ASUC executive candidates discuss campus climate, tuition hikes at Daily Cal forum

Kayla Baskevitch/Staff

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At a forum hosted by The Daily Californian on Tuesday night, candidates for ASUC executive offices debated approaches to improving campus climate, working with administrators and dealing with tuition hikes.

Defend Affirmative Action Party presidential candidate Michael Cortez-Mejia said that he didn’t think UC President Janet Napolitano was the right person to reduce fee hikes and that he would instead focus on a plan to automatically admit the top-ranking 10 percent of students attending Oakland high schools to the campus. Inversely, independent presidential candidate Nicolas Jaber called Napolitano the “chief advocate” for combating tuition hikes.

Other candidates fell somewhere in the middle. Student Action presidential candidate Milad Razavi and CalSERVE presidential candidate Yordanos Dejen both said they want to have difficult conversations with administrators. Razavi said the state budget crisis needed to be addressed so other issues, such as campus climate, could be taken “off the back burner,” while Dejen said she would prioritize campus climate issues.

BASED. presidential candidate Pranay Chaurasia said the ASUC president should listen to administrators, even if he or she disagrees with their ideas. He also said he would improve campus climate by uniting all students and centralizing the student experience.

Satirical SQUELCH! presidential candidate Jake “The First” Fineman said his relationship with administrators would consist of his domination over them as king.

The two academic affairs vice presidential candidates, CalSERVE candidate Melissa Hsu and satirical SQUELCH! candidate Yevgeniya “BobbyRPartyR” Sosnovskaya, discussed prioritizing wellness and communication between student representatives and the Academic Senate. Hsu said she wants to create more counseling centers, rest spaces and alternative study spaces. She also said she would create work groups for student Academic Senate representatives to collaborate. Independent candidate Jay Walker was not present at the forum as a result of his decision not to campaign.
To address the issue of lack of communication, Sosnovskaya said she would hand out pamphlets so that “everyone is on the same page in terms of languages.”

External affairs vice presidential candidates Vinay Ramesh of Student Action and Marium Navid, of CalSERVE, both said they want to stop tuition hikes and advocate for students to city officials. Ramesh said he would take a more practical approach and work toward uniting the UC Student Association and colleges across the country. Navid said she wants to push for more student representation in city government and collaborate with local organizations to lobby city officials.

Ramesh referenced working as a commissioner in Mayor Tom Bates’ office as one of his qualifications for EAVP. Navid cited her previous work opposing tuition hikes and outlined specific lobbying strategies to funnel more money into the UC system.

Satirical SQUELCH! EAVP candidate Sam “Actual Hermit Crab” Heinz, a human proxy for a hermit crab, said the crustacean had been singing Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty to Me,” and later, he appeared to lose the crab. Tom “Silent Majority” Yang, SQUELCH!’s satirical executive vice presidential candidate, performed a mime routine.

Both nonsatirical EVP candidates, Lavanya Jawaharlal, of CalSERVE, and Paul Lee, of Student Action, said they want to streamline the process of moving into the new Eshleman Hall. Jawaharlal added she was the only EVP candidate who had never been marked absent at a senate meeting.

The two student advocate candidates differed in their strategies to increase awareness of the office and work with current grievance policies. DAAP candidate Bianca Huntley-Ortega said her solution to both issues would be to mobilize students to create a movement for “direct action.” Independent candidate Leah Romm said she wanted to increase the office’s Facebook presence and make the grievance-filing policy more trauma-informed.

The ASUC elections will take place April 7, 8 and 9.

Sonja Hutson covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.