2011-12 A.S. Council Endorsements

Stefany Chen/Guardian

PRESIDENT: JASMINE PHILIPS

•Student’s First•

We’ve heard Jasmine Phillips’s campaign promises before, and they’re not nearly as flashy as suggestions of off-campus Greek housing, immediate fixes to the parking problems or moving to D-I athletics. We’ve rallied around old cries to fight student fees and prioritize education, and yet we’re still looking at an 8-percent tuition increase come fall.

Which is exactly why we need to keep fighting, and why Phillips’s passion for social justice and UC accessibility makes her the best candidate for A.S. presidency.

Phillips has worked with students across a wide array of campus communities, from serving on the Black Student Union and the Student Affirmative Activity Committee to mentoring Sixth College students to sitting on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee as A.S. Associate Vice President of Diversity Affairs last year.

She has experience working with administrators on campuswide committees, prioritizes important issues like environmental sustainability and education and realizes that now’s not the right time for new $50-plus D-I student fees.

She’ll keep Chancellor Fox and Vice Chancellor Rue honest about the changes promised in the aftermath of the Compton Cookout last year, and likely prevent council from passing needless — and expensive — student-fee referendums.

But while Phillips is dreaming big, and has the experience to promote her ideas, she should develop more detailed plans of reaching her goals and adopt some of her opponents’ ideas for increasing council efficiency. Ryan O’Rear of Tritons First suggested biquarterly budget meetings that could go a long way toward alleviating confusion over how much funding council has allocated. And Alyssa Wing’s goal of fixing council from the inside out and focus on efficiency makes her a good second choice. The head of the Board the Wing slate proposes a committee specifically devoted to figuring out the council’s rules and updating them — and close investigation of this kind is exactly what the council needs to alleviate the inconsistencies that have long hindered the group’s effectiveness.

Phillips should also take warning from the experience of current A.S. President Wafa Ben Hassine. Ben Hassine — who ran and won on the Students First slate last year — has had a term paralyzed by a Senate filled mostly with Tritons First candidates, and an executive branch split across three slates.

Phillips will need to work especially hard to bridge the gap that has developed this year and stress civility and cooperation on the council floor, no matter the political composition.

Of course, Wing and O’Rear’s focus on spirit, pride and athletics are representative of the wishes of members of the student body. These are issues that should be addressed, and Wing and O’Rear’s respective, and highly qualified, vice presidential candidates will be able to advocate for them on the council floor.

But the role of the president is to be the moral compass of student government, and it is here that Phillips shines in her prioritization of the basic goal of the UC system ­­— accessible education for as many qualified students as possible. Phillips recognizes the importance of defending issues that would unequivocally benefit all Tritons — not just athletes or the Greek community.

Stefany Chen/UCSD Guardian

VICE PRESIDENT OF STUDENT LIFE: MEREDITH MADNICK

•Board the Wing•

Among another year’s crop of uninformed poseurs, Meredith Madnick’s the real deal. The Eleanor Roosevelt College junior — who’s served on council since her freshman year — has been around long enough to see countless councilmembers’ promises go unrealized, and has all the stronger sense of what a group of a couple dozen student government firebrands can actually accomplish in three quarters.
As this year’s council Speaker, Madnick possesses a near-encyclopedic knowledge of not just the rules governing Wednesday night meetings, but of the internal problems that have plagued the council floor this year. She holds, in short, the strongest remaining institutional memory on council, and was this board’s most obvious choice.
Beyond her impressive knowledge of council history, Madnick’s also spent the past couple years as a diligent observer of the Office of Student Life, and knows what’s worked and what hasn’t. She commends the work of outgoing VP Student Life Kristina Pham (with the glaring exception of March’s Winter Triton Fest fiasco, which saw two divisions of Student Life, Concerts and Events and Athletics, planning major events for the same night). But she also recognizes that for most councilmembers, Pham included, there’s a steep learning curve at the beginning of the year that prevents much from getting done — an issue Madnick, if elected, would skirt with ease.
Her opponents emphasized bringing orgs together; in her interview, Pam Sran of Tritons First suggested having a greater presence at Bear Gardens to increase interaction between different parts of campus, which is important in light of increasing polarization. But Sran, and Students First candidate Donald Zelaya, lack Madnick’s experience.
And unlike some running this spring, Madnick acknowledges that there isn’t a whole hell of a lot distinguishing the majority of the slates from one another. (Names included: The average Library Walker stroller would likely be hard-pressed to distinguish between such wildly varied monikers as Students First, Tritons First and We Are Tritons). That recognition is especially important in light of the fractions on this year’s council, which Madnick knows all too well.
We like her ideas for expanding current programming in the Office of Diversity Affairs (Madnick wants to see more broadly inclusive diversity-sponsored dinners to promote more constructive discourse), as well as her proposal to have each of the six college festivals work in conjunction with the A.S. Concerts and Events office, which tends to possess superior knowhow when it comes to event planning.
Her ideas for reaching out to students — streamlining council’s myriad Web pages, instituting a weekly “Ask A.S.” table on Library Walk and using a live Twitter feed during weekly meetings to keep students in the know — also represent inexpensive, entirely doable changes for an office too often overshadowed by the Sun God Festival. From a student leader as experienced and as capable as Madnick, we’d expect no less.

Stefany Chen/UCSD Guardian

VICE PRESIDENT OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS: VICTOR FLORES

•Student’s First•

A current campuswide senator and member of the Students First slate, Flores has already made his mark by spearheading the move to ban harmful steam cleaners. After becoming aware that the cleaners were responsible for widespread injury among cleaning staff, he introduced a resolution to ban them that not only received overwhelming council support, but resulted in an even rarer achievement: the realization of the resolution’s aim, as the Housing, Dining and Hospitality department ended up switching cleaning methods.
This alone shows that Flores is paying attention and has the stamina to see a project through. Combined with a perfect attendance record in a council fraught with absentees, and his suggestions to create a absence committee to increase accountability, Flores is a standout among a pack of big talkers.
Flores’s priorities of fighting tuition increases, lobbying the D.R.E.A.M. Act, encouraging student voting and fighting for increased taxpayer support of higher ed are the usual for the office, but his three-plus years of involvement in the External Affairs office and track record of statewide lobbying give him the background and passion to see his ideas through. This foundation sets him apart from Board the Wing’s Samir Naji, whose history is working at the community college level, and We Are Tritons’ Sarah Johnson, who is approximately a year behind on the issues on council’s plate.
Flores hopes to make the Student Affirmative Action Committee more inclusive by bringing in Greek and athletic representatives instead of just the representatives from diversity-oriented orgs And instead of just sending these reps to meet with other campus councils, he hopes they, as well as the rest of the external department, will lobby local politicians.
Flores has more than proven his competence; with him in office, the office is sure to be revitalized after a lackluster year with lukewarm action.

Stefany Chen/UCSD Guardian

VICE PRESIDENT OF FINANCE AND RESOURCES: LYNNE SWERHONE

•Tritons First•

In a year marked by budget woes and overspending, Muir College junior and Tritons First candidate Lynne Swerhone’s priorities of financial consistency and working with students at the source make her the strongest contender for Vice President of Finance and Resources.
Swerhone’s council experience — two years as Muir College Senator, one year as Chief of Staff for the Office of Finance — give her a broad understanding of the workings of everyone’s favorite student bureaucrats, and especially the office that divides up all its money. But it’s her experience outside that fourth-floor forum and practical ideas that sets her apart.
Swerhone works at student-org home base OneStop —  interacting daily with the very students that councilmembers are always trying to entice to visit — and is the only  candidates acknowledging the failure of “classic,” candidate-favorite suggestions for improving visibility: lonely office hours, buried Facebook events, apathetic Library Walk demonstrations. Instead, she advocates working directly with the population who most often comes into contact with council: student org leaders. Her work has allowed Swerhone to see the impact of council’s decisions from the other side and lent her an important perspective on what can be changed.
Swerhone also says that working with OneStop, and helping students when council says no, is a way for her to feel less guilty about when, under her control, council would need to say ‘no’ to some of the bright, shining faces that often crowd the Forum looking for extra money.
From Bollywood dance team competitions to acapella group TriTones and their wished-for Taylor Swift trip, council’s history is fraught with over allocation — which makes Swerhone’s assertion that “the finance needs to learn to say no to exceptions” all the more welcome. She acknowledges the difficulty of disappointing others, but says she is willing to do so in the name of fiscal responsibility and will seek to help student orgs in other ways, with finance and fundraising workshops.
Aside from the office, Swerhone’s cautious support of the D-I move, contingent on the amount of student fees and her perception of the divisive power of slate politics, are highlights of a reasonable platform.
Though Board the Wing’s Kevin Hoang lacks Swerhone’s outside experience, his goals of simplifying funding guidelines and championing collaboration within the Student Life Business Office make him a good second choice.

CAMPUS WIDE SENATORS

Out of the 23 campuswide senatorial candidates running for A.S. Council this year, seven proved unable to use a Web application to set up a proper interview time. Of those remaining, several didn’t know what was on the ballot. Some still couldn’t pronounce former A.S. President Utsav Gupta’s name. One couldn’t pronounce “Geisel.”  Though eight will be elected to campuswide senatorial positions, the Guardian Editorial Board only felt confident in endorsing six of those we interviewed — three Students First candidates, one Tritons First contender and two of the Board the Wing slate.

MATT BRADBURY:

Matt Bradbury, ERC Senator, hopes to get rid of the senator stipend — a $10 weekly sum that he voluntarily does not collect and calls superfluous. His extended experience with the A.S. Finance Committee and Athletics Committee has spurred him to advocate committee reform to promote a greater sense of responsibility among members.
Bradbury’s strong opinions are both a strength and weakness. His firm support of D-I athletics means he hopes to fully inform his constituents by surveying opinion and running town halls.  But he implies that he doesn’t see the importance of fighting student fees because, eventually, “you have to pay more” — an attitude that could prove dangerous with fee hikes all but assured for next year.

MELISSA ETEHAD:

Everyone wants to unify the school, but current Campuswide Senator Melissa Etehad’s involvement in diverse activities  might just be the ticket to bringing council together. In addition to participating in Jewish cultural org Hillel, she is  student director of the Clinton Global Initiative and has worked tirelessly to organize the event, which saw more than 1,200 delegates from across the country.
Etehad plans to look outside UCSD to create action; she wants to get local media involved to create tension over library closures, and wants to revive the student activism that was nowhere to be seen this March 2. She advocates council dinners for inter-council unity, and acknowledges the detrimental effects of state politics, promising to be open to cooperation among any set of fellow senators.

KAREN LIANG:

Current ERC Senator and Board the Wing candidate Karen Liang is a cheerleader of campus spirit and athletics with the knowledge to back her ideas. As ERC council special events co-director, Liang wrote the “A to Z” ERC guide, and initiated a regular provost’s lunch for students to put a face to college leadership.
As a student rep on the Athletics Committee, evaluating the feasibility of football, Liang has experience dealing with administrators.
She plans to tackle the notorious lack of spirit by promoting pre-game tailgates before games, collaborating with sports teams, the Greek community, A.S. Council and Triton Tide.
Liang suggests publicizing senator projects to make councilmembers more accountable for the initiatives, and create committees to address council’s fragmentation.

JACOB ROBINSON:

Jacob Robinson lacks prior council experience, but his work with the Students with Disabilities Coalition makes him  a representative of important constituency often absent from the floor. As the only student rep on the Committee on Inclusion and Disability, Robinson works with faculty and staff to ensure campus buildings are accessible for all.

The charismatic Revelle College sophomore has proven himself far better informed than the average candidate, speaking to his opposition of D-I with both statistics and finesse. He advises cultural education fairs that have the same inviting atmosphere of the weekly farmer’s market — and is forthcoming and willing to learn when he doesn’t know about an issue, a trait the voting members of council could use a little more of.

ANNIE YU:

Current A.S. Marshall Senator Annie Yu hopes to see more visibility and transparency on council next year — and while those might just comprise the two most hackneyed buzzwords on this year’s campaign trail, we do see some merit in Yu’s plans.
Yu plans to expand the campus’s Goodwill donation boxes come the end of Spring Quarter, as those in Marshall College tend to overflow. She follows the Tritons First party line on most issues — she supports putting the move to DIV-I athletics to a student vote as well as a higher cap on media-org funding — but Yu can also speak at greater length to this year’s problems on council than most of her opponents can.
Plus, as a representative on the campuswide Athletics Committee, which spearheaded the recently-published feasibility report on the move to DIV-I, Yu is also practiced in dealing with administrators — another important edge over most of her competitors.

CECILIA ZHOU:

Students First candidate Cecilia Zhou is focusing on the small changes to make a big difference in sustainability.
There’s a lot of support for making the campus more green, but this Office of the President corporate accountability intern has one of the few concrete ideas. She wants to create a committee and then work with administrators to investigate how much excessive electricity our campuses wastes by keeping lights on late at night.
Unlike other candidates paying lip service to keywords like transparency and accountability, Zhou wants to publicize senator projects via excel sheets to increase accountability and reinforce what each senator should do.
And in light of library closures, she plans to promote tutoring and resource centers, while informing students of places they can go “after hours,” like the LGBT Center and Women’s Center.

REFERENDA:

UNIVERSITY CENTERS: YES
University Centers — comprised of Price Center, the Old Student Center and the Che Café — constitute a majority of student hubs on campus. Without the $5-per-quarter referendum, student orgs — including A.S. council itself — will be charged for using these facilities to the tune of anywhere from $10 to $100.
On top of paying for rooms, no referendum means Price Center will no longer be open 24 hours and will likely close for eight hours a night, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

CANYONVIEW POOL: YES

The prospect of paying more to maintain decades-old services isn’t appealing, but with key recreation facilities under threat of closure, passing the Canyonview referendum is in the best interests of students and sports teams. The fee is a mere renewal of the $12 we currently pay quarterly to maintain facilities, with a $10 adjustment for inflation. Its passage would yield about $1.3 million per year, which will support staff salaries, maintenance and operation of facilities like the Canyonview swimming pool and two Jacuzzis.

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