Wednesday, July 17

USAC candidates criticize opponent platforms, qualifications at debate

Seven of the general representative candidates participated in this year's undergraduate student government election debate. Candidates often questioned their opponents' qualifications and platforms. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin)

Seven of the general representative candidates participated in this year's undergraduate student government election debate. Candidates often questioned their opponents' qualifications and platforms. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin)

A crowded pack of candidates for student government tried to differentiate themselves from one another at a debate Wednesday night.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council held its annual candidate debate in De Neve Auditorium amid a crowd of about 300 people. This year’s event featured 34 of the 39 candidates, many of whom used the debate to criticize their opponents’ platforms and qualifications.

Helen-Sage Lee and Ayesha Haleem, both independent candidates for general representative, criticized Bella Martin, one of the other general representative candidates running under the Bruins United slate, for proposing to create videos and materials about campus resources in international students’ native languages. Lee said the proposal was alienating and condescending to immigrant and international students.

Haleem said international students can understand languages other than their first languages.

“How do you think we go to class and understand our professors?” she said.

Martin later said her platform was misunderstood and said she thinks it is important to remember that English is not the first language for every student at UCLA.

“In no way do I think that international students do not speak English or do not understand English,” she said.

Eduardo Solis, another independent candidate for general representative, criticized Bruins United candidate Naomi Kisel, one of his opponents, for including throwing a block party in Westwood as one of her platforms. Instead, he argued student funds would be better directed toward supporting undocumented students.

“We cannot stop to use student fees to have block parties,” he said. “We must address students being detained.”

Furkan Yalcin, an independent candidate running for president, assailed the Bruins United slate, calling it insular.

“They exist for no other reason than to accumulate power,” he said.

Julia Ho-Gonzalez, an independent candidate for facilities commissioner, said she and Zahra Hajee, the current facilities commissioner, were physically intimidated by campaign members from her Bruins United opponent, Aneri Suthar, and called it a form of harassment.

“Upon sharing this, we have been called liars,” Ho-Gonzalez said. “I would not stand for this lack of accountability – denying our accounts of this story is shameful.”

Several candidates made claims that they were substantially more qualified than their opponents in an attempt to gain footing in the debates.

Victoria Solkovits, the Bruins United candidate running for external vice president, said she was the only candidate running that had worked at local, state and federal levels of government.

In response, her opponent, independent candidate Jamie Kennerk, noted that she herself had also worked at all three levels of government.

Solis claimed he was the only candidate to engage in advocacy before joining USAC, while Haleem countered by saying she had to become involved in politics after her family had to escape a dictatorship in Pakistan.

Some of the candidates in the debate had a lighter tone, poking fun at themselves and the other candidates.

Andrew Sokoler, a general representative candidate who is running under the Candidates Operating Clearly slate, said he is advocating for students who ride Bird scooters on campus.

“The Birding community has not been given the right vibe around campus,” he said.

Sokoler also claimed he is working to reach out to groups not involved in USAC because he was sanctioned by the Election Board for sending emails to 444 student groups he was not affiliated with. He added he plans to be transparent by replacing his office’s wooden door with a transparent glass one.

Many of the candidates also touted their lack of involvement in USAC as a strength.

A.J. Goldsman, an independent candidate running for president, said he thinks the council wastes its time and resources and called on candidates to give back all or a portion of their stipends to the student body should they be elected.

“Many say I have no experience with USAC. And it’s true,” Goldsman said. “I have no experience wasting your student fees, no experience pocketing student fees.”

Yalcin said he thinks he is more open-minded than the other candidates because he has no experience in USAC. He added he did not develop any platforms and instead plans to work collaboratively with council members in order to set student government goals and priorities for the upcoming school year.

Several candidate also criticized the current council members.

Jay Manzano, an independent candidate running for financial supports commissioner, said he thinks the current commissioner has not done much to support underrepresented communities.

“Office experience is not a virtue when you have a party who has controlled this commission for the last seven years, who has done nothing but maintain the status quo,” he said.

Voting for the 2018-2019 council begins April 30 and ends May 4.

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News editor

Bharanidaran is the News editor. He was previously a news reporter for the campus politics beat, covering student government and the UCLA administration.

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