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Outgoing USAC officers reflect on their time on the council, 2023-2024 term

Former Undergraduate Students Association Council officers Meagan Harmon, Eva Jussim, Chia Ying Wong and Naomi Hammonds are pictured from left to right. The 2023-2024 council attended its last meeting May 21. (Courtesy of USAC Student Government Services)

By Shiv Patel

June 10, 2024 3:58 p.m.

On May 23, 2023, the Undergraduate Students Association Council officers for the 2023-2024 term began their first meeting as newly sworn-in officers. Now-former President Naomi Hammonds adjourned their final meeting May 21 – 364 days later.

Each May, a new class of 15 USAC officers enters office following their election to the council. The 2023 election saw Hammonds defeat then-President Carl King Jr. in his bid for reelection, and 2024 saw the election of the first international student as USAC president to succeed Hammonds. As she and other now-former officers prepare to graduate, they reflected on their time on the council.

Hammonds said her journey with USAC began three years ago.

“My freshman year, … I received an Instagram DM by one of the current general representatives for that year,” she said. “I played sports at the same high school that he went to back in Vegas, and he told me, ‘Hey, you’ve got to join this club.’”

Hammonds said she began her career in UCLA student government as a staff member under 2020-2021 President Naomi Riley. She added that she later became a director in the Office of the President under Riley’s successor, Breeze Velazquez, who Hammonds said encouraged her to run for general representative in the 2022 election.

“(I) was able to serve last year as the general representative too and then work my way and do a lot of activities and host events,” she said. “We focused a lot on mental health, supporting commuter students – as a commuter student myself – and providing resources to our Black Bruin Resource Center.”

Hammonds, a fourth-year psychobiology student, graduates this week and said she is applying to medical school and will earn her master’s degree at UCLA next year.

Hammonds is not the only council member graduating this year. Now-former External Vice President Eva Jussim, a fourth-year political science student, said she plans to work in urban planning and advocate for better public transportation in Los Angeles after graduation.

Jussim, who previously served as the EVP office’s transparency director and later its internal chief of staff, said she is proud of her office’s efforts this year, including its lobbying meetings and interactions with the UC Board of Regents.

“I’m proud that we put our head down and we stuck to the work, and I think it proves in the results that we’ve had throughout the year,” she said. “I’m proud of the historic participation in all facets of student life and governance that we’ve had.”

Chia Ying Wong, a third-year education and social transformation and English student, served as the council’s Community Service commissioner for the 2023-2024 term. Wong said she began her time with USAC in her first year as an intern in the Student Wellness Commission and a fellow in the Community Service Commission, and she continued in both offices in her second year. In May 2023, she was elected to the office of Community Service commissioner.

“It was just a very natural decision (to run for CSC) because I enjoyed it so much and was very passionate about the people,” she said.

Wong, who will begin a master’s program in education policy at Harvard University in the fall, said she was proud that her office expanded its volume of events and made changes to promote fiscal transparency.

While Hammonds, Jussim and Wong had been in their respective positions since May 2023, two of the outgoing council members from the 2023-2024 term were appointed in winter quarter. One member, now-former Transfer Student Representative Meagan Harmon, was appointed in March after the mid-year departure of her predecessor Thyra Cobbs.

Harmon, whose tenure was the shortest of this year’s councilmembers, said USAC’s importance comes from its role in student advocacy, such as the council’s resolution requesting that Chancellor Gene Block call on workers in Bangkok’s Hong Seng Knitting factory to receive back pay.

“Not only do we advocate for UCLA students, but we advocate for students all around the country, even out of the country,” she said.

Harmon, a fourth-year African American studies and English student, said she plans to participate in a post-baccalaureate program for two years before attending veterinary school.

While interviewees agreed on the importance of USAC, some also said the council could work to become a more united space. Navigating the council’s approach to the Israel-Hamas war proved a difficult task, Wong said.

“It is a very polarized issue,” she said. “If we don’t communicate the reasons why we’re taking certain stances in the right manner, it’s easy to alienate students.”

Hammonds said she also wishes councilmembers had approached conflict in a more people-first manner, being more considerate about the impact their words had on each other.

Despite this, councilmembers expressed optimism for the council’s future, including their successors.

Harmon said she is excited to see the work of next year’s council. Hammonds added that she is looking forward to seeing the work of her successor, USAC President Adam Tfayli.

“I’m excited for some of Adam’s platforms,” she said. “I hope he is able to accomplish all of them. It would definitely result in the higher success of our students on our campus, and that’s what matters to me the most.”

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