Monday, May 25

Candidates discuss student advocacy, representation at USAC debate

Nineteen candidates attended the undergraduate student government candidate debates in De Neve auditorium Friday. (Michael Zshornack/Daily Bruin)

Candidates for next year’s undergraduate student government discussed their platforms and how they would achieve them at a debate Friday.

More than 300 students attended the debate, hosted by the USAC Election Board, in the De Neve auditorium Friday evening. Most audience members supported one of the two larger student-run political groups, Bruins United and Waves of Change, but students with no slate affiliation also attended the debate.

Bruins United, formed in 2004, is contesting 11 positions, and Waves of Change, a new slate, is contesting three seats. Waves of Change has similar platforms to those LET’S ACT! ran with in previous elections. LET’S ACT!, a slate formed in 2013, is not running in this year’s election.

MakeUCLAGreatAgain, another new slate, is only running one candidate for the general representative position.

On Friday night, presidential candidates Denea Joseph and Danny Siegel discussed how to increase student advocacy and funding for student groups. Siegel proposed corporate sponsorships as a solution for student group funding, and Joseph said she will work with the University of California Student Association to advocate for students at a UC-wide level.

The candidates also sparred about the “Kanye Western” incident in the fall. Joseph, a Waves of Change candidate, accused current USAC President Heather Rosen of trying to protect the fraternities that hosted the “Kanye Western”-themed party in October. The Afrikan Student Union criticized Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Phi, which hosted the party, for cultural appropriation.

Bruins United candidate Siegel defended Rosen, saying he and Rosen supported black students at the Black Bruins Matter rally following the incident.

“(We) were proud to stand in front of Vice Chancellor Kang as he spoke against the ‘Kanye Western’ incident,” he said.

In response, Rosen said she would not engage with Joseph.

“I don’t support … women who choose to tear other women down through lies and dirty politics,” Rosen said in an email statement Saturday.

Joseph has not yet responded for comment.

External vice presidential candidates Rafael Sands and Ria Jain shared different views on student advocacy. Sands promoted his approach of working with administrators, and Jain promised to pressure the UC on issues such as rising tuition by working with advocacy groups like the United States Student Association, a national student lobbying organization.

Jain, a Waves of Change candidate, criticized current External Vice President Zach Helder’s decision to pull USAC out of the USSA. She said she thought Helder was not transparent because he did not consult student groups before withdrawing.

She added she thinks the Bruin Lobbying Corps, which Helder established with funds that would have gone towards USSA membership fees, is less effective than larger lobbying groups like USSA and UCSA.

“A few students going on a lobbying trip is not going to make change,” she said.

Sands, who is running with Bruins United, praised Helder for creating a larger student lobbying effort and giving more students the opportunity to advocate.

During the debate, general representative candidates discussed their individual platforms. Some of them criticized MakeUCLAGreatAgain candidate Shubham Goel’s proposal to build a concrete wall for students to draw on with chalk.

Zoe Borden, a Bruins United candidate, said allowing students to draw on the wall could lead to hateful messages. In response, Goel said he trusted students not to act inappropriately.

“You shouldn’t run for general representative if you can’t trust students with chalk,” he said.

Amy Shao and Brian Kohaya, candidates for Cultural Affairs commissioner, discussed how they would involve various cultural groups in the commission. Kohaya said he thought Shao was not transparent and favored certain groups over others.

“I think that in the past few years, not all students feel comfortable in CAC,” he said. “This space is not a safe space.”

Shao said she worked to make her office accessible to student groups and ensure funding for programming was allocated fairly.

Representatives supporting The Green Initiative Fund referendum, the Social Justice referendum, the #UCLAWellness referendum and the Daily Bruin and referendum also made statements and answered questions about how they planned to allocate funds.

Students can begin voting online Monday. The polls will close Friday, and the USAC Election Board will announce results that night at 9 p.m.

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.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.