced his three-week office reform while Smith and Wolfe expressed not wanting to change much regarding the office.

Feiz, on the other hand, stated for the second time that he would get rid of everyone in the president’s office and “would even paint the office differently or even change the drapes, change the furniture and change every single thing that the President [was] doing.” 

At times, the other three candidates would single Ghazal out for having been a part of ASUCI for his entire duration at UCI.

Ghazal was also the only candidate that had endorsements. He was endorsed by one of the current At-Large senators and fourth year biological sciences student Sina Shahrood under the Iranian Student Union (ISU), and fourth year biological sciences student Cheryl Godbee under Anteaters for Autism.

Screen capture from ASUCI Candidates Election Webpage.

Shahrood was also the one who filed the petition against Wei back in November 2021. 

As of Jan. 12 at 3:50 p.m., Ghazal has received additional endorsements from fourth year biological sciences student Nabeel Azhand under the Afghan United Association at UCI ( AUA), third year political science student Arianna Romero under College Democrats at UCI, and third year public health policy and education sciences student Jasmine Hong under Kappa Zeta Phi.

Screen capture from ASUCI Candidates Election Webpage.

A member of the Senate, Zachary “Zach” Griggy, the current ASUCI Social Sciences Senator and Office of the External Vice President (EVP) Legislative Affairs Commission Local Affairs Coordinator, was seen commenting and supporting Ghazal during the livestream.

When asked how each candidate stood out from the rest, Feiz referred to his volunteering experiences and referenced Ghazal’s statement of not being paid for his duties under the Senate.

“I volunteer at a hospital and do you know how much I get paid? $0 … I see sick people. I bag dead humans. I see them when they’re alive and I see them when they’re dead. I cry for them. I cry for you. I cry for us because we are under a leadership that does not care,” Feiz said.

When asked about how one would act ethically while in office, Wolfe referred to the ASUCI Constitution.

“[I will] make sure to follow the government documents. If I happen to do something illegal or corrupt, I can be impeached,” Wolfe said.

Ghazal, Smith and Wolfe advocated for their policies and agreed that students needed a president that would better serve the student body population. 

To have Wei continue as ASUCI President for the remainder of the school year, the majority of voting students would have to vote “no” on the recall. 

If 50% of the voting population vote “yes” for Wei to be recalled, the candidate with the most votes would become the ASUCI President for the remainder of the school year.

Students can access the elections webpage here.

Jennifer Cheong is a 2021-2022 Campus News Assistant Editor. She can be reached at campusnews@newuniversity.org.