Q&A with Kashira Ayers, DP Party Candidate for External Vice President of Statewide Affairs


Interview by Giuseppe Ricapito, IV Beat Reporter

What makes you the better candidate for the EVPSA?

Why I’m a better candidate for this position is the fact that I have experience organizing, I’ve organized the list of demands with the Black Student Union that we send to the Chancellor. And part of that was getting two psychologists who studied the Black world to come onto campus and work with students, and Black students specifically, to increase our retention rate. Another part is advocating to hire a diversity initiative counselor in the admissions office, who’s been hired and is initially getting more student intent to working in the admissions office right now, for recruitment and retention of Black students on campus. So I’ve helped a lot of students organizing–it’s kind of what I do well. I’ve worked in the Office of the Student Advocate. I was Chief of Staff last year, this year I am the RA for the Black Scholars Floor, [and] I am also the chief of staff of Black Watch, which is a newsletter on campus that works for the positive uplift of black students on this campus. So I do have a lot of experience with community organizing, with mobilizing people, with getting the student body together with coalition building… I have that experience with doing work and seeing tangible change from the work I’ve been putting in.

If elected, what do you hope to accomplish while in office?

From talking to students, I’ve realized students have problems with their tuition: tuition being really expensive, students not necessarily knowing where their tuition is going to. And I’ve talked to students who don’t even know what the UC Regents are. I’ve talked to students who don’t know the state legislator. I feel like my role in this office, if elected, is to educate students on legislation that affects students. You know how like Prop. 30 came up, like SC-A5–legislation that affects students that we don’t directly know about. And secondly, after educating students, I plan to hold state legislators accountable by doing phone campaigns, by talking to students about the things that they need and making sure that the legislators are being held accountable and are being transparent with us. Additionally, I feel like its problematic that we only have one student regent representing all nine UC campuses, right? So what I plan to do is to run a campaign to get at least one more student on the Board of Regents. Cause I know that right now they’re going through the whole process, it probably wont be this year, but next year hopefully. Additionally, I just plan to be a resource for students who are engaged in statewide politics, want to learn more… And I plan to have an open station, an open office, for students who want to critically engage in our institution, who want to think critically about the appointment of Napolitano and the UC Regents, who also just want to be educated and well informed.

What are some of the most important issues for students to be aware of regarding statewide policies and how will you work to inform students on these issues?

So it’s something that I’ve been working on with the IGNITE campaign (Invest in Graduation Not Incarceration, Transform Education)— and a part of that is PROP 218, that’s basically… Box 23 which asks on the FAFSA if a student has been convicted of a criminal charge, and more specifically they ask about marijuana. And I feel like that weeds out so many students, especially students of color who have made that mistake of being caught in possession of marijuana. And everything, as well as SC-A5 which… competes with Prop 209. So my plan is the educate the student body about these different bills and how they affect us, and…more specifically they affect students of color on this campus. And I feel like me being a Black student on this campus, sometimes I feel furious being sometimes the only Black person in front my classrooms. And I’m not the only one that feels this way, because I’ve talked to other people about it. So I want to make sure that we have a voice when these legislations are on the table. And I want to make sure when some of these senators are passing these legislative bills–or not passing them–we’re calling their officers and we’re telling them why these bills need to be passed, or why they shouldn’t be passed.

What is your impression of the UC Regents? How do you plan on relating campus issues to the UC system’s highest governing body?

First of all, when it comes to UC Regents, I think they have 12-year terms, right? So I feel like first of all that’s too long for anyone to be in a position of power. Second of all, I feel like we should be holding them accountable in the sense that they should not be appointed, they should be elected. So first of all, we need to shorten their terms, second of all, we need to change the process of them being appointed… Thirdly, I feel like our students of the campus, if they’re buying stuff from the bookstore or other places on campus… you write, “Paid to the UC Regents.” We should all know who these Regents are; we should know their background and I feel like most of them don’t have a background in education. Although some of them are a product of the UC themselves, I feel like most of them are corporate business owners and because they hold so much weight over the student body, I feel like we should be able to know who they are, have conversations with them, and when they come, we shouldn’t be exclusive about who’s going into these forums and talking to them. Whenever they do come to this school to talk to students, all students are welcome to this meeting. I feel like it has to be more than us meeting with one Regent at time, but having a forum where we invite all the Regents to come out and discuss what it is that they do and what it is their job was. I actually didn’t know anything about the Regents until I went to UCSA last summer, and I feel like that’s a shame, because being a student here I should automatically know who the Regents are, and what their goals and plans are for students, and why they’re in that position first of all.

I feel like that goes into communication. Communication is key in everything we do. So I feel like with the EVPSA Office I have a lot of authority when it comes to communicating with Regents and Napolitano and other figures. And my plan to do so is to talk to students, first of all, about what the student body needs, because I know we have a very diverse population of people. That’s just not in ethnicities or sexualities, but in ideologies and thoughts. So I do plan to work more with the students and hear what the students need, especially students that don’t feel represented within AS. Especially our queer students on campus, our trans students on campus, our low-income community students on campus, our middle class communities on campus. And talk to them about what it is they need, what it is they think can be done in a tangible means, and how can the Regents support them, how can counselors support them, how can other entities on campus support them. And I plan on bringing that information back to the people that can create this change. And if it does mean that the students getting together and creating a coalition and sending demands to these people, then that’s what its going to be. My plan is to make change for communities that want to see change happen. My plan isn’t to speak for those communities, but to amplify their voices to the people who can change them. So I plan to keep communication with them, I plan to hold them accountable, and I plan for the students to be informed in every step of the process.

If you could have a sit-down with UC President Janet Napolitano, what would you discuss with her?

I don’t necessarily agree with her appointment, like I stated earlier. I don’t agree with her background in homeland security. I do think that our UC President should be a product of the UC and a product of education. So first of all I would talk to her about what she did while she was in Homeland Security. I would talk to her about her beliefs and values when it comes to undocumented communities on this campus. I would make sure that she’s doing something to support our undocumented communities. There’s no way to undo what she has done, but I would make sure that she is working with these communities. I feel like I said earlier, communication is key. And a lot of the times I work with some of the undocumented students on this campus and I know that they don’t feel comfortable with her being our president. So I would tell that to her bluntly. I would ask her what can she do in her office, because she is already appointed, to change the unrest she caused our undocumented community on this campus. And furthermore, I would ask her what she plans to do for the students and why she isn’t being transparent with the students. And why, when she did do her UC discussion tour, that she was really closed office and she didn’t want to meet with all students. I would ask her to meet with all students as well.

Photo Courtesy of AS Elections Committee