Friday, September 21

USAC candidate hopefuls field questions from student groups at hearing


Undergraduate student government candidates answered questions about their platforms and other issues impacting campus at an endorsement hearing Wednesday. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin)

Undergraduate student government candidates answered questions about their platforms and other issues impacting campus at an endorsement hearing Wednesday. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin)


Undergraduate student government candidates answered questions about their platforms and other issues that impact the campus at an endorsement hearing Wednesday.

Each candidate had 30 seconds to answer questions from student groups members, which will help groups decide who to endorse in this year’s Undergraduate Students Association Council election.

The Daily Bruin has included a few of the questions that were asked at the hearing and candidates’ following responses.

Constitutional amendment: International Student Representative

  • Kayla He (campaign representative)

Daily Bruin: Why are you not pursuing a nonresident student representative instead, which would be more inclusive to out-of-state students, refugees and the undocumented student populations as well?

Kayla He: There is a lot of overlap (between) international students and out-of-state student issues. We both pay nonresident student tuition fees, and we come from far-away places … and the office is going to work with New Student Orientation (programs) to make sure that students coming (from) far-away places can be better adjusted into this environment. Also, (we will be) working with alumni to make sure (students) can afford tuition.

Transfer Student Representative

  • Aaron Simental (independent)
  • Jessica Kim (Bruins United)
  • William Hickman (Leaders Influencing Tomorrow)

DB: In 2014 and 2015, the USAC councils voted on resolutions that called for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and recently, a campaign was initiated to call upon the University of California Board of Regents to divest as well. Given the prominence of this issue in UC and the consequences it has had on campus, how would you vote on the issue if it came to the council table and why?

Jessica Kim: I believe that when it comes to putting money into certain groups on this campus, we need to be 110 percent transparent. So if … a specific company is putting money into a category (in which) not every student feels represented, it’s not something I personally believe in, and if I feel like there is any company that is putting more money and making other people feel marginalized, especially within student council, we are doing exactly what I don’t agree with. I did not come to this campus to be a part of petty politics, I came here to make a change. I didn’t have this privilege and that’s why I’m sitting here today.

Aaron Simental: I guess, rehearing the question, I would abstain at the moment, if that vote was today. When it comes down to divestment, I think it’s a really difficult decision. I guess I have to read the resolution and the text because with divestment, you don’t want to necessarily hurt a community inadvertently, but you also don’t want to support organization that also does inflict pain. With my founding, you are undocumented; … I can see how international disputes can tear apart families, I guess I would have to read the resolution, but because I can’t, I would have to … abstain at the moment. Thank you.

William Hickman gave no comment.

Financial Support Commissioner

  • Giovanny Machado (Leaders Influencing Tomorrow)
  • Jay Manzano (independent)
  • Lior Behdadnia (Bruins United)

DB: Disaggregated data shows that Asian communities experience the wage gap differently, with Burmese, Laotian and Samoan women earning less than 60 cents for every dollar a white man makes. With this kind of nuance in mind, how do you plan to advocate for the financial needs of all UCLA students? Thank you.

Giovanny Machado: To reiterate, the community that you stand for – I am a part of Pacific Islands’ Students Association. They are a very marginalized group here on campus. I do see the adversity they overcome, (including) mental health, … but for me, it’s more reiterating what type of financial need and what kind of financial workshops allow for students to see what is offered and how accessible they really are and how attainable they are.

Jay Manzano: I want to bring advocacy for finances through an intersectional perspective. In recognizing that certain communities do experience financial insecurities at deeper levels than other communities. The platforms that I have developed not only acknowledge this, but (also) seek to collaborate with a series of cultural organizations to ensure that we are providing services that alleviate financial concern, and that, in a way, is intersectional that recognizes these disparities.

Lior Behdadnia: Throughout my platforms, I will ensure that every student has a chance to make sure that their advocacy can be heard long term and throughout the entire California and US government. For all students, every single student deserves a place and deserves and community and deserves an organization that will fight for them and [where] they can make their voices heard.

Facilities Commissioner

  • Aneri Suthar (Bruins United)
  • Julia Ho-Gonzalez (independent)

DB: Recently, gender-based violence has increased at a national level, and research shows the high rates at which women are impacted. As a USAC candidate, what have you specifically done to make female identifying students feel safe at our campus and what, aside from attending events, and how will you build on this as a potential council member?

Julia Ho-Gonzalez: During my first year, in fact, I joined the Safety Committee, and what I worked on was institutionalizing an interface app called TapRide. We had a report of two sorority girls who were waiting on Hilgard and Westholme (avenues), I believe … who got mugged waiting for the (Community Service Officer) van service. I’ve been able to help and institutionalize the TapRide app to ensure that people regardless of their gender and religion have services to track the van and to see where it is at that specific time.

Aneri Suthar: As a survivor myself, the issue of sexual violence and sexual harassment prevention is of utmost importance to me, as well as (to) the one in four women who will be assaulted, and during my time this year as a Title IX director of the USAC Office of the President, I have researched Title IX knowledge gaps among the student body, met with administration as well as Greek Life leadership on advising more survivor-centered policies. And I’m continuing to do work with my team to ensure that rape kits are available (at) student health centers and I will continue to do this work on and outside USAC.

General Representative

  • Berenise Arriaga (Leaders Influencing Tomorrow), not present
  • Ayesha Haleem (independent)
  • Naomi Kisel (Bruins United)
  • Helen-Sage Lee (independent)
  • Bella Martin (Bruins United)
  • Andrew Sokoler (Candidates Operating Clearly)
  • Eduardo Solis (independent)
  • Delia Xing (independent)

DB: What would you do to improve USAC’s outreach to students who have never been affiliated with USAC?

Delia Xing: I will address all the students’ needs, especially for those who are overlooked. It is important to raise awareness to take care of those who are in need. I wish to implement traffic monitors in study rooms as a very important way to provide study resources for students especially those who are working.

Eduardo Solis: I consider USAC as a privilege and to have access to it. As an undocumented student, I am privileged to have these kinds of spaces and to be involved in these spaces.

Helen-Sage Lee: I believe it’s an absolute travesty that a lot of our government only represents say, humanities majors and there’s this divide where a lot of science organizations don’t get a voice in our council. So in order to avoid this, I want to focus on intersectionality and specifically on barriers to entry for STEM majors and people of color.

Naomi Kisel: I think it’s all about doing sufficient outreach and also being transparent. And remaining a place where students feel that they’re a part of the system.

Andrew Sokoler: My campaign mantra is “different ideas collide.” I want to ensure I hear, consider and represent all ideas and all communities. I want to make UCLA a more enjoyable place to be for everyone. That includes the Bird (scootering) community and you know what we really need on campus is one of those fruit carts. We really need a fruit cart because people are forced to choose a lot of unenjoyable and unhealthy options in Ackerman (Union) all the time.

Ayesha Haleem: Over the last three years being involved in USAC’s places, I have seen people in different kinds of offices – I’ve seen it’s a cycle of the same people in different offices. One of my platforms is “You do USAC,” which creates spaces to support students who are not officially involved in USAC … to have their efforts seen by the USAC office.

Bella Martin: Programs are useless if they’re only circulated within USAC places. Tremendous efforts are made to perfect and work on these projects. At the same time, efforts need to be made to make these programs accessible to the communities they impact most. One of my platforms of making it accessible is by reaching out to the international communities and ensuring these platforms are available in their native languages.

External Vice President candidates

  • Nicole Corona Diaz (independent)
  • Jamie Kennerk (independent)
  • Victoria Solkovits (Bruins United)
  • Karla Blessing Savaliolefilemu Thomas (Leaders Influencing Tomorrow)

DB: How will you ensure that students of the Israeli community are not attacked and not prevented in participating in social activist places in the future?

Karla Blessing Savaliolefilemu Thomas: I feel that safety is a really big issue here on campus for students of color and students, like the Israeli community, who are being attacked. Being a daughter of an immigrant and someone who understands the issue of safety, I will work very collaboratively with your community in order to understand and vocalize your issues.

Nicole Corona Diaz: I have zero tolerance for any hate speech or intolerance and I think that one way to address the needs of any community is through coalition building. But even having said that, it’s really important that we’re critical of our own communities and recognize what we can work on within them, and only then can we reach across the aisle and effectively work towards fighting for all rights.

Victoria Solkovits: As a Jewish student myself, I felt what it was like to be excluded from places on this campus. Frankly, it was sad to see the organized response by the EVP office this year against the regents, hijacked by anti-zionist activity. As your next EVP, I will unite students against tuition hikes and not allow exclusivity to distract from this campus’ most important issue: affordability.

Jamie Kennerk: I think it’s important to acknowledge that antisemitism. I also believe that we are recognizing the intersectionality that exists within the Jewish community – this includes conversation about LGBTQ rights, being undocumented, being low-income – all those issues exist within the Jewish community and it is important to keep in mind as we continue this conversation.

DB: How do you plan to ensure that you will not co-opt or duplicate the work of student groups in local advocacy?

Karla Blessing Savaliolefilemu Thomas: Being the current president of the Pacific Island Student Organization, I’m able to hear the community issues of other existing communities here on campus. I feel like I am the most qualified person to understand those issues because I’m around them every single day.

Nicole Corona Diaz: It really starts with research. You really need to get to know your community within UCLA if you’re running for positions that are going to rely on platforms that may or may not already exist. But that doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate with existing organizations to continue the work that’s already being done. It’s really important to reach out and talk to members who are already doing the work. Otherwise, you’re just going to be wasting your time and you might run into a lot of problems that have already been recognized before.

Victoria Solkovits: I would plan to start partnerships and coalitions with other student organizations and council members to amplify the work already being done. And instead bring these voices to city hall, Sacramento and Washington.

Jamie Kennerk: The main mission for the EVP office for me is to act with intent and awareness of the student organizations and their initiatives. So that’s why I want to have a group that’s dedicated towards doing research and following other student groups’ campaigns to make sure we know what’s happening, so we can have organizational outreach that is purposeful. We want to build on what’s already been done to provide more resources to that work.

Internal Vice President candidates

  • Izzy Gardner (Bruins United)
  • Salvador Martinez (Leaders Influencing Tomorrow)
  • Robert Blake Watson (independent)

DB: How have you illustrated leadership in student organizations, especially for those that serve marginalized communities? And have you done this work through the IVP office?

Robert Blake Watson: I can talk a lot about …..working as a director in the three different USAC offices and various other organizations. But I think the main way I served as a leader is to really make sure I make space for students in my programs and offices that I help operate, so to make sure students that don’t have a voice or have previously did not are able to have a voice. In positions of power that I’ve secured, I think that’s what’s most important, that’s what’s most reflective of leadership at UCLA.

Salvador Martinez: I’ve actually hosted and done events with regards to academics, retention and outreach to multiple communities on campus.

Izzy Gardner: As the events director in the IVP office my (second) year, I helped put on events for thousands of UCLA students. We spent time communicating and programming with other communities of UCLA as well as UCLA officials. And these events provide invaluable resources to many members of the UCLA community including study spaces, food and access to information about housing in Westwood.

President Candidates

  • Ashraf Beshay (independent)
  • Aaron Boudaie (independent)
  • Claire Fieldman (Bruins United)
  • A.J. Goldsman (independent)
  • John Gordon (independent), not present
  • Kosi Ogbuli (For the People)
  • Richard White (Leaders Influencing Tomorrow)
  • Furkan Yalcin (independent)

DB: What have you specifically done to make female-(identifying) students feel safer on campus – aside from attending events – and how will you build up on this as a potential council member?

Furkan Yalcin: So I don’t have a huge team or a network of individuals helping me, so I’m here to prove a point that you don’t need dedicated Slack channels to find the best loopholes in the rules to benefit your slate. Ever since 2004, there have been a culture of “us versus them” that is established within slates. I don’t go out of my way to find small logistical errors that can take down my opponents. That’s the exact culture that I’m here to dismantle.

Kosi Ogbuli: I believe that simply acting in proactive solidarity and also understanding that this is something I inherently don’t have.

Richard White: Myself and other candidates of Leaders Influencing Tomorrow have championed and supported the women clubs on campus that let women engage in dialogue and build a safe space. As president, I will pay more attention to that program, supporting that program, talking to the university and administrators to make sure women are accounted for and that they’re not disregarded for on this campus.

A.J. Goldsman: I believe that looking out for sexual violence against women is a personal thing – everyone needs to do it for it to matter. There can be big classes and events about it, but if people on an individual basis aren’t doing anything about it, it won’t matter. So just like being nice to people, don’t be an asshole.

Aaron Boudaie: My biggest inspiration is my mom who proved that it is possible to be a full-time mom and a full-time doctor and she’s taught me a lot. And I’d say I wouldn’t feel confident going onto this stage without her. One of my biggest priorities as USAC president would be campus safety.

Ashraf Beshay: Toxic masculinity is something that … exists on this campus and it’s very unfortunate because I know people who are also on USAC positions and they have that being part of their private lives and yet they put on an image that’s different to the public. I think it’s very important for us to discuss this issue, be honest with ourselves and change our attitudes (around) women-identifying persons.

Claire Fieldman: As the only female candidate at this table, I believe I am uniquely equipped to address these issues. As the chief of staff at the office of the president this year, I am so proud of helping shape initiatives such as Title IX advocacy team, and our “Declare your feminism” week, which is happening next week by the way. Next year for my platform, “Time’s up,” I look forward to rallying on these efforts to fighting for more resources for survivors, and reform to expand sexual violence prevention training so that we can confront and challenge the culture of sexual violence and gender-based violence against women like myself.

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  • Bruins101

    Why was the AAC position left out of this article?