Another Year, Another Ballot: Associated Students Election Campaigning Begins

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Madeleine Lee
Campus Beat Reporter

To an audience of eager voters and lunchtime patrons, University of California, Santa Barbara Associated Students candidates for Internal Vice President, On-Campus Senator, and President gathered in the University Center Hub on Monday for three rounds of debate.

Internal Vice President candidates Lesly Silva and Jasmine Sandhu were the first to argue in favor of their platforms as they represented the two parties in this year’s Associated Students’ race: the newly formed Isla Vista Party and Campus United. As IVP, the elected candidate will be expected to preside over weekly A.S. Senate meetings and be acutely acquainted with the A.S. Legal Code and legislation.

Running with the Isla Vista Party, second year political science and sociology double major Silva spoke of her inspiration and motivation to take on the role of IVP.

“I feel that students are always historically underrated especially under administration at the state level and national level,” said Silva. “It’s really important that we empower students, especially through the organizations we’ve already made.”

Silva also placed emphasis on her capacity to “tap into the potential” of the Association, which she highlighted was the largest non-profit organization on the West Coast.

Representing Campus United, third year biology and political science double major Sandhu claimed to draw her motivation from her love for UCSB and the greater community.

“When I first started school here, I absolutely fell in love with the campus and felt that this was the best decision I could have possibly made to come to UCSB, and it was very surprising from me to hear from my friends that they felt otherwise,” said Sandhu. “As a student who has always been involved in leadership throughout high school and middle school, I thought why wouldn’t I be the person to make that change?”

Silva and Sandhu have both served as A.S. senators this past year with Sandhu as the vice-chair of the Association’s Finance and Business Committee and Silva as an active member of F&B Committee as well.

As they fielded student questions, Silva revealed that her goals for the next year involved consistent communication, fostering a safe and comfortable environment, holding senators accountable, and validating and meeting the needs of underrepresented minority groups on campus. Sandhu hoped to greatly improve the education and transition of new senators, stay true to the previously established Vision 2020 Strategic Plan, and oversee a senate that understands the importance of representing all constituents, not just those they agree with.

A.S. presidential candidates Hieu Le, a third year political science major running with Campus United, and Nawar Nemeh, a third year history of public policy and global studies double major running with the Isla Vista Party, attracted the largest crowd of the day as the two tackled questions of finance and campus tensions.

With prior experience of working with a legislative advocacy firm and Lobby Corps, Le’s objectives included inspiring students to take advantage of their own potential and initiative.

“As president, I want to govern by a bottom-up approach where we empower students with the capabilities to come up with their own solutions and their own practices to implement policies,” said Le.

Nemeh, who served as an A.S. senator last year and a term on the now defunct A.S. constitution and bylaws committee, emphasized his prowess as a leader with “an understanding of A.S. legal code that no one else actually has.”

On the subject of reducing the burden of student finances, Le expressed his hopes of laying the foundation for student-run, entrepreneurial programs to offset the $127.70 A.S. quarterly fee – the highest A.S. fee paid by any UC school. Le hopes to implement a system in which students would be allowed to establish their own businesses on campus like “barber shops, nail salons, and coffee shops” and contribute a portion of those revenues to A.S..

Nemeh also shared financial objectives, but moved the focus towards reducing tuition instead of student fees.

“The most important thing I want to see A.S. focus on is not making money off of students through student businesses, but rather working on reducing the tuition that students pay daily, yearly, year after year, increasing alongside their housing rates and alongside every other cost on campus,” said Nemeh, who also prioritized a plan known as the $48 fix. The aptly named proposal, which Nemeh hopes to advocate to put on the 2018 ballot, will eliminate tuition for all California public colleges by raising taxes by only $48 per family.

Le later said that he too wanted to work with legislators and campus lobbyists to expand financial aid packages for the middle class and establish tuition free colleges.

As they tackled questions on controversial speakers, campus police presence, and the rights of student demonstrators, Le and Nemeh agreed that freedom of speech and fostering open dialogue, in all three areas, was vital.

On the topic of campus police presence, Nemeh condemned police for using excessive violence, while Le emphasized the safety police provide as late-night escorts. Le emphasized the importance of civility and understanding in the face of differing viewpoints, while Nemeh qualified, in reference to Milo Yiannopoulos’ visit last spring, that he does “not want to see an association that funds and allows speakers that advocate for sexual assault on this campus.”

In response to a question on improving campus climate in the face of the Israel and Palestine conflict, Le said that it was necessary to create a “pro-peace” environment and would take action to “facilitate discourse between Muslim and Jewish groups on campus.” Nemeh corrected Le, stating that the Israel and Palestine conflict was not a Muslim and Jewish conflict, but agreed that acts of religious intolerance and anti-Semitism were to be condemned.

On-campus senator candidates also laid out their campaign goals. On-campus senator candidates running with Campus United include first year global studies major Charles Neumann, first year economics and accounting major Alexa Hernandez, second year economics and accounting major Juan Manuel Perez Tejada, first year political science and chemistry double major Derek Yang, and first year political science major Kia Sadeghi.

Isla Vista Party on-campus senator candidates include first year political science major Jorge Santos, first year physics major Dylan Goldman, first year undeclared major Vanessa Maldonado, and first year biology and Asian American studies double major Steven Ho.