Slate loyalties ran high in the audience and among candidates at the undergraduate student government candidate debate Saturday night.
More than 400 students attended the debate in De Neve Auditorium to hear the 23 candidates, who are running for 13 elected council positions on the Undergraduate Students Association Council, speak.
Dana Pede, chair of the USAC Election Board, and Jillian Beck, Daily Bruin campus editor, moderated the debate.
Many students at the debate said they had decided whom to vote for before coming to the event, and came to support a particular slate. Sections of students in the audience roared and chanted the names of the candidates from their respective slates.
In the past year, the council had a Bruins United majority after a largely uncontested election last May. Just three candidates ran contested last year, but the formation of two new slates – LET’S ACT! and Bruin Alliance – led to nine contested positions this year.
Saturday night’s debate became heated when candidates questioned the accomplishments of some current USAC offices, which are staffed with several members of Bruins United, and the value of in-house or on-council experience.
“I’m not sure how much in-house candidacy has to do with the qualification when there are so many red lights,” said Lizzy Naameh, LET’S ACT! general representative candidate, referring to the Daily Bruin’s evaluations of current USAC officers.
Avinoam Baral, Bruins United general representative candidate, defended the USAC offices’ work this year.
“I don’t believe that five sentences in the Daily Bruin do justice to the amazing work that we’ve done in the office this year,” Baral said.
Several Bruins United candidates said their in-house experience makes them qualified for the job, while some LET’S ACT! candidates responded by saying they had more on-the-ground, grassroots experience working with students.
When asked to identify their goals for office next year, candidates repeatedly cited the need for increased transparency in USAC and student engagement in USAC decisions.
“Student government is only as important as the amount of students behind it,” said Taylor Bazley, Bruin Alliance candidate for president, during the debate.
All three presidential candidates said they plan to heighten student involvement in the council.
Candidates repeatedly mentioned that they had reached out to underserved communities on campus. Some candidates criticized the current USAC for not reaching out to certain groups of students.
“At the end of the day (USAC members) are just people. They are people who are not representing us and they need to be held accountable to us,” said Maryssa Hall, LET’S ACT! candidate for external vice president.
The debate also included a discussion about the Bruin Bash Referendum and Bruin Diversity Initiative, two measures that will be on this week’s USAC election ballot.
The referendum would raise student fees by $1.33 a quarter to fund Bruin Bash, while the initiative would raise fees by $9.93 a quarter for a variety of campus programs and groups related to retention, access, community service and diversity.
Current USAC President David Bocarsly, who initiated the Bruin Bash Referendum, and Campus Events Commissioner Jan Tancinco, said revenue from the referendum would help stabilize Bruin Bash’s often uncertain finances. Student representatives from programs that would benefit from the Bruin Diversity Initiative said they need additional funding to meet growing demands for their services and offset budget cuts.
Nobody presented arguments against the referendum or initiative during the time allotted in the debate for the two measures, but some USAC candidates voiced differing stances on the measures.
When asked about the Bruin Diversity Initiative, current external vice president and LET’S ACT! internal vice president candidate Lana El-Farra said she supports the measure. She mentioned that more than 5,000 students signed the petition to put the initiative on the ballot.
Representatives for the Bruin Diversity Initiative (from left) Brittany Bolden, Jazz Kang and Belem Lamas answer questions at the Saturday debate about the initiative, which asks to raise student fees to develop resources that strengthen the student body’s diversity efforts.[/caption]
El-Farra’s opponent for internal vice president, Avi Oved of Bruins United, said he supports the intent behind the initiative but does not support the measure itself because it would put money into an “inefficient system” as a “band-aid” solution.
The debate, which lasted about four hours, ended with deafening cheers for the different slates reverberating throughout the auditorium as candidates and students filed out into the night.
Voting opens on MyUCLA today at noon and will close on Thursday at 6 p.m.