A.S. Presidential Debate Tackles UC Challenges


Chelsea Viola

Associated Students presidential candidates shared their visions of collaboration and change for A.S., the University of California, Santa Barbara and the entire UC system during a moderated debate on Tuesday, April 12, at the University Center HUB.

Second-year political science major Jose Magaña and third-year sociology and Chican@ studies double major Alejandra Melgoza — both current A.S. senators — discussed critical campus and statewide issues including mental health, sexual assault and bureaucratic inefficiency.

A third candidate, third-year political science major Austin Hechler of the Campus United party, did not attend “due to medical issues that led to him coming in and out of urgent care,” according to party co-chair Niki Elyasi.

“He wants to assure the student body that he is still working as hard as he can,” she told The Bottom Line. “He is dedicated to providing students the services, resources and advocacy that they deserve.”

A main topic of last Tuesday’s debate was continued collaboration with other universities within the UC system to tackle tough issues most effectively. Magaña, who is running with the Peer Action Coalition, began discussion with his concerns about student mental health resources and the obligation of leaders to improve upon them.

“[Counseling and Psychological Services] at UCSB has a C+ grade in mental health,” Magaña said. “By working with other UC Presidents within the Council of Presidents, we can further the development on mental health reform.”

Last year, Magaña brought a delegation to the UC Irvine Reclaim Mental Health conference in order to advocate for the development of UCSB’s own mental health conference. Melgoza lobbied in Sacramento for the passage of Assembly Bill 2017, “which aims to provide more funding for mental health services in UC’s, CSU’s, and community colleges,” she said.

Melgoza, who is running independently, also laid out her collaborative plan with other UCs to incorporate different student communities in the conversation of sexual assault, and said she has already begun work with leaders at UC Davis to this end.

“There is an intersectional vision and scope addressing these issues — the queer community, black students, undocumented students and various different communities left out of these conversations,” Melgoza said. “I want to learn more about these intersectionalities.”

Melgoza has also worked with campus advocacy group Take Back the Night to advocate for survivor empowerment and helped spearhead the effort to get 13 demands for survivor-friendly policy reform signed by Chancellor Yang during a sit-in protest last year.

In contrast, Magaña admitted to a past lack of presence in conversations about sexual assault, but pledged to inform himself before tackling the issue.

“I need to reach out to communities and listen to different perspectives to better understand before I do anything,” he said. “I need to make the effort to engage with students and further the dialogue on these narratives.”

One key point to Magaña’s platform is his proposal to add offices within A.S. Senate, similar to UC Berkeley’s system.

“My intention in creating specific offices is not necessarily to extend the physical space,” Magaña elaborated. Instead, his proposal is a response to the resignation of six senators. Magaña suggested that the creation of offices would allow the an easier transition of new senators to take over ongoing projects and overall be more efficient.

Melgoza expressed some skepticism about that proposal. “By building more bureaucracy, I feel that we will not be as effective,” she said. “[Instead], I think we should strengthen the relationships between the senators and Associated Students.”

During the latter half of the debate, both candidates expanded upon their qualifications for the position.

“We need someone who has vision — someone who has original ideas and creativity and will continue to push for those ideas not only here at UCSB, but at the University of California system and statewide,” Melgoza said.

Magaña highlighted his accomplishments within the United States Student Association (USSA), which he believes best prepare him for the position of president. While serving on the USSA board of directors, Magaña said he worked to improve conditions for marginalized student communities nationwide.

“I feel like that furthers my understanding of how UC A.S. functions … in order to collaborate and further help UCs here,” he said. “It is about helping students as a collective, doing something bigger than yourself that benefits the lives of people around you.”

Voting for A.S. elections begins on Monday, April 18 on GOLD and will continue through Thursday, April 21.