Students First!, a coalition of student organizations that has been a major player in undergraduate student government in recent years, will not be running a slate in this year’s undergraduate student government elections, members of the coalition confirmed Friday.
Members of the coalition decided early winter quarter not to run candidates in the upcoming Undergraduate Students Association Council elections, said Sheena Santamaria, a fourth-year global studies student and member of Students First! who ran for USAC office in last year’s election. She said coalition members felt the need to use alternate methods to work with students.
“That isn’t saying USAC is not important,” Santamaria said. “We can still engage with USAC; we just don’t need to hold (USAC) positions to do so.”
Leaders of Students First! said there is no connection between a Thursday op-ed piece that ran in the Daily Bruin about several student organizations leaving the coalition and their decision not to run a slate this year. The authors of the op-ed piece could not be reached over the weekend for comment.
Joelle Gamble, current USAC external vice president and one of three Students First! councilmembers this year, said the decision not to run a slate this year has not undermined her work. Gamble said that although holding a USAC office comes with resources and influence, she doesn’t see it as the only way to generate change on campus.
Students First! will continue their work next year through means such as grassroots organizing, talking to students on Bruin Walk and participating in student groups, Santamaria said.
Bruins United, the other leading student coalition in USAC elections, will still run a slate, said Raquel Saxe, current USAC academic affairs commissioner.
With the withdrawal of Students First!, some USAC positions could be uncontested. That could have a negative effect, said Berky Nelson, an administrative representative for USAC who has sat on the council for more than 10 years.
“I think sometimes it does take opposing forces to come up with compromises that are best for everyone,” Nelson said. “If there is one slate operating you have to assume they have largely the same mindset.”
“I just hope it’s not apathy,” Nelson added.
Eena Singh, USAC Election Board chair, declined to comment on potentially uncontested races, as candidates are currently going through eligibility checks with the dean of students as mandated by the Election Code.
The coalition will release an official statement Wednesday night after the USAC candidate orientation meeting, Gamble said. Gamble declined to comment on what the statement would be about.