Thursday, May 23

USAC campaign promises evaluated


While some councilmembers are able to carry out platform goals, others' plans are still in progress

With elections for next year’s undergraduate student government approaching, the current councilmembers’ progress will inevitably have an effect on students’ votes.

Undergraduate Students Association Council President Homaira Hosseini ran for office on specific platform goals. Now closing the end of her tenure, Hosseini has not only fulfilled all the promises she made but also possesses a long list of further accomplishments.

In an effort to ensure USAC remains accountable to the student body, Hosseini promised to hold State of the University addresses to provide updates about what her office was undertaking. The first such address took place on Nov. 4 during the U.S. presidential election results night.

A second presidential address took place during the dedication of the Peace Pole at Meyerhoff Park, and a third was held during the BruINTENT event. Both events themselves were sponsored by Hosseini’s office.

Her platform promised to institute a payment plan that would allow students to pay fees in installments rather than being forced to pay lump sums. With the support of the UCLA administration, this was accomplished by the Deferred Payment Plan, which will be implemented in the winter of 2010, Hosseini said.

“This payment plan will help students who are having trouble fronting all the money at once, especially in these economic times,” Hosseini said.

Beyond her platform promises, Hosseini facilitated BruINTENT, which was an event designed to highlight the plight of homeless students on campus, and conducted town halls to discuss and address student concerns about budget cuts.

Among independent candidate and External Vice President Jesse Melgar’s primary goals this year were to fight against extreme fee hikes and ensure accessibility and affordability of the UC campuses.

In order to reach these goals, the USAC Office of the External Vice President, with a total of five staffs and some 35 staff members, has worked to rescind the SAT Subject Test criteria as a part of the admissions process.

“I wanted to ensure that all qualified students have a chance of attending the UC,” Melgar said.

Melgar’s office also worked with the UC Board of Regents to establish the Blue and Gold Financial Aid Plan. Passed by the board this year, the plan would cover educational fees for all students whose parents make $60,000 or less.

“This plan was a huge victory for our office and for all students in general,” Melgar said.

In addition to conducting “Lessons in Lobbying” workshops, in which students and organizations were taught basic techniques for effective advocacy, Melgar was also responsible for institutionalizing Bruin Lobby Corps.

“We have met with over 30 legislators this year alone and have even expanded our lobbying efforts to the lieutenant governor’s office,” Melgar said.

Though Hosseini and Melgar completed all of their platforms, Internal Vice President Evan Shulman said he encountered numerous obstacles relating to feasibility and cost.

His plan to develop green housing off campus in the form of a cooperative living center became difficult to develop due to the state of the economy, Shulman said.

“Housing runs as a business and it’s more economical not to use a co-op in terms of maintenance and food,” Shulman added.

Since the development of green housing off campus was unfeasible, Shulman’s office instead worked as an advocate for green causes on campus, talking to housing services about the inclusion of a sustainable design in its residence hall remodels.

He also extended the sustainability and green part of his campaign to pledge to implement a free recycling program in Westwood.

Shulman said he plans to buy an ad in the Daily Bruin to encourage Westwood apartment residents to sign up for the free recycling program. But as of now, Shulman said he is waiting to speak to apartment managers about the feasibility of the program.

As a result of Shulman’s progress on his student media platform pledge, smaller media outlets at UCLA will, in the near future, have more areas to broadcast from.

Shulman and his office have met extensively with ASUCLA to have UCLA Radio played at the Kerckhoff Coffeehouse, and Daily Bruin TV showcased in the Cooperage.

But he added that neither initiative is likely to be seen this year.

The most successful part of Shulman’s platform has been the implementation of leadership training workshops.

Last fall, Shulman’s office programmed with the Student Alumni Association to put on Leadership 101, a series of workshops based on developing leadership.

Shulman’s office has also brought in financial workshops and informational programs on sustainability.

General Representatives

The three general representatives found mixed results with their progress from the past year.

Monica Kohles of Bruins United was the most successful representative in carrying out her platform ideas. Her office reduced course reader prices and added an online apartment rating database on bruinwalk.com.

Additionally, Kohles developed a “Mythbusters” program with academic counselors to keep students informed about developments at UCLA. She said she is bringing in a panel of speakers to discuss the business world.

General Representative James Birks of Students First! brought in a new speaker series focused on social justice and programmed with the Office of Residential Life to educate students about alternative health, he said.

He also laid the groundwork for the Bruin Paws Wiki, a Web site for UCLA student groups to plan events and exchange information. However, his plan to integrate student groups and themed floors in the residence halls was never started.

Natalie Gonzalez of Bruins United faced considerable difficulty in carrying out her platforms, but she said she started work on each one.

Her plan to have West Los Angeles businesses offer discounts to students was not completed, but she said her office instead developed a list of Westwood discounts, which will be distributed to resident assistants to give to their residents in a couple of weeks.

She also laid the groundwork for an expanded spring break trip and a social revolution summit that will have student organizations co-program for a common cause, but neither developed fully, she said.

“It’s sometimes difficult to carry out all of the platform ideas due to cost, responses from co-programmers, and other USAC council duties,” Gonzalez said.

Commissioners

The commissioners generally either carried out their platforms or started work on new issues that may be continued in the future.

All three independent commissioners fully realized their platform ideas.

Penson Liu, the Campus Events commissioner, created an online multimedia database of his commission’s events and diversified his office’s artistic offerings.

Liu said his office showcased an adult film earlier this year, and co-programmed with the Design | Media Arts department to put on concerts.

Valerie Sien, the Community Service commissioner and independent, said she wanted her office to partner with the Office of Residential Life to expand opportunities for community service.

The Community Service Commission partnered with Office of Residential Life for their sixth annual Community Service Day this year.

“ORL helped us extensively recruit and publicize for the event, and the majority of participants were residents living on the Hill,” Sien said.

Another major goal for the commission was to institutionalize the Community Service Record. The Community Service Record is an online document logging volunteer hours and leadership roles of each student belonging to various community service groups.

“We are currently finishing up our pilot run for the CSR and will hopefully have it available to all service groups by next year,” Sien said.

Student Welfare Commissioner and independent Jonathan Tsai took on multiple responsibilities to fulfill the demands of his office by advocating for current issues relevant to the health and well-being of the student body.

“All of my planned goals at the beginning of my tenure have been accomplished,” Tsai said.

In addition to increasing health programming on the Hill and promoting women’s health issues, Tsai’s office also expanded the Bruin Health Week by bringing together student health organizations and representatives from Ashe Center and UCLA Recreation.

“By forming this network of health organizations, I hope SWC will be able to foster an ever increasing Bruin Health Network in the future,” Tsai added.

Among its accomplishments this year, the Student Welfare Commission office was a major influence in the relocation of the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center into Ackerman Union. Tsai’s office also hosted Roll-AIDS, an event designed to raise awareness about AIDS in Africa.

Beyond his platform promises, Tsai’s office also instituted weekly CPR and first aid classes and monthly blood drives.

The other four commissioners, who are part of the Students First! slate, made considerable progress on their goals.

Facilities Commissioner Galen Roth is currently in talks with campus officials about her platform idea to advocate for a safer campus by improving blue lights and lighting in Westwood.

As a member of the Constitutional Review Committee, Roth was influential in revising Office Space Allocation Committee bylaws to open up office spaces for student groups.

“We wanted to make sure office spaces were allocated fairly and efficiently,” Roth said.

Financial Supports Commissioner Elaine Reodica said she wanted to make her office more visible and truly prioritize students on campus during her tenure.

“I wanted the commission to think big and be creative in its approach to assisting students in need on our campus,” Reodica said.

All of Reodica’s platform promises were fulfilled this year. In promoting “financial literacy,” her office held financial fitness workshops, co-sponsored by the University Credit Union and was responsible for the launch of “FAFSA on Wheels,” where information was made readily available to students at various campus locations.

“FSC did a week of action where we brought our assistance to the students through tabling on Bruin Walk and the Hill, as well as encouraging one-on-one appointments,” Reodica said.

Under Reodica’s leadership, the commission also established the first USAC Financial Supports Textbook Scholarship Fund.

“We were able to give out 72 scholarships this year, each worth $250,” Reodica said.

Cultural Affairs Commissioner George Chacon also established new initiatives with his office, including the introduction of alternative forms of music on campus, as well as a Bruin Mix tape competition.

But Chacon said he had trouble expanding arts and dance classes to non-majors.

“Budget cuts made that part of the platform impossible,” he said.

Academic Affairs Commissioner Jeremiah Garcia started to work on his platform goals, but he said a year was not long enough to carry most of them out.

Garcia’s proposal to create diversity general requirements is currently being worked on by administration.

Garcia said he has tried to work on creating a Filipino studies major, as well as a business minor, but added that budget cuts have made these initiatives difficult to implement.

Another item on Garcia’s platform was to develop a break during 10th week each quarter, where professors would lessen their workload.

Garcia said he created a committee to work on achieving this change, but said his office is still talking to administration on bringing about this policy.

Though only some of the USAC members carried out their platform goals, some of the implemented goals such as the bruinwalk.com apartment ratings, have the potential to stay as part of UCLA indefinitely. Others may disappear permanently.

In two weeks, students will have the opportunity to choose a new council with new or continued platform ideas.

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