Between social media, administration email blasts, and the talk overheard on the loop bus, it is difficult for students not to have heard something about the Student Union Association (SUA) elections and ballot measures in recent weeks. Campaign posters have been plastered everywhere asking for students’ votes, but the positions and qualifications of these candidates are often hard to discern from an 8×10 flier.
The SUA held a virtual debate on April 16 to allow candidates to defend their platforms, and elaborate on their views. All candidates that were absent from the debate will have their candidate statements summarized.
The President acts as leader and spokesperson for the SUA, and works closely with campus administration and the Chancellor’s office.
Candidate Ray Diaz, who has worked in student government throughout his time at UC Santa Cruz, opened the debate. His opening remarks focused on elevating student engagement, and empowering the student workforce.
“We should be making sure that every voice of every student is being represented, and it’s an inclusive space and safe environment for all,” Diaz said.
Diaz mentioned housing insecurity for students at UCSC, and brought up his work with the Student Housing Coalition on the upcoming SB 886 bill.
“We are going to make sure that we use every vehicle at our disposal in the Office of the President to make sure that this bill passes. That is number one for tackling housing insecurity,” Diaz said.
Throughout his portion of the debate, Diaz emphasized reimagining public safety on campus, through the abolition of campus police, and reallocation of their funding to mental health services and basic needs. Student retention rates was another talking point for Diaz, specifically declining retention rates for Latinx students, pointing to the need for better funded organizations and resources for the community.
At the present time, the Chancellor of each UC oversees the appointment of campus police for their respective campuses. This authority is delegated to them by the UC Board of Regents.
Diaz has been endorsed by the Young Democrats, the Young Socialists, and the Cowell Senate.
SB 886 is a bill currently moving through the California State Senate which would allow student housing to be built faster by streamlining the California Environmental Quality Act review process for projects which fit certain criteria.
Those criteria include the project being built by a union workforce, being on university land, and not demolishing rent-controlled, affordable, or rental housing.
The next candidate was Alfredo Gama Salmeron, who was not present at the debate. In Salmeron’s candidate statement he speaks to how, despite not being involved in student government before, his experience working with the Santa Cruz Public Defender’s Office and fighting for tenant rights gave him insight into the campus and local community.
Salmeron believes that student collaboration and advocacy are integral in redirecting institutional resources towards student aid, such as academic support and organization funding. One of Salmeron’s primary campaign goals is to rescind Chancellor Larive’s recent pay raise. At the moment the UC Board of Regents determines the pay raise of chancellors in the UC system.
Salmeron has been endorsed by the Third World and Native American Student press collective (TWANAS).
The final candidate, Brent Insua, was also absent from the debate. Having worked in SUA as the Kresge College representative for three years, Insua focused his candidate statement on the SUA being in desperate need of reform if it is to properly address student concerns.
In his platform he outlines doing this by creating an intercollege council, and improving the method through which student organizations receive funding.
Increasing funding for basic needs services is a top priority for Insua, as well as addressing food insecurity on campus. He also advocates for the establishment of a “Student Government Emergency Preparedness Response” plan in the event of a natural disaster or campus emergencies. This would involve creating a group of student leaders to help students respond to emergency situations.
Insua has been endorsed by the Rachel Carson College Council, and Kresge Parliament.
JIMMY GOMEZ — Vice President of Internal Affairs
The role of Vice President of Internal Affairs (VPIA) is primarily focused on cooperation between SUA offices and maintaining relationships within them.
Gomez began his time by acknowledging that in order to improve the SUA as an institution, the space must be looked at critically by its members to maximize inclusion and representation. He focused on improving SUA transparency and improving how feedback is given and received in the organization.
When asked about what he would seek to improve about SUA from the VPIA position, he advocated for offering a broader financial literacy education to incoming officers. Gomez’s campaign also focused on improving retention rates, improving CAPS counselor diversity, and addressing student housing needs.
In his current position as Vice President of Student Life, Gomez has worked to establish the OPERS food pantry, and to improve multiple student services such as CAPS and Slug Support.
Jimmy Gomez is running unopposed for VPIA.
MITRA ZARINEBAF — Vice President of External Affairs
The Vice President of External Affairs (VPEA) coordinates SUA campaigns throughout campus, and has the most interns between all SUA offices.
As VPEA, Zarinebaf wants to improve students access to basic needs, develop better communication with parents and transfer students, and direct greater resources to marginalized groups on campus, specifically undocumented students.
Zarinebaf previously worked with SUA in the External Affairs office, where she was the director of the Lobby Corp. In her role, she gained experience working with the state and local legislatures. She plans to use that experience to bring more government representatives to campus, and secure more funding via lobbying.
Zarinebaf has been endorsed by the Rachel Carson College Council.
Mitra Zarinebaf is running unopposed for the position.
The Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion spearheads programs, issues, and awareness on diversity, discrimination, and inclusivity. This position also facilitates communication between the SUA and administration.
Andrew Kato, a first-year student and current Vice Chair of the SUA Diversity Commission, was first to present and began his time by speaking to the importance of diversity in all majors, and on increasing diversity education in STEM majors.
Other major points of his campaign include improving SUA member education on, and collaboration with ethnic groups on campus, addressing the lack of ADA accommodations on campus, and improving accountability in student government.
The “Big Five” ethnic organizations at UCSC are the
Asian/Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APISA),
Black Student Union (BSU),
Movimiento Estundiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán (MEChA), and the
Student Alliance of Native American Indians (SANAI).
Kato has been endorsed by the Rachel Carson College Council.
Following Kato, candidate Miguel Salcedo took the floor. Salcedo’s platform focuses on reconnecting with the campus and uplifting and protecting diversity. Salcedo aspired to increase cooperation between the SUA and the “Big Five” ethnic organizations if elected.
He also spoke to the need for events on campus that are both intercultural, bringing multiple cultures together, and intracultural, for only members of a single cultural group.
Salcedo has close ties to the Latinx and immigrant populations on campus, and mentioned his desire to bring more resources to undocumented students.
DORA RASCH — Vice President of Academic Affairs
The Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA) is in charge of coordinating in-person initiatives and social media. The VP also serves as an undergraduate representative for Academic Senate meetings.
Dora Rasch is the sole candidate and incumbent for the VP of Academic Affairs. She was not present at the debate.
She has been the VPAA for the 2021-2022 academic year. During this year, she has worked with administration to alter the university’s policy on academic integrity with an emphasis on transparency and restorative justice. Rasch is currently working with faculty and administration to establish an office specifically for academic integrity cases.
She has also worked with the Chancellor to extend drop/swap deadlines, and improve class accessibility during the transition between in-person and online courses and back. Rasch wants to increase student involvement in the campus decision making process, and continue her current efforts to rework the academic integrity system and improve accessibility on campus.
Dora Rasch is endorsed by the Cowell Senate, Stevenson Student Council, Crown Student Senate, Merril Student Government, Rachel Carson College Council, and the College Nine Senate.
The Vice President of Student Life (VPSL) is tasked with organizing events, programs, and activities for students. This position also works with the SUA for publicizing events and student outreach.
Mackenzi Rauls was the first to speak. Her campaign is based on supporting student needs, such as mental health advocacy and bridging the gap between the SUA and the student body.
She sees off campus students as an underserved population in the university community, and seeks to change that.
“Through better outreach initiatives that directly target certain student groups, we can help to bring resources to students, as opposed to making them come to us,” said Rauls.
As VPSL, Rauls would seek to organize large-scale events on campus, noting that UCSC is the only UC campus to not have a music festival. She also advocated for more small group, niche activities to be offered to students.
Rauls has received the endorsement of the Cowell College Student Senate
Amailia Bostian was the final candidate to speak. In contrast to Rauls position on the importance of more large-scale events, Bostian said that with the possibility of another COVID-19 spike on its way, smaller events offer a safer way for students to build relationships with each other.
Connecting students with resources and opportunities is a high priority for Bostian. Like her opponent, Bostian also sees the need to offer more resources to student’s living off campus, and focuses primarily on the need to offer more food resources to such students.
Bostian ended on the topic of student interns with campus jobs. She tied in her experience as a student intern to the importance of uplifting student worker voices in campus spaces, like resource centers, and paying them properly for their time.
Bostian has been endorsed by the Rachel Carson College Council.
The SUA Candidate Elections run from April 18th-25th, and can be voted on here.
*Andrew Kato is a City on a Hill Press Reporter. He had no involvement in the production of this piece.