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2022 USAC Elections: Daily Bruin Editorial Board candidate endorsements

(Photos courtesy of USAC candidates. Photo illustration by Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)

By Editorial Board

May 3, 2022 3:44 p.m.

This post was updated May 4 at 9:26 p.m.

Voting has begun for the Undergraduate Students Association Council, the governing body for UCLA’s undergraduate students. This year, voters will select 15 new officers from 23 candidates. Seven positions are uncontested, and eight positions are contested. Students will also vote on a referendum that would increase quarterly fees starting in the 2022-2023 academic year to provide additional funding for the Black Bruin Resource Center and the Transfer Student Center.

As part of its annual endorsement process, the Editorial Board interviewed candidates about their backgrounds, platforms and qualifications before deciding who to endorse. The Board considered the following factors in its deliberations: specificity and relevance of platforms, feasibility of campaign goals and candidates’ experiences with advocacy. For contested positions, the Board also discussed how each candidate’s platforms and qualifications compared with their running mates. Below are the Board’s endorsements.

You can read more about the candidates, their platforms and the referendum here. Electronic ballots are located on MyUCLA. Voting ends Friday, May 6 at 2 p.m.

President

The Board was not able to interview all presidential candidates before the time of publication. As the Board seriously weighs comparisons between candidates in its deliberations, the Board does not believe it can reasonably determine which candidate to endorse for president.

Internal Vice President – Jeffry Umaña Muñoz

For Jeffry Umaña Muñoz, it’s all about forging a better future for his fellow students and the office of the Internal Vice President.

That’s why the Board endorses Muñoz for next year’s IVP.

The IVP traditionally focuses on supporting campus organizations as well as serving as a liaison between the university and students; however, Muñoz is raising the bar at a time when the need has become more than clear.

The second-year Chicano/a and Central American studies, education and social transformation, and labor studies student is running on ambitious promises to reshape campus safety, increase accessibility to USAC and expand support systems for undocumented and other underrepresented Bruins.

Muñoz’s platform #SAFETY4ALL calls for the expansion of the Campus Safety Alliance’s role as the official student safety body, an abolition and divestment week and a partnership with the North Westwood Neighborhood Council to monitor the University of California Police Department. If elected, Muñoz also plans on advocating for increased funding for resources that support undocumented Bruins and involving students in the university’s efforts to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

The Board was impressed by the specificity and comprehensiveness of Muñoz’s platforms. While his promises are ambitious, the Board is confident Muñoz will be able to make significant progress in tackling the issues he has identified.

With experience as a student organizer and representative in administrative spaces, Muñoz is no stranger to campus advocacy. As a student senator in the Academic Senate’s Undergraduate Council, Muñoz has worked with administrations to create more equitable policies in the classroom. As the MEChA Xinachtli Access Coordinator, he has lobbied for resources that make the university more accessible.

That being said, the Board has no doubt that both Muñoz and fellow candidate My-Lan Le would make strides to improve the office of the IVP. Le’s experience and platforms are impressive; however, Muñoz boasts a transformative vision that the Board believes will re-chart the course of future IVP offices.

The Board cannot wait for Muñoz to get started.

External Vice President – Divine-Faith Johnson

In an increasingly uncertain and politically polarized world, student advocacy at the UC, state and federal levels is as important as ever.

To that end, the Board endorses Divine-Faith Johnson as the external vice president due to her robust background and timely platforms.

The Board believes that having been in the EVP office for the past three years as both a director and now internal chief of staff, Johnson has the expertise to manage her team successfully. As the vice-chair and an executive board member of the UC Student Association, she worked to increase turnout for the association’s lobby events and made legislative decisions behind the scenes.

Aside from her experience, Johnson’s platforms are relevant to student concerns.

Johnson plans to use the EVP office to implement alternatives for campus policing, as well as push for mental health resources that go beyond Counseling and Psychological Services. She plans to increase the office’s grants for advocacy organizations and build a strong coalition with marginalized communities across the UC. Johnson is also advocating for rent control in Westwood, the registration of more students for CalFresh and a more sustainable Westwood.

With that said, the Board appreciates Johnson’s opponent Nunu White’s ideas, particularly his platform to create a UC-wide Mother Organization coalition that could mobilize on the system level. However, the Board believes Johnson’s experience would make her better suited for the office.

The EVP office is crucial for elevating student voices to the legislative level, and the Board trusts Johnson to do this duty well.

General Representative 1 – Eliana Judith Sisman

Eliana Judith Sisman has a bold and innovative set of plans for supporting Bruins in all aspects of their campus experience.

The board is excited by her vision and endorses Sisman for general representative.

The second-year international development studies student is running on platforms that combine her passions for disability justice, advocacy through community service and public policy.

If elected, Sisman will advocate for universal hybrid options and greater support for student retention programs. She will also work toward the expansion of toxicology tests, testing of indoor ventilation systems and increased accessibility to cooking spaces across campus.

The Board previously urged UCLA to support survivors by improving accessibility to toxicology tests and commends Sisman for making this issue a priority. It also finds her focus on Bruins’ physical and mental well-being refreshing, especially as the pandemic has redefined what it means for a university to keep its students safe.

Sisman has more than proved herself as a leader who can work with both administrators and students on the ground to effect change. Sisman was involved in organizing programming during last quarter’s Strike for Our Safety, a 16-day sit-in led by members of the Disabled Student Union, Mother Organizations coalition and USAC. Sisman also sits on the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s Student Advisory Board, where she provides key insights to administrators on how to make the campus a more equitable place for all.

These experiences will serve her well in a position dedicated to advocating with and on behalf of Bruins from different communities.

Sisman has the know-how and passion to excel in student government. The board looks forward to seeing her in action.

General Representative 2 – Naomi Hammonds

The excitement and passion emanating from Naomi Hammonds are hard to miss.

The second-year entrepreneurship and psychobiology student’s platform is built on helping students succeed, and is only further supported by her experiences in USAC and the Black Bruin community. With these in mind, the Editorial Board endorses Hammonds for the position of general representative.

As a member of USAC since the summer before her freshman year, Hammonds has seen student advocacy firsthand from both Naomi Riley and Breeze Velazquez’s USAC presidential tenures.

Hammond’s goals are admirable and would provide much-needed support to students. Her Be Delusional platform could provide students a guided path to turning their passions into businesses through workshops on topics such as social media, website development and accounting. Meanwhile, her platform to support the Black Bruin Resource Center could help support Black students in light of the center’s lackluster funding.

Hammonds also plans on implementing student body-wide microaggression training, with her eyes set on monthly sessions. Hammonds is right that all students should feel welcomed at UCLA, but her plan could use further discussion regarding its feasibility and more accessible options for participation. It is the Board’s hope that the plan’s development will continue while Hammonds is in office.

Hammonds has the eye and enthusiasm for student government – we believe it will take her far.

General Representative 3Alexis Molden

 

To represent our student body, you need ambition. Running for student government as a first-year is no concern for Alexis Molden – and the Board understands why.

Due to her experience, track record and relevant platforms, the Board endorses Alexis Molden for General Representative.

Molden’s track record as a first-year is quite impressive. She has been part of multiple UC Student Association lobbying efforts, including the Student Lobby Conference, the Student of Color Conference and Black Lobby Day at the California State Capitol.

Molden also has experience within USAC. Being a part of the EVP Fellowship Program has given her a deeper understanding of how USAC operates and how to best serve students. Seeking to continue this improvement, Molden wants to learn more about different marginalized and underrepresented student communities so she can be at the forefront of advocacy.

Molden is running on three campaign promises: preparing students for their professional endeavors by expanding campus networking opportunities, tailoring mental health services to communities and mandating campus jobs pay a liveable wage – not just minimum wage. These goals are ambitious and will need specific, actionable plans to be executed.

The Board is confident in Molden’s ability to do this and is excited to see her go.

 

Academic Affairs CommissionerDaniela Anais Cortez Bravo

Even at the same university, not every student has the same access to education.

Daniela Anais Cortez Bravo understands this fact.

The Board shares her belief that a UC education should be more accessible, especially for students from underserved communities. To that end, we endorse Bravo, whose extensive experience and comprehensive platforms would help remedy inequities in education at UCLA, for academic affairs commissioner.

Bravo served this past year as a senator in the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools within the Academic Senate. This experience would help guide her appointments to the Senate as the commissioner. As an assistant commissioner within the Academic Affairs Commission this year, she is well-acquainted with its structure and function. Her experience working with high school students from marginalized backgrounds as a college success advisor also gives her accessibility push a more personal perspective.

Bravo’s platforms are similarly impressive and ambitious. She wants to improve the mental health of students by bringing more intervention services and by using the Student Advocate Board to pair students with academic disciplinary cases with mental health professionals or caseworkers. Bravo aims to solidify the AAC note-taking program to improve course accessibility and advocate for Wi-Fi affordability and other course-related resources for students.

The Board believes these platforms would make the necessary steps toward giving marginalized students better access to the resources at UCLA.

In our assessment, Bravo has the experience and passion to get them done.

Campus Events Commissioner Giovanna Boffa

 

 

As COVID-19 continues to upend our university’s plans, bringing successful events to the student body is a tall order.

However, the Board believes there is a candidate for campus events commissioner that has proven herself up to the challenge.

Thoroughly convinced by her strong track record, comprehensive platforms and remarkable passion, the Board endorses Giovanna Boffa for next year’s campus events commissioner.

Boffa has spent each of her three years at UCLA building an impressive dedication to the Campus Events Commission. This past year, she was the Commission’s co-director of Concerts, making her particularly well-prepared to handle event programming and staff management – both of which will be critical to the success of next year’s Commissioner.

In this role, Boffa hopes to bring the opportunities and benefits the Commission offers to a wider swath of the student body next year. To accomplish this, she plans to increase event marketing, particularly on social media, collaborate with other campus organizations, and improve accessibility by hiring American Sign Language interpreters.

On top of making events currently in place more well-attended, Boffa wants to reinvigorate their diversity. In particular, she hopes to continue past efforts to bring more attention to student art, not only through increasing UCLA-hosted performance opportunities but also by helping student artists get connected with industry professionals.

While we commend fellow candidate Aaron Yamin for his ambition and desire to raise awareness about campus events, the Board believes Boffa’s knowledge and insight into the inner workings of CEC will help support her in achieving her goals and enacting her plans.

As Boffa said in her interview, she lives and breathes the Campus Events Commission.

Next year, we hope to see what someone with that kind of dedication can accomplish at the Commission’s helm.

Community Services Commissioner – Juan Flores

Some of the best parts of UCLA run on community service.

The Board endorses Juan Flores as community service commissioner and commends their aim to strengthen UCLA community service by fostering improvements in communication and collaboration between different organizations.

Flores has a grassroots community organizing background and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Youth Development Network in Sacramento. In this work, Flores has been able to help establish accessible grant applications, particularly for first-time applicants, and strong resources for student organizations.

Flores’ platforms focus on strengthening community service organizations on campus and protecting student volunteers. They hope to create a guiding service document and have CSC sponsor a conference, both of which would facilitate discussion and understanding between service organizations of their goals and future plans. Additionally, they plan to establish coalitions and town halls between service organizations and USAC.

Furthermore, Flores wants to ensure the safety and protection of UC student volunteers. He hopes to continue building a program to insure community service organizations against unexpected accidents. This endeavor is already an ongoing project, but Flores is determined to see it through.

The Board believes Flores has the determination to face the challenge of Community Service Commissioner, and we can’t wait to see where they will take the office next.

Cultural Affairs Commissioner Alicia Verdugo

 

When it comes to closing gaps both on and off campus, Alicia Verdugo has the knowledge and experience it takes to build bridges.

The Board is eager to endorse Verdugo for Cultural Affairs Commissioner.

Verdugo is a first-year education and social transformation and sociology student involved in the arts and community support on campus. The Board believes their vision and passion will help provide students with safe spaces to explore themselves and their communities.

Verdugo’s passion for activism and community service is evident through her volunteer work in LA, which includes making meals at shelters for people experiencing homelessness and working with a group at UCLA to reintroduce education for formerly incarcerated youth.

Running unopposed for Cultural Affairs Commissioner, their responsibilities would be to engage students and facilitate conversations that promote creativity and wellbeing.

Verdugo’s main goal is to be accessible to their constituents while establishing initiatives to foster connection. Some of her platforms include Healing Hearts and Opening UpArc, which support students and build spaces for them to seek and provide support.

Their final platform, Grounding the Future, aims to create a community center for students to study and rest. Verdugo acknowledged that such a feat could not be accomplished in just a year, and it will be important for them to outline a plan to make their vision come to life even if they are not reelected as Cultural Affairs Commissioner in the future.

Students deserve to feel appreciated, supported and respected, and the Board believes Verdugo will be able to make that happen.

Facilities Commissioner – Phoebe Chiu

Phoebe Chiu is passionate about making UCLA a more sustainable and accessible place.

The editorial board endorses Chiu for Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities commissioner because it believes she will create a campus community that serves the needs of all Bruins.

Chiu has extensive experience pushing the university to be more eco-friendly. As the program director of the student-led program Sustainability Action Research, Chiu works with UCLA staff to identify ways the university can integrate more sustainable practices. The board believes she will be able to easily apply these experiences to the halls of student government.

If elected as Facilities commissioner, Chiu plans on empowering students through conferences and grassroots organizing workshops, reducing waste from dining facilities on the Hill in addition to Associated Students UCLA eateries, and advocating for priority housing for students with disabilities. Chiu also wants to investigate UCLA’s service request system and advocate for greater resources for students who may have a more difficult time navigating campus.

The board was impressed with Chiu’s drive and directed plans for the Facilities Commission’s future. During a time when the environment and campus safety have never been more important, we believe Chiu will steer the Facilities Commission to new heights.

UCLA must be kept at high standards of safety, sustainability, accessibility and housing – and Chiu has all the skills to do just that.

Financial Supports Commissioner – Dakota Edison

Handling finances is almost always a struggle.

Luckily, Dakota Edison is determined to ease the headache that comes with student finances.

The board endorses ​​Edison for the role of Financial Supports commissioner because of his extensive experience in working with student finances and his determination to increase financial literacy for the student body.

As a third-year business economics student, Edison is passionate about financial advocacy and understands the difficulties of navigating its bureaucracy. In the past, he worked as the funding director for the Academic Affairs Commission, where he learned the ins and outs of student government accounting – notably, what works and what doesn’t – as well as how to advocate for Bruins’ needs.

He also serves on the UC Student Association’s Education Finance Model Steering Committee, which determines how aid is distributed across the 10 UC campuses. During the rise of the pandemic, Edison advocated for more funding for students across the UC as many were catapulted into economic precarity.

Edison wants to increase equity within the university by creating a student aid advocacy board that can help students navigate financial aid. He also hopes to launch a student business hub – a database of student-led businesses – and decrease the time it takes for student organizations to receive reimbursements.

Edison isn’t the only candidate who’s running to support Bruins in their financial journeys. Sara Broukhim is campaigning on the promises of hosting investment workshops and providing discounts for The New York Times subscriptions and local businesses. Though these goals are commendable, the board believes Edison’s plans will do more for advancing equity across campus.

Edison’s extensive background with student funding and resolve to make the financial sphere more accessible for Bruins are a recipe for success.

Student Wellness Commissioner – Ana Majer

It’s important to have someone at the helm of the Student Wellness Commission who has the experience and ambition for ensuring a safe and productive learning environment.

This board endorses Ana Majer for Student Wellness commissioner because she is up to the difficult task of improving the student experience amid the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic.

The third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student has a proven track record within the commission. From serving as the Student Education and Research of Contemporary Health co-director to Active Minds outreach director, she has navigated the inner workings of the commission and developed an understanding that will help her waste no time in stepping up to as Student Wellness commissioner.

Her plans are practical but noteworthy. Majer plans on creating a peer support lounge in Kerckhoff Hall and increasing health literacy through conferences and opportunities for receiving CPR certification. While implementing some of these plans may be challenging, the effort is well worth it considering the significant impacts the changes would have on students.

Transparency is a necessity for our campus leaders – and Majer has centered that as another one of her platforms for Student Wellness commissioner. Her proposal for improving transparency, which includes sharing fiscal reports as well as meeting minutes, will help students keep track of the programs put in place to help them.

A focus on student wellness is more important than ever, and Majer is the right person to implement meaningful programs that will help improve the UCLA student experience.

Transfer Student Representative – Teddy Moreno

Like any effective leader, next year’s transfer student representative will need a strong desire to serve their constituents.

Considering his qualifications and plans to do just that, the board endorses Teddy Moreno for transfer student representative.

Moreno is a transfer student who understands the importance of diversity in education, and his qualifications are no less than impressive. He served as a student representative at Santa Ana College. Moreno has lobbied governments at the state and federal level, his notable accomplishments including working with other student advocates to lobby for the passage of the DREAM act, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and increasing Pell Grant funding for students.

Moreno’s platforms are both concrete and relevant. As transfer students need to acquaint themselves with our institution’s fast-paced services, Moreno plans to make sure they are aware of opportunities at UCLA by setting up a system that will include networking with faculty and staff.

Moreno’s platforms were not as specific as the board would have liked, but it is confident that he has the skills to come up with concrete steps and make strides toward making them a reality.

After all, the first step in solving a problem is understanding that it exists in the first place. The board sees Moreno on the path to excellence as next year’s transfer student representative.

International Student Representative – Hansika Nath

Hansika Nath is running for office to make the transition to UCLA easier for international students like herself.

The board endorses Nath as international student representative so she can do just that.

The first-year global studies and business economics student comes from a small town in India. Her passion for creating inclusive spaces for people of different cultures stems from a childhood defined by diversity. In high school, she studied in the United Kingdom for approximately a month before returning to India to host students from the U.K. Her time in the program opened her eyes to the difficulties one encounters when navigating a new country and culture.

Nath plans on bringing that understanding to her term as international student representative. One of Nath’s platforms is to help international students navigate the complicated system of health care at UCLA – a gargantuan task even for students who have always lived in the United States. In the same vein, Nath plans on assisting international Bruins with budgeting by creating educational modules on U.S. currency and seeking the help of financial advisors.

The board is confident Nath will be able to deliver on these promises in the year ahead. She already has experience working in student government as the former president of her high school’s student body. And as a secretary for the World Wildlife Fund, Nath is also familiar with working with others in a large organization to achieve a common goal.

Nath is a fierce advocate for the international student community, and the board hopes her passion for supporting her peers will change campus for the better.

EARN! – Education, Access, and Retention NOW! Referendum – Yes

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