The graduate student government’s election for its executive cabinet will continue until Tuesday. The Daily Bruin Editorial Board interviewed each of the five candidates and evaluated their platforms for the coming year.
Creating a new neighborhood council. Keeping the student union afloat. Forcing the university to change its guiding documents on housing. Michael Skiles has big plans for his third term as Graduate Students Association president.
And chances are, he’ll deliver – just like he did this year and the year before.
Skiles’ overarching platform for next year is focusing on local advocacy efforts through Westwood Forward, a student-organized coalition aimed at carving out a new neighborhood council that includes UCLA and Westwood Village. His goal is to use this new council to revamp housing development, businesses and entertainment in Westwood. His leadership and coordination were key in forming the proposal and ensuring that the city will hold a vote on the subdivision plan before the end of the school year.
Skiles also aims to ensure the financial stability of Associated Students UCLA. He has already been in contact with ASUCLA officials, and envisions working with the new ASUCLA executive director to help the union create a profitable model. He even brought up the possibility of the union needing an undergraduate and graduate fee referendum – something that, if required, would benefit greatly from the input of student leaders such as Skiles.
The two-term GSA president has also dealt skillfully with housing issues this year. In January, he negotiated with the administration to delay a housing rate increase until the university secured a construction bid for new housing. Skiles also urged the administration to create the Graduate and Professional Student Housing Ad-Hoc Committee to analyze and rework the university’s housing master plan, a document he said has not been updated in several years. He also intends to work toward extending housing guarantees for graduate students beyond the current cap.
While many of Skiles’ platforms seem to be a continuation of what he is already doing, that’s not a bad thing. Skiles has acted as a successful advocate for graduate students, forcing the university to yield to their concerns. By continuing his work on Westwood Forward and graduate student housing guarantees, Skiles can continue to fight for graduate students needs and hold the university accountable.
That being said, Skiles needs to keep an eye out for taking on more than he can handle. He should ensure his fellow GSA officers are prepared to oversee things like advocacy at the state level and GSA’s involvement with the University of California Student Association, so he can work with Westwood’s new neighborhood council should Westwood Forward succeed in its efforts.
A third year as president is unprecedented in GSA history. But Skiles has a track record of delivering challenging, and sometimes unrealistic, promises. This board believes he can continue that as GSA president next year and endorses him for this position.