One of the most important tasks of the Undergraduate Students Association Council is appointing students to different campuswide boards and committees to provide an undergraduate voice to organizations that would otherwise be void of it.
Some of these appointees hold positions on the Associated Students UCLA’s Board of Directors and Communications Board appointed by the USAC president, the John Wooden Center Board of Governors appointed by the USAC Facilities Commissioner and the Academic Senate’s Faculty Executive Committee appointed by the USAC Academic Affairs Commissioner.
As one of the three appointments directors in the USAC Office of the President, I have made it my mission to identify and appoint the most passionate, qualified and diverse students on this campus so that they can represent the undergraduate student body effectively and accurately.
Even so, our process was and continues to be heavily scrutinized by the council. I invited the scrutiny. It is important that my fellow appointments directors and I be held accountable by the student body and strive to provide as many students with as many leadership opportunities as we can. We invited that scrutiny because we believed it was the standard that all offices and student appointees would be held to – not just our own.
Seven weeks into fall quarter, though, it is abundantly clear that is simply not the case.
When we tried to fill a number of USAC presidential appointments at the week 10 council meeting in spring 2017, all of our candidates were asked by council members if they were affiliated with the Bruins United campus political slate. When those candidates responded affirmatively, the council found frivolous reasons to block their appointments. For example, a candidate for the ASUCLA Communications Board was voted down after it was alleged she requested incorrect information be corrected in a student publication.
The Office of the President received a record number of applications for many of our appointments. As such, candidates must go through a rigorous and highly selective application process. However, council members have gone so far as to overstep their authority and demand they would like to review the applicants themselves. We have also been accused by this council that our applicants are not diverse enough. The council once rejected a candidate for the ASUCLA Board of Directors because he was deemed “too similar” to another candidate, completely disregarding his qualifications and passion for the position.
Again, at the time, these criticisms seemed valid and we took them to heart. These criticisms continued to guide all our future appointments. But seeing how the council treated the Academic Affairs Commissions’ appointments Tuesday, it’s clear these standards only apply to Office of the President’s appointments.
During last week’s confirmation hearings for the Academic Affairs Commission’s appointments, no candidate was asked if they were affiliated with Bruins United or any other political slate for that matter. A majority of the candidates were not even asked about campus involvements or affiliations. Divya Sharma, the Academic Affairs commissioner, appointed himself, senior members of his staff and his friends to a good number of the 26 positions he was filling, citing the fact that they did not receive enough applicants for many of the positions. And unlike when our office made appointments, the council did not once suggest it needed to review all of the applicants in order to make a determination.
To top it off, none of the Academic Affairs Commission appointments were deemed to be “too similar” to one another, even though all of the individuals being appointed claimed to be associated with the “mother organizations” coalition, which constitutes just about nine of more than 1,000 organizations on this campus.
Seeing these appointments be confirmed with little to no protest by the council was disillusioning, considering that based on its feedback earlier in the year, it seemed the council had made a commitment to appointing students from diverse backgrounds, involvements and viewpoints.
The president’s office is forced by the council to increase publicity and find candidates outside of our USAC circles – a challenge the appointments directors value because we believe leadership opportunities on this campus should be available to all, and not just to an elite few. But it has become apparent that this council does not believe in this vision for student leadership. It has deliberately chosen to not hold themselves to the same standard it holds to my office and to me.
The double standard that has been set for our appointments is derived from little more than petty politics at the council table. Students should be alarmed that this council would rather strip away the voices of the student body who it claims to represent and amplify than grant a leadership position to a qualified individual who chooses to associate themselves with a slate, group or office.
No student should ever have to worry that their political, religious or racial identities – or any identity, for that matter – are barriers to holding a leadership position on this campus.
Our student government is beholden to us. If its members are not acting in the best interest of our campus community, it is our responsibility to act. It is time to force USAC to step outside its “ego chamber,” and allow students of all backgrounds and identities to have a voice in leadership on campus.
Norris is an appointments director for the USAC Office of the President.