The North and South Campus divide isn’t just an undergraduate phenomenon – it rocks the Graduate Students Association too.
In a big way, actually.
Student participation in the association from the Court of Sciences is beyond dismal – that title is already granted to the abysmal turnout and engagement GSA has gotten in recent years.
You can understand why the board was excited to see a candidate from Boelter Hall who not only wants to participate in the association, but has a clear plan for challenging the status quo that shackles graduate students.
JP Santos, the only engineer on the GSA ballot and a doctoral candidate from the electrical and computer engineering department, has a singular yet thorough focus: affordability.
He wants to improve teaching assistant and graduate student researcher wages to help address Westwood’s housing crisis. He wants to engage more engineers in GSA with town halls, social media and in-person visits to inform them of the resources the association offers and allow their opinions to shape the often North Campus-saturated bills and policies that come from the body.
The former undergraduate student representative at his alma mater, University of Utah, has a plan of attack too.
Graduate student researcher rates are comparable across U.S. universities, and Santos seeks to build a diverse coalition of graduate researchers to lobby the state and federal government. He plans to advocate for locality sums from the University of California Office of the President to help graduate students in pricey areas like Westwood make enough to live where they research and teach. He intends to work with the North Westwood Neighborhood Council to bring in more affordable, high-density housing and improve university transportation for students living outside the neighborhood because of how expensive it currently is.
He has the connections to do that. Santos said he has been working with United Auto Workers, the teacher assistants’ union, and plans to improve representation of South Campus students in GSA and on his cabinet by tapping into the Engineering GSA, which exists within the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is also cognizant of how true representation means engaging those outside of his academic and social circles.
Some of these qualities are hard to find in Santos’ opponent, Noreen Ahmed. The other candidate for vice president of external affairs is no doubt qualified and experienced in lobbying, but lacks concrete plans. Ahmed said she plans to build her platform primarily by surveying students after getting into office, stating the need to understand their needs before proposing a more concrete platform – a move that, while an important part of understanding student wants, cannot be the be-all, end-all of any vice president of external affairs’ platform.
Lobbying the University, state government and federal government requires, at the very least, an idea of what that lobbying will be for.
Santos has a clear conception of what he wants to do. He has the makings to engage a community that has long been uninterested in – and sometimes excluded from – GSA. And he has the know-how to pull off what he has in mind.
Those are the qualities you need to engineer a successful vice president of external affairs – and this board endorses Santos for that reason.