Monday, May 27

Submission: Focus on student engagement, transparency vital for success of USAC

Leadership without purpose is without vision. Allow me to share mine.

My name is Arielle Yael Mokhtarzadeh. I am a third-year communication studies student with a double minor in public affairs and Israel studies. I have the honor and privilege of serving as your Undergraduate Students Association Council president for the 2017-18 academic year.

I have spent my last three years at UCLA learning, living and loving our campus. I served as a board member and president of a student organization, and chief of staff for a USAC office and a University of California student regent. I have been involved with cultural organizations, media publications, interfaith communities, student government and academic departments.

While these experiences have afforded me extensive knowledge about navigating this university, I am not naive enough to think I have it all figured out.

I am looking to surround myself with the best and brightest risk takers, entrepreneurial thinkers and empathetic leaders our university has to offer. The Office of the President should serve as a model of what cooperation, collaboration and leadership should and could look like at UCLA. Kerckhoff 317 is not my office; it is our office.

Our office will be of the Bruins, for the Bruins and by the Bruins. We are committed to upholding the highest degrees of transparency, inclusivity, adaptability and responsiveness.

USAC offices are often criticized for nepotism and unmerited selection in their staffing and appointments. This year, the Office of the President is implementing a completely open recruitment process. There is no position within the office that is not open to students. Applications will be considered on the basis of experience, qualifications and commitment to the vision of the office – not based on which side of the line you stood on during the elections.

However, open recruitment is just a noble ideal if students do not step up and apply. It is impossible to ensure diverse representation without diverse applicants.

Our office will be focusing on leveraging alumni relationships to secure internships for our undergraduate students in our Bruins Hire Bruins platform. We will be creating a team of policy-oriented thinkers and organizers to read though, reform and craft policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment through our Bruins Fight Back program. And we will be redefining how our campus “does” campus climate in our Bruins Engage platform.

My vision, however, expands far beyond the walls of Kerckhoff 317.

Every council member serves a duality of roles as the leader of an office and as a student representative.

At the council table, each of us is tasked with serving around 30,000 undergraduates at UCLA – those who voted for us, those who voted against us and the vast majority who did not vote at all.

Our comments should be made in a way that honors the voices of those who can and cannot make their opinions known to us. Council members’ votes should be cast based on the merits of the propositions presented to us, not based on our desire to quell or invite controversy. And our demeanor should be of a nature worthy of the trust students place in our offices – nothing less.

That is the standard I set for myself and the charge I set for our council.

But we cannot do it alone. The implementation of this vision and these values is entirely contingent upon the engagement of students from diverse pockets of our campus community.

I invite you to share in this vision. Apply to join the leadership of our office. Apply to serve as an undergraduate appointment on a campus board or committee. Make public comments at council meetings. Engage with us online or in our office hours. Help shape the trajectory of our student government for the next year.

For those whom student government is a natural fit, we need you. And for those who have been made to feel disillusioned and disenfranchised by the system, we need you too.

USAC will not change unless those who think it can do no right, those who think it can do no wrong and those who don’t know what it does at all work to meet somewhere in the middle. And it will not change unless those seated around the table recognize their privilege to serve obligates a new type of leadership that prioritizes people over politics and students over slates.

USAC will not change unless we change it. So let’s do it together.

Mokhtarzadeh is the president of the 2017-2018 Undergraduate Students Association Council.

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