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Op-ed: USAC has responsibility to make student government more accessible UCLA community

By Robert Watson

Feb. 14, 2019 10:03 p.m.

If you were to speak to a handful of random undergraduates on Bruin Walk, many would probably be unfamiliar with all USAC can do for them.

Most would be aware there exists some sort of student government. But when it comes to understanding specific details or really any information beyond knowing that USAC stands for “Undergraduate Students Association Council,” they are left in the dark.

This is especially troubling considering the fact that USAC is supported by students’ tuition and fees, and populated by 14 – soon to be 15 – elected officers who have the right to decide what happens with that money. The council’s most recent surplus allocation, for example, was hundreds of thousands of dollars. When there are certain student communities for which USAC is unfamiliar and inaccessible, these students are unable to obtain the resources offered by the offices designed to represent their interests.

The mechanisms by which our student government has typically supported student organizations – whether it be town hall events that get relatively small attendance, or social media blasts framed as “outreach to the UCLA community” – have been anything but entirely inclusive. When outreach is confined to social media platforms or word-of-mouth from our own offices, we miss the students who need outreach the most: those who aren’t already connected to USAC and don’t have friends in offices.

While there is still much more to be done, the Office of the Internal Vice President has improved upon its outreach since last spring, and has continued to make efforts to reach out to students who have never been reached out to before. We have tried to be intentional with our efforts by refining and determining the best way to successfully connect with and garner support, involvement and participation from student organizations and communities that have historically been excluded from the inner-workings, programs and resources of student government.

It goes without saying that UCLA’s undergraduate student government can always do better at outreach, especially to student organizations. And though personal outreach may seem a tedious task, doing so with an organized, thorough and impassioned effort has reaped considerable success for my office and the organizations it has assisted.

In just a few months, the office’s “Reachableness” campaign directors Kimberly Bonifacio and Fernando Oggier, with the assistance of their committee members, have been in contact with more than 130 student organizations, and have assisted in making dozens of projects come to fruition.

USAC offices can support initiatives that stem directly from our student community, be it by helping dozens of organizations book rooms and access contingency funding applications, including more student voices on entities like Campus Safety Alliance or supporting larger projects like the UCLA Piano Project and UCLA Pride Week.

Yet, even with these efforts, more needs to be done. Until there is an easy and efficient way to outreach to student organizations that do not already know about UCLA’s student government, USAC offices will have to continue to make efforts to reach out to organizations and communities that they may not have interacted with in the past.

Reaching out to student organizations is no easy task for any student or office, but the IVP office has devoted an entire committee solely to making these connections. We in student government have more work to do to truly act in the best interest of our student body, but it starts with structuring our offices in a way that prioritizes student communities and organizations.

This can be a daunting and time-consuming undertaking. But it is nonetheless a responsibility that every student-government leader holds.

Watson is the USAC internal vice president.

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