Q&A with Paola Dela Cruz, OPP Candidate for External Vice President for Local Affairs


Photo provided by the candidate.

Interview Conducted by Mathew Burciaga

Layout Editor

What do you think the EVPLA could have done better this year?

I think Cameron did a great job coming into the office without having a transition, and I think that was just really, really, really good on his behalf. It’s hard to be in that office, I was there as a fellow, and I see it now with Cameron. But I think something he can do a lot better, especially around the self-governance issue—we both know Das [Williams]’ team very well and our local officials very well, him and I might have some relationships with them, and I think that what I would do better and what he needs to do better during his time as EVPLA is make sure that those relationships do not blur the mission and the goal that the EVPLA office has of voicing actual student concerns, even though they are his friends. And something else that I’d like to do that I know he tried doing is having a liaison to the Latino community, and I know he implemented this and had this in his office, but I’d just like to actually do a better job. I’m working with Diana [Collins-Puente] to try and form the Latinos in Isla Vista Association, and I already know some of the families, I know where it is that they live, and I just try and hang out with them, as residents. I eat with them, I come to them whenever I need some sense of home, so those are two things that I think he could definitely improve on. But beyond that, I think he’s doing an amazing job.

How have the events of last year informed your understanding of IV, and how do you think it could be improved?

In response to the first question, I think the community has really spoken for itself, especially this past Deltopia. I was part of the UCIV volunteer program that Cameron in the EVPLA office put on, and I remember preparing myself for the day and I was like, “I just really hope that nothing bad happens.” I remember being out there and hoping that everything turned out okay, and we were handing out water bottles to residents. Someone came up to me and asked, “Where is the Deltopia? Am I late for the Deltopia?” And I was like, “You’re not really asking me this right no, right?” It was an actual question I was asked, and I was just so shocked about it. But as I continued walking and handing out water bottles, I really noticed that the people out there were not so much residents of Isla Vista. So many of my friends left. I was out there at 11 walking down DP, and it was dead, unlike any other week. If you literally walk down DP tomorrow it will probably be a lot more alive, and you’ll see more residents out there. Deltopia was not like that, and to me that’s really what I’ve learned. The community is speaking up for itself. We don’t want to take part in this, you know? Some of us are going home because we’re afraid, or because our parents don’t want us to be part of this. Some of us are enjoying it, but the ones that are are a lot more conscious and aware of the regulations that are out there for us.

But something else that can be improved is having this UCIV program for all major events, and having a lot more alternative programs in Isla Vista. I know we had the First Fridays, but I wish we would have had something on Saturday, an actual alternative event that would have allowed students to do something during the day. There was this large turnout for the event that we had on campus, but the day events that we had there did not have such a large turnout, because one, they might not have been as advertised as we had wanted them to be, and two, there was no alternative day event in Isla Vista.

What is the biggest challenge you believe Isla Vista is facing right now, and how will you address it within the position you seek?

It’s really hard to say what is the one issue that Isla Vista faces. Our community is so unique. During my time here, I’ve just had an opportunity to interact with students, with residents, with homeowners, and it’s just—that question is really difficult, I’ve had this question asked plenty of times—the one issue, I don’t know, everything is so complex. There’s housing that is an issue, there’s safety that is an issue, self-governance is another issue too that’s important, so those are three major ones that I can name right now. My platform encompasses all of these different things. Housing is one thing that I have personally confronted my entire experience here, so in my opinion I would say that housing is one of the greatest issues we have right now that our community is facing. And what am I going to do about it? My platform includes housing as one of my major goals that I want to accomplish by creating temporary housing on campus. And the way that I want to do that is by transforming some of our spaces—building spaces—into sleeping spaces during the night. This would, one, alleviate students coming to UCSB and not having anywhere to live during fall quarter, whether you’re a returning student, or you’re just a student who stayed here during the summer but did not find a lease, or even international students who come and literally don’t have anywhere to live. So that’s something that I plan to do, and another thing that I want to do is have a housing forum on campus, where we invite all major leasing companies. Families will be invited, parents, residents will be invited, students will be invited, and the EVPLA office will provide everyone with a list of our best recommendations and a list of just, you know, “This company requires this amount of deposit, this company requires this amount of money to pay for the application.”

And then, in regards to safety, a huge issue—huge issue—that I believe is as important as the housing issue is the sexual violence and harassment that happens in our community. Again, many of these problems that I’m telling you are experiences that I’ve confronted, but I’ve burned them up because I continue to see them happen with many of my friend and residents. That’s another reason I’m running for EVPLA, but what I want to do is launch a year-long sexual assault campaign, which I know has never been launched. We have borrowed campaigns from other campuses and from even just Washington, D.C.—the “It’s on Us” campaign that CARE and the Women’s Center have launched in the past—but I want to develop a unique campaign for our community, and I know that this can happen and make sure that you see it throughout the entire year, not just one quarter.

And the last issue that I’d say is important is the relationship that we as students have with non-students, which I’d consider just community building and communication with them. Because of my position in the Parks District, I’ve been able to see that students live on one side of Isla Vista, Latino residents live on the other side, and homeowners live on the west side of Isla Vista. And one of the major problems is that we don’t talk to each other, maybe just in my experience in AB 3 meetings, and that’s probably with just everyone yelling at each other, and what I want to do is create more sense of community amongst each other by bringing events like quarterly yard sales, or having photo booths like the ones [AS] Program Board has for students in Isla Vista.

How do you plan to address the question of Isla Vista self-governance within the position you seek?

I’m so proud of saying this, that I have been part of almost every single one of those meetings. This past week and last week I have not been able to, but other than that I’ve been to almost all of the AB 3 meetings, been able to engage in the dialogue that happens there, and I think that that’s the role of an EVPLA. I’ve seen Cameron there, you know, and I’ve not seen him there as many times as I have, and I want to make sure that I know everything and anything that is being included in this bill that can affect our local community and our students in particular. And something that I will make sure that our office does is launch an Isla Vista self-governance campaign. I’m part of the Isla Vista Community Development Corporation, and we just recently voted to either sponsor or co-sponsor a financial feasibility study for self-governance, and this study will give us some sort of sense of, “Can our community actually have a community services district?” Maybe we can have a city, you know? Maybe we can have nothing at all. Maybe it’s not feasible for us to do to stay with the status quo, then it will be my responsibility to advocate and to tell students what is happening, and I will make sure that we do that. I will make sure that we are sending out university announcements, because we can do that, we can literally host—I don’t see Facebook pages right now for AB 3 meetings, I’m not sure why, but I don’t see that. And this is the way that we need to get students to interact with these meetings. University announcements, why are we not doing them? This is a way that we get students to go to these meetings.

So that’s the way that I would inform students and make sure that they are aware of everything that they’re doing, but I as an individual am in full support of self-governance. I’ve seen the county continue to underserve our community, and I believe that self-governance is the way for us to speak out and to say, “We are going to take hold of our community, and this is what we are going to do.” And something interesting, actually, that I’ve seen in these conversations is that long-term residents have come out and been in support of self-governance. So many of them, initially, they were completely against it, but after understanding what self-governance is and seeing that it is the most feasible thing that we can do, many of them are in support. And I respect those who do not completely understand. And something else pretty interesting is at our last few meetings, when we were talking about including the university, there were some people that said students should not be allowed to vote, especially freshmen—if we include the university they should not be allowed to vote. You know that once we turn 18, as U.S. citizens, it is our right to vote, and when people say these things in these conversations, to me it’s not only just—one, that’s illegal, what you’re saying is illegal, but it’s ridiculous, and as EVPLA I will make sure that that does not happen.

What is your understanding of the 1993 California Supreme Court ruling Smith v. Regents [of University of California], and how do you anticipate it will impact your plans for the office?

I have a well understanding of that. This came to senate, to us, when we were voting on A Resolution in Support of Isla Vista Self-Governance, and I remember some saying that we could not vote on it because the ruling said that as a university, as Associated Students, as a non-profit institution, we could not be in support of actual legislation. And at the time we tabled it because we wanted more information, but eventually we passed a resolution to educate more students around it, just to be safe, but after checking and reading up on it—especially Carlos Lopez, who’s running for EVPSA—we looked into it, and we are allowed to support this sort of legislation without giving any money. It needs to be said that, as an institution, we cannot contribute any money to this form of self-governance, this AB 3 legislation.

How will you collaborate with outside organizations while still ensuring that students, whose fees pay for your office, are the ones you represent?

That’s a really good question, and for the record I would like to say that I am on the Parks District, and as a representative of Isla Vista, I represent all of Isla Vista, not just students. As EVPLA, those who I represent are students, so it is my duty and my responsibility to receive proper training and make sure that I am putting the right hat in the spaces I am in. So when I am in the Parks District, I need to know that I am going to be representing all of my constituents. When I am in EVPLA spaces, I need to know that I need to be representing students, and if my personal opinion is contradictory to what my student constituents are coming and telling me, I will make sure that I voice every single one of their concerns, and that’s actually something that I’ve had not trouble with, but I’ve had to do on senate. This past senate meeting was really difficult, it was really difficult to sit up there, to hear some of my constituents say, “I was in support of this [divestment],” and to hear others say, “I was not in support of this.” But because I’m so involved in our local community—now moving on to Isla Vista—because I’m so involved there, I think that it is a lot easier for me to collaborate with organizations and to make sure that we do the best for all of students, and to also care for others who are non-students.

How will you engage students to get involved in IV?

As a woman—and I take pride in saying this—as a woman of color, I have set my own self as an example. I come from a very, very difficult and challenging background, and that’s not something I should share right now, but I’ve come a long way, and for me to be where I am sitting today, and to be running for this position, says a lot about who I am and what I want others to see. And the way that I want to get students involved is literally, one, by being an example to them, and by being an example to women and to students of color in particular, but also by involving them and collaborating with all of these organizations in Isla Vista that care about our community and students as much as I do. I want to make sure that I am doing my best by reaching out to these entities, and by making sure that every single one of our communities in Isla Vista are being listened to. And what I want to do to make sure that we—we currently don’t know exactly who lives in Isla Vista. Some people say it’s all students, and people are like, “No, there are families,” we obviously know that there’s families, but how much? I want to collaborate with Victor Rios, a professor from sociology, to make sure that we conduct a study to see who lives in Isla Vista. And that’s another way that we can involve students; “Hey, you know, I’m in the External Vice President for Local Affairs office, this is Associated Students. Every single project that I plan to work on, I’m going to reach out students. I can’t do this alone, my office can’t do it alone, we’re going to do it with the collaboration of students.”