Each year the campus community waits in anticipation for the Daily Nexus’s election endorsements. In past years this has been a heated part of elections season, as the Nexus has historically implicitly and explicitly demonized Associated Students, almost deterring students from voting altogether. With the exception of the endorsement for Navkiran “Navi” Kaur for AS President (which I agree with) that featured specifics about the presidential candidates’ platforms, this year the Nexus lacked previous years’ deeper analysis of candidates and platforms, as well as decisiveness in endorsements, falling somewhat flat in my opinion.
I also agree with the decision to endorse Daniela Bayon for the position of External Vice President of Local Affairs (EVPSA), however I believe the Nexus staff could have expanded on concrete plans for the office that do not just focus on Halloween or Deltopia, but on issues that affect students everyday. Specifically, I would have liked to have read more about Bayon’s plans to combat sexual violence in IV by utilizing resources already available (i.e. Pardall Center), which was discussed in the candidate forums last Monday. Altogether, though I believe that the Nexus made the right decision in endorsing Daniela Bayon, I think the staff could have done more in fleshing out their reasoning to give students on the fence a clearer view of why Bayon is the clear choice of the two candidates.
The most disappointing portion of this year’s endorsements was the choice to endorse Melvin Singh as External Vice President of Statewide Affairs (EVPSA) over Kashira “Kash” Ayers. The Nexus endorsement claims that Singh is more knowledgeable of “the processes and politics behind decision-making at the state level” (Nexus). However, this is not true. Both candidates have held positions in Associated Students and attended state and nationwide conferences, which have influenced their understanding of the effects of lobbying; I would argue that in terms of understanding how to effect change, the candidates are on par with one another. What I am concerned with is action building from this knowledge.
During the EVPSA candidate forum last week, Singh’s platform focused on future plans to educate students on statewide issues, while Ayers’ focused on using student power to hold legislators accountable to student issues. Specifically, Ayers spoke of her success with the Black Student Union in implementing institutional change through pressuring Chancellor Yang to address the lack of resources for students of color on campus, which directly resulted in an increase in mental health support staff that did not come from student fees. Singh lacks the same success in demonstrating student power, as much of his campaign rests on UCSA campaigns that are already in motion. Ayers has also demonstrated her ability to spread knowledge across the campus by acting as a key component in the resurgence of UCSB’s Black Student Union Newsletter, Black Watch, after it went unpublished for the past 15 years. Although these examples focus on the Black student population at UCSB, Ayers is concerned with statewide issues that impact all students, including mental health services, rising tuition, and access to decision-makers and engagement in the decision making process for everyday students, not just those who hold positions in Associated Students.
When asked “How do you plan on interacting with Janet Napolitano, [the new UC President]” during the EVPSA forum, Ayers said she plans to work with Napolitano and regents to bring them to UCSB’s campus to hold forums that are open to all students. This is a direct response to a small, closed meeting with Napolitano that was held on campus in late November that was not publicized and only open to a select few already involved in Associated Students. In response to the same question Singh claimed “if we don’t approve of what she does, she has to change her ways,” but lacked concrete ways in which to keep Napolitano accountable. Melvin Singh is a safe choice for the position, in terms of ensuring safety for legislators and administrators, but does not seem to turn the tides at all when it comes to advocating for students. However, Kash Ayers is the choice candidate for students who want a voice in closed meetings rather than a figurehead, as well as access to those meetings.
Students need a representative in this position that not only understands student power in theory, but can actively engage students to achieve tangible results. The real power of the EVPSA position is in influencing policy-makers by applying pressure during closed-door meetings, while mobilizing students outside of those meetings to keep these policy-makers accountable. Although Singh touts personal relationships with some legislators, he has yet to show that he can use these connections to achieve tangible victories on student issues. Ayers has already demonstrated success in organizing students and applying pressure to decision makers in order to achieve clear goals. With the experience of mobilizing students and effecting real change, Kashira “Kash” Ayers is the smart choice for this position for students who want an advocate rather than a politician that is too safe, and overall uninspiring.
UCSB Alum, English with Distinction in the Major, Class of 2013
USSA Board Of Directors, 2011-2012
Queer Commission External (Statewide and Local) Coordinator, 2011-2012
AS Off-campus Senator, 2011-2012
Queer Student Union Community Collective Liaison 2010-2011
**Special thanks to Danielle Bermudez for her copy editing.