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Editorial: LET’S ACT! must take steps to rebuild student trust

By Editorial Board

May 4, 2015 12:22 a.m.

After an election cycle riddled with enough scandal and damaging rhetoric to rival the national political stage, LET’S ACT!’s 2015 candidates faced the most disappointing election night for the slate in recent memory.

Bruins United swept every executive position on council, including the External Vice President’s office, which has not gone to a Bruins United candidate for the last eight years. LET’S ACT! won only two of nine contested positions.

If the slate wants to survive another year, its leadership must learn from the myriad of missteps and critical oversights of the past year that alienated it from communities at UCLA and ultimately resulted in Friday night’s crushing loss.

Amid some successes for the slate and its supporters, LET’S ACT! has been at the center of more bad publicity than it could surmount this academic year. LET’S ACT! member and former Undergraduate Students Association Council President Devin Murphy resigned halfway through his term, stalling most of the work he was doing there and losing his constituents’ trust at the same time.

To be fair, two Bruins United councilmembers also resigned this school year. But LET’S ACT! members dealt with Murphy’s resignation in a damaging way: In the middle of the November divestment meeting, several members of the slate questioned the legitimacy of former Internal Vice President Avinoam Baral’s ascendancy to the presidency. The questioning was horribly timed and made these councilmembers look petty, mean and motivated by political ends.

At a Feb. 10 council meeting, several students who identify with the slate engaged in an anti-Semitic line of questioning against a student being appointed to the judicial board. That event unquestionably damaged the relationship between USAC and the campus Jewish community. It also created a wealth of bad feeling on campus for LET’S ACT!.

One of the most vocal questioners at that meeting, Morris Sarafian, was then run on the president’s ticket for the slate. Sarafian never directly addressed the meeting during his campaign, even after several members of the Jewish community spoke out against his candidacy.

Perhaps the most damaging incident for the slate was the appearance of a myriad of documents on Facebook the Monday of election week, alleging that LET’S ACT! illegally funded its 2013 and 2014 campaigns using money funneled from student fees and raised from selling drugs and alcohol at parties.

LET’S ACT! has denied any wrongdoing and an investigation of the matter by the Election Board is ongoing. But Facebook posts by one of LET’S ACT!’s candidates this year, Jaimeson Cortez, advertises the sale of marijuana and alcohol at a party attended and hosted by many prominent LET’S ACT! members. The post gives the student body and this board enough reason to believe this allegation is true. And if one allegation found in the documents is true, what’s to stop students from believing the slate used student fees to fund its campaigns?

In many ways, the reputation that hurt LET’S ACT! in this election cycle is one it earned itself. Its survival as a slate is dependent on its acknowledgment of this fact and a commitment to do better.

To be clear, Bruins United is by no means a perfect slate. It has just as often been motivated by petty politics and have been rocked by its own share of campaign funding scandals, as well as ugly campaigning that many students found offensive and discriminatory. Its programming tends to be underwhelming and it almost never engage in the kind of lobbying and advocacy work that LET’S ACT! is known for.

But that’s exactly why it’s so important to have two competitive slates on the ticket for student government. If LET’S ACT! keeps up this long road of grave missteps, that may not be the case in years to come.

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