Undergraduate student government candidates focused on how they would protect students from federal policies created by President Donald Trump’s administration and advocating for college affordability at an endorsement hearing Monday.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council candidates answered questions regarding their platforms from student groups like Hillel at UCLA and the Pakistani Student Association at Carnesale Commons. Candidates each had 30 seconds to present their opening and closing statements and one minute to answer questions.
The candidates then interacted with students in a Meet the Candidates event. About 30 students attended the event, which lasted 30 minutes.
Several candidates stressed the importance of activism in light of recent discrimination against undocumented communities and other marginalized groups.
Chloe Pan, a candidate running for the external vice president position, said she would aim to institute a Bruin Day of Activism to teach students how to protest and engage with political issues. She added she plans to work with local and state leaders to ensure federal policies do not harm UCLA students.
“My activism has not been a choice … it has been about my survival,” she said. “We need to make sure students are not just surviving but also thriving on this campus.”
Members of a new slate, Defend Affirmative Action Party, also focused on issues affecting minority students such as immigrant rights.
Nicole Corona Diaz, a general representative candidate in the DAAP slate, said that as an undocumented student, she thinks UCLA needs to do more to protect students who were negatively affected by Trump’s policies.
“I have found that USAC focuses on positions and policies that last a day or a week,” she said. “We need to fight for social justice and stop (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and prevent deportations.”
Corona criticized Kayla He, a general representative candidate from the Bruins United slate, for her proposal to organize a fashion show to promote body positivity.
Corona said she did not think it was as important as other issues candidates were working on.
“We cannot stop and talk about fashion shows while students are getting deported,” Corona said.
Another major topic candidates focused on was college and housing affordability.
Emma Zawacki, Bruins United candidate for Academic Affairs commissioner, said she plans to increase lobbying efforts and would pressure the university and the state to more adequately fund student needs.
Bruins United candidate Ashraf Beshay, who is running for transfer student representative, said he would secure two-year housing for transfer students and create a board to reach out to transfer communities.
Divya Sharma, the current transfer student representative who is running for Academic Affairs commissioner, said he aims to create more scholarships and work with existing organizations, such as the Community Programs Office, to provide additional resources to improve retention. This year Sharma created six new scholarships for transfer students.
Bruins United financial supports commissioner candidate Aaron Boudaie said though housing and college affordability are important, he thinks focusing on creating a parking advocacy task force would impact more students.
Several students asked candidates about USAC’s transparency.
Neha Quraishi, Bruins United candidate for internal vice president, said she plans to improve transparency in USAC and change the bylaws to mandate council members submit biweekly updates on their office’s work.
Zahra Hajee, independent facilities commissioner candidate, said she would create a campus engagement team to collect students’ experiences on campus. She said she would take one step beyond transparency and create an open database for others to learn about the issues students are facing.
Jack Price, an independent candidate running for EVP, said he would make the office more efficient and make sure the office was more transparent in using students’ fees.
Other candidates discussed retention, whether a cross-cultural center is needed on campus and their individual platforms.
Some attendees said they felt the event was too dominated by Bruins United members.
Nicholas Shearin, a fourth-year political science student, said he did not like that Bruins United members would applaud during the event even though it was not allowed.
“I thought this was pretty representative of a USAC event,” he said. “It just bothers me a bit that Bruins United candidates seem to care more about their slate than students.”
Other students felt the Meet the Candidates event after the hearing was too short.
Wahid Ishrar, a third-year political science and international development studies student, said he felt he did not have enough time to interact with the candidates.
“One guy asked seven questions … while the rest of us were just standing there waiting to talk,” he said. “How do you expect the student body to know you if we can’t even interact with you?”
Click here for full coverage of the 2017 USAC elections.