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USAC 2023-2024 Candidate Debates: General Representative

(Courtesy of USAC candidates)

By Dylan Winward

May 5, 2023 6:42 p.m.

Eleven candidates for the position of Undergraduate Students Association Council general representative attended debates spanning Wednesday and Thursday.

The Elections Board and the Daily Bruin co-hosted a series of debates between candidates in the upcoming USAC election. Eleven candidates are running for the position of General Representative.

Six attended the first group, which debated on Wednesday.

Joe Lin, a first-year computer science student, said he would focus on refining the provision of campus resources and reforming mental health resources such as Counseling and Psychological Services.

“I’m not an expert on mental health, but I do want to commit … to really understanding student interest within the mental health area and reforming mental health services like CAPS and other policies to reflect these desires by the student body,” he said.

Tajvir Singh, a second-year political science student, said he hopes to increase engagement with and trust in USAC by providing direct phone line access for voters to his office and by creating a better established meeting policy for representatives.

“I think there’s a fundamental lack of trust. There’s no accountability, and that’s something we’ve got to change,” he said.

Katie Pool, a second-year business economics student, said she plans to focus on decreasing student fees, increasing access to jobs and focusing on campus safety. She added that she also hopes to increase USAC’s financial transparency for students.

“I just want to highlight that we’re charged $2,100 every year for our fees, and some of us don’t even know where they’re allocated,” she said. “I just think that there’s so many things that USAC can be more transparent on it, and our fees can be allocated better.”

Lucas Levy, a first-year political science student, said he hopes to provide better access to gym equipment and a meal plan for off-campus students. He added that he hopes USAC will be better at responding to information it receives from students needing academic support and marginalized students.

Levy also said he feels marginalized communities feel as if they are underrepresented, something he hopes to change if elected.

“I think student government gets a lot of that information from students but never acts on it,” he said.

Ethan Ferrara, a first-year political science student running with the United Bruin Movement slate, said he would improve communication from USAC officials outside of emails.

“I want to take my experience and keep making UCLA a good place,” he said. “You guys are all so inspiring to me.”

Ferrara added that he thinks events with free giveaways of items such as energy drinks and toys help prevent stress for students on campus.

Jonathan Valenzuela Mejia, a third-year global affairs and public health student, said he hopes to focus on promoting diversity at UCLA. Valenzuela said retention for underrepresented students is a large issue at UCLA, adding that programs for admit weekends and other support for marginalized students are vital to meeting the student body’s diverse needs.

“I want to ensure that USAC is more democratized,” Mejia said. “And at the end of the day, I want to make a better UCLA for you all and for the Bruins to come in the future. We all deserve that.”

Because the debates were split into two groups, another group of candidates for general representatives attended a Thursday debate.

Banan M. “BMG” Garada, a second-year computer science and bioengineering student, said she thinks safety is a critical issue for students, adding that she would improve lighting on-campus at night, particularly to help commuter students. She added that she hopes to increase campus safety by fixing elevators, introducing portable charging stations and increasing the robustness of internal text messaging systems.

“My platform is Bruins Make Gold, and part of that encompasses this freedom that the role of general representative has,” she said. “From freedom comes creativity; from creativity comes opportunities to share and make change.”

Jean Pierre Etcheverry, a first-year undeclared humanities student, said he hopes to reform the current on-campus meal swipe program, improve printing on campus, and invite administration leaders, including Chancellor Gene Block, to open forums so they can answer questions directly from students. Etcheverry added that he hopes to create more transparency around UCPD’s spending.

“We also need to try to build a better understanding and relationship with the police department and understand that they are our friends and make sure that they’re our friends,” he said.

Gabrielle Lasry, a third-year political science student, said her experiences as a first-generation commuter student will help her understand the needs of disadvantaged students. She added that she hopes to foster closer communication between USAC and student stakeholders.

“I’m more committed to creating an environment that is not only more responsive, but one that’s also more transparent,” she said. “I think that the best way to sort of gauge the exact policies we need, that is to directly take a more proactive approach and directly reach out to different communities.”

Samuel Motzkin, a first-year Chinese language and culture and political science, said he hopes to increase confidence in student government by giving students more opportunities to speak to USAC members and reaching out directly to student program directors.

Motzkin also said he hopes to host a monthly forum, allowing students to share their thoughts directly.

“In my four years serving in a very similar position throughout all of high school, I learned that representation comes down to being ready and willing to listen,” he said.

Cristopher Espino, a first-year political science student, said he hopes to introduce initiatives for better physical access to the UCLA campus. He added that he felt USAC not meeting quorum for meetings was a problem and that he hoped to set better attendance standards next year.

“I pledge to be there, present there, making these concerns heard, and actually voting on these issues which are exigent and needed,” he said.

Students can vote in the election on MyUCLA starting May 5 at 12 p.m. and ending May 12 at 2 p.m.

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