Saturday, August 24

Submission: USAC needs to rise above petty politics, put students first

What do you think of when you hear about the Undergraduate Students Association Council?

Perhaps you think of the shadiness and pettiness that taint our campus elections. Or maybe you think of people being fake for votes.

But that’s campus politics, not USAC. It’s petty campus politics that encourages students to do things like file silly sanctions against their opponents for forgetting a hashtag on a Facebook post.

USAC, on the other hand, is a body endowed with numerous resources, including an $8.3 million annual budget and unique access to administrators. USAC exists to offer the student body an organized platform to push for its needs. Once USAC focuses on prioritizing students ahead of petty campus politics, it can finally focus on what it’s supposed to: bettering the student experience.

When USAC offices are prioritizing students ahead of petty campus politics, they can accomplish a lot. I led an office this year that accomplished all three of its ambitious platforms because it was focused on the work, not the campus politics. Whether it was bringing advocacy back to the Financial Supports Commission office by engaging with elected officials, or fighting for affordability with a $5,200 expansion of the iClicker loaner library in Powell Library and $1,000 of parking scholarships for students, we prioritized the work.

This year, I am running for USAC president as an independent to continue to put students first. In a year with four slates, some would say an independent campaign faces long odds. But I believe I would be doing myself, and more importantly, students, a disservice if I did not run simply because the campus political system makes it hard for an independent to get elected. After all, being a good president will be even harder.

In the end, my only goal in this election is to change our dirty campus politics at UCLA.

For far too long, students with great ideas have avoided running for USAC because, for the past several years, a small cohort of fewer than a dozen people – many of whom led slates – selected most of the candidates. This is why it’s great to see eight candidates running for president. I originally considered running with the campus political party Bruins United. Many party leaders acknowledged my successful track record within USAC, but told me they doubted my ability to lead the party.

But “party first” should not be a qualification for USAC president. That kind of mentality perpetuates the destructive campus politics students associate with USAC.

There are people on my campaign team, for example, who also support other candidates – some of whom are running independently or with a slate. And that’s fine: I have never been afraid to support qualified candidates, regardless of their slate affiliation. Yet, some people stuck in the mentality of “party first” have made a point to threaten students to “swallow their pride” and only offer their support to a particular list of candidates. Some of these people have gone as far as to text their peers to delete comments they posted that promote a candidate not from their slate. But this is a student government election; no one should be made to feel uncomfortable for supporting whomever they want.

And this mentality, if not curbed, makes its way onto the council table. USAC members in the past opposed appointments based solely on slate affiliation or what USAC office the appointee worked in, as opposed to their qualifications.

It does not have to be this way. This year, I got along with my fellow council members because I cared about students and not petty campus politics. And if elected, I pledge to work with anyone – regardless of whether they ran with Bruins United, For the People, Leaders Influencing Tomorrow, Candidates Operating Clearly or independently – because my motto is “students first.”

If there is one person at the council table who should be truly independent, it’s the USAC president – someone who has no vote, but leads the table. I pledge to value all opinions at the table and be an open-minded, fair facilitator of conversation. When it comes to appointments, I promise that any Bruin will finally have an equal shot at working in the President’s office and serving as an appointment.

My three years of experience in USAC, including this year at the council table, my experience with appointments and my advocacy experience all inform my conclusion: The best way I can better the school I love is as USAC president. Most importantly, I am prepared to hold USAC accountable to putting students before petty campus political interests.

I am not running against any one party or person. I am running with the goal of changing our campus politics. I am running as the most qualified candidate with an independent mind, a clear record and ambitious plans.

Those stuck in the pettiness of campus politics will definitely criticize me. Some already have. However, I have never had any illusions about the costs of standing up for what students deserve. It takes nothing to join a crowd, but it takes everything to stand alone. Luckily, I am no longer alone in this. Hundreds of students have expressed appreciation via social media or in person for my campaign’s message of elevating beyond petty politics.

Students need to look past campus politics and vote for experience and vision in this election. USAC has potential to do great things. Join me and let’s stand up for what’s right.

Boudaie is a third-year political science student and the current USAC Financial Supports commissioner. He is running for USAC president in the 2018 USAC election.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.

  • Rob