Q&A: UCSA board member Morris Sarafian speaks on goals for student lobbying
By Jeong Park
July 7, 2014 7:48 a.m.
UCLA’s undergraduate student government appointed Morris Sarafian, a third-year political science student, to the University of California Student Association Board of Directors late last month.
Sarafian serves as a director at Bruin Lobby Corps, which encourages students to lobby for higher education issues. He will serve as a non-voting member on the UCSA board, which includes members from most undergraduate and graduate student governments at different UC campuses and advocates for students on University issues.
As a board member, Sarafian will research legislation and identify areas for students to lobby. He will also lead lobbying visits to legislators and other officials. Last week, he spoke with the Daily Bruin about the job and his goals for the year.
Daily Bruin: You have said the UCSA Board of Directors lacks transparency. What do you mean by that and how do you plan to address it?
Morris Sarafian: The UCSA Board of Directors has not really been held accountable to each of the respective campuses. The board in the past years has been isolated and alienated from campuses. We can make UCSA more relevant and more accountable by showing students (what) campaigns UCSA wants to work on and making sure campuses understand the process in which the Board of Directors selects campaigns.
DB: Being a legislative liaison means bringing bills to the legislature and analyzing policies, but also hearing from students. How do you hope to gather student feedback?
MS: (Bruin Lobbying Corps) had a Teach Me How to Lobby workshop where we reached out to different student organizations. I plan to keep doing this (at UCLA) and do it more effectively. We want to have more workshops where we teach students how to lobby and teach them how to use resources Bruin Lobbying Corps (and UCSA) provides.
DB: What are some concerns you have for the UC system, and how do you think you can help UCSA address those concerns through bills?
MS: I do believe that the majority of college students have had a lot of issues and are concerned with the rising cost of higher education. It’s absolutely pivotal to address the issue and re-prioritize higher education as the state’s highest priority by showing that investing in it is a sound (decision).
I also do have concerns about the lack of diversity in the UC system, in which each campus is not representative of the population in their own city and California. I want all students to feel welcome so we are not marginalizing communities.
DB: Speaking of diversity, what is your stance on Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, a measure that sought to bring affirmative action back to higher education? Do you hope to work with legislators on creating similar bills in the future?
MS: While SCA 5 was essentially stalled, that does not delegitimize the message brought up by (it). Those factors, such as one’s race and ethnicity, play a very important role in the lives of students. Those factors need to be considered because they make (a significant) part of a specific individual. We are identified by more than those factors, of course, but we do want to talk with legislators to have bills that would consider those factors in the admission process.
The truth is, we do not all have the same background. We do not all have the same quality of education. Reconsidering those factors in the admission process will be a strong step forward to make sure all of our campuses are representative of populations in California.
DB: How do you plan to get more students interested in lobbying and analyzing policies?
MS: Apathy and lack of interest in the political cycle are something we need to address immediately. Within our workshops (at Bruin Lobbying Corps), we worked to show students the power they have and the impact they could make. I do feel like we can have (more of) those workshops and do more to make students interested in what UCSA does and show students the potential they have.
DB: Are there any bills or propositions that you are concerned about as we head into the midterm elections?
MS: I am really interested to see how new bills that address the issue of SCA 5 will be handled. I am very interested in learning more about bills that will raise the issue of higher education funding and how that is going to be handled throughout 2014. But because it’s a midterm year, we need to work on registering as many voters as possible because our power comes from numbers. We can be more effective if we can show our legislators that there is a strong student constituency in their district.
Compiled by Jeong Park, Bruin senior staff.