In Conversation with Newly-Elected AS President, Yuval Cohen

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Photo Courtesy of Noe Padilla

Lauren Luna

Campus Beat Reporter

On April 22, Yuval Cohen won the Associated Students (AS) presidential election for the 2021-2022 academic school year. She ran with Storke Party, a new political AS party for UC Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Cohen, a third-year political science and philosophy double major, won with a 55:45 ratio in the race. She — along with Bee Schaefer, Shannon Sweeney, and Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan — will run the AS Executive Board next year.

Storke Party first established its social media presence in February, but made its official public debut at the start of candidacy season. The party appears to have functionally replaced Campus United, which ceased posting on social media last year.

Storke’s branding focuses on increasing transparency within AS, promoting more resources for academic and career success, providing resources to meet essential needs, advocating for underrepresented communities and “[rising] towards greater accessibility.”

According to Cohen, running with Storke Party gave candidates a chance to create more individualized campaigns based on what they want to change on campus. This adjustment grants candidates more freedom in choosing what issues they want to address during their terms in office.

“I’d say that Storke Party focuses more on the greater student body than party ideals,” said Cohen in an interview with The Bottom Line. “We have platform points, but everyone has their own ideals.”

“Her greatest inspiration for running for President was becoming a voice for underrepresented students. As a first-generation and undocumented student, Cohen wants other students from the same communities to know that they have resources to help them succeed at UC Santa Barbara.”

Cohen is currently serving as an off-campus senator and as the Basic Needs Committee Chair. This year, she had the opportunity to work on several projects geared towards making essential resources more accessible for students during the pandemic. Some highlights include collaborating with the vegan organization “Food – Not Bombs” in Isla Vista (I.V.), putting out emergency grants with the COVID-19 task force, working with CALPIRG on the zero-hunger campaign, and beginning the Basic Needs Resources Committee with AS. 

“I’m very passionate about [remediating] the effects of COVID-19,” said Cohen. “My platform is most focused on easing the transition back on campus next year.”

Her greatest inspiration for running for President was becoming a voice for underrepresented students. As a first-generation and undocumented student, Cohen wants other students from the same communities to know that they have resources to help them succeed at UC Santa Barbara. 

According to Cohen, being a first-generation and undocumented student introduced plenty of obstacles before she came to UCSB. First-generation students often navigate through obstacles such as completing college applications or finding a career path with little to no assistance. Undocumented students often lack sufficient support systems in high school. Cohen said that as an applicant to UCSB, she needed to complete all forms for admission and financial aid on her own.

“In high school, I didn’t even tell anyone that I was undocumented or first-generation,” recounted Cohen. “But coming into UCSB, I finally found all these other people that were the same as me. It made me proud to be part of that community.”

Going into her presidency, Yuval Cohen wants to renew a project that began in 2016 called the Five Year Plan. This plan would be based on what students want to change at UCSB and is spearheaded by the AS Vision task force.