ASUC candidates talk equity, accessibility, diversity surrounding elections

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Various ASUC candidates shared their thoughts on the campaigning process and structure of elections. Some also made recommendations for improving accessibility, diversity and equity in the election process.

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Candidates in this year’s upcoming ASUC elections spoke to The Daily Californian regarding their thoughts on accessibility, equity and diversity in the campaigning process.

According to ASUC President Victoria Vera, while there is basic information on how to initially begin a campaign on the ASUC website, extended knowledge and accessible explanations can be difficult to come by.

Gabrielle Sharp, a candidate running independently for ASUC Senate, noted that when she began her campaign from an outsider’s perspective, the organization’s goals and its nonprofit status was not widely available, and she had to reach out to multiple people within the organization to clarify her understanding.

Sharp suggested the ASUC create information sessions and provide accessible information to explain the work the ASUC is doing to the wider student body.

“It needs to be, like, ASUC finds the students, not the students finding the ASUC,” Sharp said.

Mateo Torrico, a current ASUC senator running for academic affairs vice president with the Student Action party, added that the bureaucratic elements of running a campaign, such as registering with CalLink, also make entering the ASUC confusing for an outsider.

Independent senate candidate Osirus Polachart felt that even with his experience working in Vera’s office, he also relied heavily on fellow students to bridge the gaps in campaigning knowledge, such as information regarding political parties, ranking systems and endorsements.

Polachart also filed late for his candidacy because he did not know the proper steps to take.

Along with bureaucratic structures, Torrico noted the financial barriers to running, despite the ASUC’s current cap on campaign funding.

“Some students don’t have $500 they can just drop on a campaign,” Torrico said. “That creates an uneven playing field.”

To foster greater equity for those entering ASUC elections, Torrico suggested lowering the campaign funding limit or implementing university-subsidized campaigns.

Student Action senate candidate Muzamil Ahmad further emphasized the cost barriers to entering ASUC races and said in an email that the ASUC should not only be for students from privileged backgrounds who can afford to run.

Polachart added that for low-income student such as himself, the playing field is not level, and many might feel hesitant to run. He said the election process is unfair for those who do not have a team to perform tasks such as designing marketing materials.

For many candidates, leveling the ASUC playing field also includes prioritizing diversity and inclusion.

While Torrico believes there exists greater diversity in this year’s ASUC candidates, he acknowledged the ongoing need for inclusion — something ElevateCal coalition senate candidate Issabella Romo also noted.

“It will be difficult to achieve an ASUC that is equally as diverse as the student body should we not first make the ASUC more accessible,” Romo said in an email.

Not every candidate shared that sentiment, however.

Carlos Pareja, an independent candidate for ASUC Senate, said he is proud of the diversity of this year’s candidates and how it reflects the identities of those on campus. He added that he felt “welcomed and respected” within the organization.

ElevateCal senate candidate Stephanie Wong, who has also spent time working in the institution, said in an email that she has not always felt welcome in the ASUC and that the ASUC must work toward greater equity within itself.

Along with this internal work, Wong noted that many campus students, especially those from marginalized or underrepresented communities, are not fully aware of the ASUC’s functions. Those same communities, Wong added, are precisely the ones the ASUC must work to do outreach toward.

Independent senate candidate Jake Sim said in an email that they did not feel welcome in the ASUC, especially as a self-described “nontraditional” student.

Sim said they felt as though they were “at the bottom level of the hierarchy” in the ASUC and described being “treated pretty poorly.”

Independent senate candidate Amanda Hill also found that they “definitely” did not feel welcome in the ASUC.

During their time previously in the ASUC, Hill said they witnessed Black students being harmed, harmful rhetoric used when referring to organizations such as Bears for Palestine, and alleged that elected representatives threatened to dox marginalized students. Hill also claimed that the ASUC is unwilling to hold people accountable for allegedly racist and homophobic behavior.

“The ASUC is far more violent than most people think it is,” Hill said in an email. “The situations dealt with within the space are unreal and that definitely contributes to the inaccessibility.”

With a new slate of ASUC leaders set to take office in the near future, Vera hopes those elected remain humble in centering marginalized communities’ voices.

“I’m hoping that we’re electing leaders with a sense of humility that can go into these conversations and be like ‘Hey, I understand that the ASUC, the institution I now represent, historically has harmed groups,” Vera said. “So, elect humble and leaders that aren’t afraid of being vulnerable.”

Contact Hanna Lykke and Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jake Sim is running with ElevateCal. In fact, he is not running with ElevateCal.