Naomi Riley elected USAC president with highest voter turnout since 2016
(Tanmay Shankar/Assistant Photo editor)
This post was updated May 8 at 10:54 p.m.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council 2020 election saw its highest voter turnout since 2016.
The USAC election, which had 30 candidates vying for 15 seats, had a 30.06% voter turnout. The race was highly contentious: five candidates ran for president compared to three last year, while only six out of 15 seats were unopposed, compared to nine last year. Three seats last year were also left entirely vacant, resulting in a fall special election to fill the incomplete council.
Candidates from two slates, For the People and Cost Cutting Innovations, as well as independents filled the new council.
Full results are at the bottom of this article.
Students voted against the Cultivating Unity for Bruins referenda which would have increased student fees by $45 per academic year. The referenda was intended to fund a Black Resource Center, establish meditation spaces within Associated Students UCLA and fund rent for the Transfer Student Center.
The Good Clothes Good People Basic Needs Referenda passed, which will raise student fees by $0.99 annually to fund supplies for the GCGP redistribution center that works to supply students with basic needs and school supplies.
Newly elected president Naomi Riley said she will work to change the perception that USAC is inaccessible. Riley served as Academic Affairs commissioner this year and ran against four other candidates.
Riley, who was a co-author and supporter of the CUB referendum, said she was heartbroken that it did not pass.
“I think that everyone knows I was one of the candidates who was most vocal about their support for CUB, largely because I was one of the authors at the table that helped in drafting the referendum,” Riley said. “I’m heartbroken that it didn’t get passed but the challenges still remain.”
Orion Smedley, who lost the race for president, said he was surprised at the results, but added he was happy for the other candidates on his slate. Smedley ran on the Cost Cutting Innovations slate which now has two candidates on USAC.
Newly elected Academic Affairs commissioner Breeze Velazquez said one of her first goals will be to increase transparency to students, specifically by creating a Reddit account and using its social media platforms to distribute information to students. As for more long term goals, she said she hopes to increase student access programs such as Books for Bruins, which gives students money for textbooks and school materials.
Aidan Arasasingham, the newly elected external vice president, said his priority in office is to address the urgent basic needs and affordability issues caused by COVID-19.
Arasasingham also said one of his initial steps as EVP will be to form a Community Advisory Council as laid out in his platform, similar to Riley’s proposal for a Congressional Advisory Board. The council would advise USAC on its major decisions and operations.
“We need to make good on that promise,” Arasasingham said. “And build the kind of base where we can convene student leaders, work together in collaboration and be held accountable to their priorities in order to make change and make good on the kind of progress that we need to see right now during this pandemic.”
Arasasingham said he was disappointed the voters rejected the CUB referendum. However, he said USAC could use its financial resources, along with those provided by its state, federal and philanthropic partners, to fill the funding gaps until the referendum could be replicated in the future.
Despite losing to Arasasingham, former EVP candidate Carl Illustrisimo said he was grateful for how his campaign grew during the election.
“I think the things that the campaign fought for – that we fought for – were radical change on campus, were all these different types of institutional changes and ways of pressuring admin,” Illustrisimo said. “I think I resonated with a lot of people.”
Christina Read, the newly elected Student Wellness commissioner, said she plans to optimize the effectiveness of the SWC’s programs and expand their student outreach in collaboration with student organizations.
“Making sure that students are really aware of resources for finding nutritious food, like programs like CalFresh or the Economic Crisis Response Team, of course is going to be a priority,” Read said.
Andrea Robinson, who ran for general representative but lost, said she hopes the winning candidates will work to help the student body given that plans for fall instruction are still being decided.
General Representative 3 Brandon Broukhim, who lost the race for internal vice president, said he was proud to have run a clean race, but added that there was a lot of toxicity on the Reddit platform.
“There were very inappropriate comments made about me on Reddit,” Broukhim said. “It bothered me and other candidates, and I’m sorry for anybody who had to endure that.”
Nadine Avari, who lost the race for International student representative, said she thinks the elections board did a good job of supporting the candidates through the election.
“In a time like this, when people are in different time zones, when people are stressed, when there’s so much anxiety, I think having that extra support from the election board without them biasing the election, was really important,” Avari said.
Naomi Riley (For the People)
Internal vice president
Emily Hong Van Luong (For the People)
External vice president
Aidan Arasasingham (Independent)
1. Jong Hyeon Lee (Cost-Cutting Innovations)
2. Justin Rodriguez (For the People)
3. Elijah Wade (For the People)
Academic Affairs commissioner
Breeze Velazquez (For the People)
Campus Events commissioner
Alice Naland (Independent)
Community Service commissioner
Jonathan Wisner (Independent)
Cultural Affairs commissioner
Promise Ogunleye (For the People)
Sachi Cooper (For the People)
Financial Supports commissioner
Noe Garcia (Independent)
Student Wellness commissioner
Christina Read (Independent)
Transfer student representative
Zuleika Bravo (For the People)
International student representative
Bakur Madini (Cost-Cutting Innovations)
Cultivating Unity for Bruins
Good Clothes Good People Basic Needs
Contributing reports from Arif Abd Aziz, Emily MacInnis, Eshan Uniyal, Eve Gross-Sable, Justin Jung, Kaitlin Browne, Kari Lau, Maddie Rausa, Samantha Fredberg, Sameera Pant, Sarah Nelson, Shruti Iyer, Daily Bruin staff.