As UC Santa Cruz prepares for its spring 2023 Student Union Assembly (SUA) elections, a diverse group of candidates are vying for positions.

Representing a broad range of academic backgrounds and areas of interest, these candidates put forth distinct visions for improving the campus community, with a focus on issues like student welfare, diversity and inclusion, and academic policies.

SUA elections will take place from May 15 to May 22, and currently enrolled UCSC students will be able to access ballots virtually through the campus elections website here

The current SUA positions up for vote are President, Vice President for Internal Affairs (VPIA), Vice President for External Affairs (VPEA), Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), Vice President for Student Life (VPSL), and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI).

City on a Hill Press (CHP) asked SUA candidates questions you want to know the answers to: why they chose to run, what their priorities are, how they plan to enact change, and what they would adjust about how the current SUA operates.

CHP has fact-checked each statement and noted factual inaccuracies.

SUA President

As principal spokesperson and leader of the undergraduate student body, the SUA President facilitates collaboration between the SUA and students. They also serve as the undergraduate representative in communication with UCSC administration. 

The candidates running for this position are Airielle Silva, Alfredo Gama Salmeron, Daniel Halpern-DeVries, Mailynn Flores, and Miguel Salcedo Maciel.

Airielle Silva

Airielle Silva is the current vice president of the Black Student Union (BSU) and holds a variety of other leadership positions such as the Black Lives Matter Garden Steward and Co-Curricular Students Program Coordinator. 

In 2022, Silva garnered notice on campus for her speech at the John R. Lewis College Dedication that criticized Chancellor Cynthia Larive and UC President Michael V. Drake for the UC’s performative activism towards BIPOC and marginalized students.

“Grassroots is where my heart lies,” said Silva. “If I didn’t have my surrounding community around me, I wouldn’t be honored to run for this position […] Unless you’re in organizing spaces, you have no clue what’s happening, right? And that’s a problem.”

Silva is running in an unofficial slate with Andres Martinez-Sabino, Audrey Avelino, Alicia Anyanwu, Leslie Marquez, and Stephanie Sanchez Toscano called “Students 4 Change.” The slate promotes ‘6 Points 4 Change.’

The ‘6 Points 4 Change’: Establish transparency and rebuild trust in the SUA, advocate for wage increases for on-campus jobs, work to improve academic policies, demand that administration improve affordable housing, advocate for accessible transportation, and support student-led solutions.

Alfredo Gama Salmeron

Alfredo Gama Salmeron served as SUA President from July 2022 to October 2022 before being removed from office as a result of a student-wide recall vote. Gama Salmeron’s recall petition cited a failure to perform constitutional responsibilities, instigation of power imbalances, and verbal dismissal of cultural and racial identities of Native American and Indigenous students on Instagram. Gama Salmeron also refused to allow votes to remove them from office to take place during the year’s first SUA meeting. 

Their priorities include fostering student support and redirecting organizational resources into the community. 

“I decided to re-run to bring visibility to the issues I [was] working on throughout my presidency. A lot of you all witnessed the Vice Chancellor organizing the Big Five organizations and the other student politicians in attempting to remove me from power,” Gama Salmeron said. 

Editors’ Note: Representatives from the Big Five confirmed that their attempts to remove Gama Salmeron were by their own volition and not compelled by the Vice Chancellor. Additionally, an objective by Gama Salmeron in their candidate statement to “dismantle the UC Administration” is not a power held by the SUA President.

Daniel Halpern-DeVries

Daniel Halpern-DeVries has been an SUA voting member from Crown College for three years. His Jewish background pushed him to be involved in amplifying the issue of antisemitism on campus. His other student government positions include involvement in the Student Committee on Committees to further advocate for student needs.

He plans to advocate for more resources for DRC students and build connections with students through working with administration, doing outreach to student organizations and coordinating additional funding for them, and creating more transparency between the SUA and student body.

“The power of SUA comes from being a voice for the students,” Halpern-DeVries said. “So I think the number one thing to make any advocacy effective is to make SUA transparent, open, bring in more people and build connections to students [and] student groups.”

Mailynn Flores

Mailynn Flores is a Legislative Advocate on Federal and UC Policy for the Office of the External Vice President and a Director of Local Affairs and Policy under acting SUA President Jimmy Gomez. During her tenure, she has advocated with community officials to bring awareness to affordable housing, CalFresh eligibility, transportation, basic needs insecurity, and safeguarding student financial aid.

Flores is focused on making herself personally accessible to students and prioritizes campus safety and solidarity, health and well-being, and student engagement.

“I’m really passionate about advocating for students’ needs, we all come from different lived experiences,” Flores said. “I just want to uplift student voices and make sure that students are heard, especially for their needs that don’t necessarily revolve around [mine].”

Flores, according to a post on her personal Instagram account, is running in an unofficial slate with Jesus Medina, Jamie Nelson Hindery, and Alisa Johnson-Vela. “Vote for students who are already creating change,” Flores wrote in the caption.

*Though the candidates could not be reached for comment before publishing, City on a Hill Press will be reporting additional developments throughout the week.

Miguel Salcedo Maciel

Miguel Salcedo Maciel is the current SUA Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. Salcedo Maciel was the only SUA Executive Officer who allied with Gama Salmeron during Gama Salmeron’s eventual removal from office. Salcedo Maciel officially distanced himself from Gama Salmeron in a public statement on Jan. 28.

Salcedo Maciel wants to continue his current efforts and act as a facilitator between administration and students while emphasizing accountability.

“There are resources that the SUA has that students don’t know of, and I want to push this outreach campaign for students,” Salcedo Maciel said. “I think outreach is something that really needs to be prioritized.”

More City on a Hill Press coverage, as well as voter resources and information, on this year’s campus elections can be found here.