Outgoing University of California Student Association President Kareem Aref talked with Daily Bruin writer Laura Boranian about UCSA’s work and various problems facing the UC.
Aref will step down from his position when UCSA elects a new president during its congress in August. The association advocates for systemwide student issues, including affordability and diversity.
Before Aref was elected president of UCSA for the 2013-2014 academic year, he served as the secretary and finance officer for UCSA as well as the legislative liaison from UC Riverside. He graduated this spring with a degree in psychology and law from UC Riverside.
Daily Bruin: Overall, do you think the campaigns UCSA initiated throughout the year were successful?
Kareem Aref: Yes, I think we have seen a lot of progress in all of our campaigns. Some of them couldn’t be completed in their entirety, but I believe they were still successful.
DB: Which campaign do you think was the most successful during your time as UCSA president?
KA: I think it really depends on how you judge success. Our Invest in Graduation Not Incarceration, Transform Education campaign did a really good job of getting students involved and excited. Our Fossil Free UC divestment campaign did a good job of engaging students, and the California Modernization and Economic Development Act was effective in pushing the (oil extraction tax) bill forward (in the state Senate).
DB: Which campaign do you think was the least successful, and what would you have done differently to make it more effective?
KA: I don’t know that there is a least successful campaign at this point. Our voter registration records for 2013 were a bit low because it was an off-election year. Registering voters is one of the areas that I would like to focus on more.
DB: What are some of the challenges the UC is currently facing?
KA: The UC is facing a lot of challenges. Currently, it is underfunded by the state, and now we can directly see that it is the state rather than the regents that is cutting the UC’s funding. We stand together with the regents to solve this problem. There are a lot of issues surrounding diversity, and our IGNITE campaign can help with that. Sexual assault and mental health have also been huge issues. It is really important that the UC focuses on these issues because they are hurting its own students.
DB: What advice would you give to future UCSA presidents or board members?
KA: I think the biggest thing across the board is that people need to realize that (UCSA is) student-run and student-led. The second that people forget why we are standing together is when the work all falls apart.
DB: How do you feel about leaving UCSA as your undergraduate years come to an end?
KA: I feel like I have done a good job and have been really excited throughout my time as the president. I would love to continue to work with UCSA as I attend law school.
Compiled by Laura Boranian, Bruin contributor.