An Interview With Former A.S. Council President, Doc Khaleghi

Last week was the final week that Doc Khaleghi served as president of the A.S. Council. Being a senior, I’ve been through several administrations now, and I must say that this administration, the one headed by Khaleghi, has accomplished much. Khaleghi has been perhaps the most prolific and involved of recent presidents.

I recently sat down with Khaleghi and asked him a few questions about his administration and some campus issues, such as commencement and the future state of parking. After a frank and open discussion, I was convinced that Khaleghi has been a successful A.S. president, involved in many campus issues and able to bring about worthwhile changes to our campus. Here is an abridged transcript of our conversation:

Tom Vu: So how would you rate your tenure here as A.S. president, compared to previous ones?

Doc Khaleghi: Well, compared to previous A.S. presidents, I think I’ve been able to accomplish a lot more, and that’s just because I think my ideas have been new. I’ve tried new things, looking at things from different perspectives. I’ve learned that what students want and what the administration wants is not necessarily mutually exclusive.

An example of that would be commencement. In previous years, it’s always been sort of a clash — the administration versus the students. The students want all-campus commencement, but the administration doesn’t. It was just an approach from a different perspective this year. It’s how commencement can benefit the campus as a whole, including administration. That’s why it wasn’t as much of a struggle and happened a lot easier.

Next year, we’re going to start something completely new. It’s going to be like commencement in the beginning of the year: a new student welcoming, all-campus, probably at RIMAC Field. It wasn’t something that had to be fought for; it was just something that had to be initiated and shown it could benefit all parties involved.

Another thing we’re working on that students really love is moving Plus Card off campus. Again, the administration has a benefit there because they get a certain portion of Plus Card money that’s spent. And students have a benefit because there are more places they can use Plus Card money.

But in terms of the potential of the office, I know I could have done more. There was time I had to divert sometimes; I’m applying to med schools right now. Every couple of days I had to go to an interview or I had to fill out an application, so I didn’t devote 100 percent of my time to the office. I devoted as much time as I could, though. There could’ve been more done with the office than I did with it, but I think I accomplished a lot, especially comparing myself with my predecessors.

TV: How did you guys settle on Patch Adams as commencement speaker? I mean, I’ve heard lots of criticism about how it’s only Patch Adams. [Some say] “”Look at what we’ve had before …””

DK: Well, we had Bill Clinton before, the president of the United States — we’re never going to match that [again], so you’re always going to hear criticism. And the students want a big name, someone they recognize. Well, people like the chancellor want to see someone that represents what UCSD is: intelligence, thinking outside the box.

We came up with a list of names with some top choices and proceeded to contact those top choices, and we were fortunate that Patch Adams agreed. He represents more than just medicine. He is “”thinking outside of the box,”” taking knowledge and using that knowledge to serve your community. And that’s the message I want UCSD graduates to receive when they leave. They’ve gone to this great university, they’ve gotten all this experience, all this knowledge, and now they have this responsibility to serve, and hopefully Patch Adams will deliver that message.

TV: What’s left for the incoming president to take care of?

DK: I think they need to continue to pursue what I’ve been pursuing regarding housing.

In terms of parking, I’ve been successful. I’ve been the first president that’s been able to get more yellow spaces, and I’ve used many arguments to get those spaces. I think we need to keep on continuing with the arguments, especially with the way parking’s been.

They need to take the time to discover what students really want and see how they don’t necessarily need to vie to get these things accomplished. And once they’ve realized that, they’ll accomplish so much. But if they just pursue the idea that [fighting] politically looks good, in terms of “”I look good when I fight the administration,”” but don’t really get anywhere, then I don’t think they’ll be successful.

TV: It was evident in previous A.S. elections that large amounts of students are apathetic toward elections. Many consider the Associated Students as inconsequential and pointless, more as a resume builder and a popularity contest than anything else. How do you respond?

DK: They are right. The Associated Students, I think, does have a lot of people that are in it for resume building. I think Associated Students is a huge popularity contest. And I think for many people, Associated Students does not have a huge consequence on their life, but that’s just because we’re not doing our full potential. That’s not saying Associated Students does not have the ability; it’s just that we’re not doing it yet. And we need to, because we have a lot of people in it for the wrong reason. We need to have people who genuinely care and are willing to fight … or willing to just think and research and put the time in, and come up with the ideas that really help students, and not fight for ambiguous things that could indirectly help the student body, like revising our own constitution or things like that. But things that students can actually feel, like having Plus off campus — students will actually feel that; they’ll notice that. And when those kinds of things happen, people will recognize that Associated Students was consequential in their lives.

TV: So what is going on with the parking situation right now? DK: I’m optimistic … and I really like some of the things that are going on. We’re talking about a lot of new ideas. For people that do fight for parking, they’re kind of focusing on “”more yellow spaces, more yellow spaces.”” There are more things that we can do than just having more yellow spaces. Some things are going to happen in the next few weeks — for example, there are safety issues in terms of “”What about people that get to campus late at night?”” What are they going to do? Right now I want to make it so that a person can park in any space on campus until at least 10 in the morning. No more of this “”7:45 a.m., they have to be gone or they’re going to get a ticket.”” I don’t think that’s safe; I don’t think it’s proper.

We’re working on new permit systems. We’re trying to move to a UCLA system, where other factors are evaluated in terms of where you can park and how much your permit is, so that certain people — maybe they have off campus jobs, who have to deal with commuting a lot more — might have better parking privileges than maybe an on-campus resident who maybe moves his car once a month. And you can put that in, and it’ll get me blasted by a lot of residents, but it’s about doing what’s right. Commuters come to this campus every day. People that work off-campus daily, they need access to the heart of the campus more than a resident who doesn’t commute very much.

TV: Was it difficult to come into the office after Tesh Khullar? Was it hard to clean up the mess he left behind?

DK: The first two weeks, yeah. I would send campus-wide e-mails and people would reply “”I don’t trust Associated Students anymore, screw you,”” those kinds of things. And that’s tough. You have an image to clean up. I said, “”You know what, I just have to work as hard as I can. I’m not Tesh, and I’m going to have to show that to people.”” You’ve got to go the extra level.

For example, I have a $500 operating account; I don’t think I’ve spent $50 of it. I want students to trust that I’m not going to waste their money. You’ve just got to show that you go to work hard and you’ve got to keep communicating with students. I don’t think anyone remembers any more. If they do, they don’t associate that with Associated Students in general.

TV: What advice do you have for the incoming officials?

DK: Don’t worry about your image. If you care too much about your image, you won’t get anything done. There’ll always be ideas, plans that you want to do that some people won’t like and if you try to please those people, you won’t get shit done.

You’ve got to be able to look bad. I know I’ve looked bad many times this year `cause of different things, but it’s for what I thought was right. Do what you think is right; don’t necessarily consider yourself an adversary to anyone. Work with people, and that’s the way you’ll get the most done. But don’t go for popularity; go for accomplishment.

TV: If there were one thing you could change about UCSD with a snap of your finger, what would it be?

DK: It’s kind of vague. UCSD is a very beautiful campus, but sometimes that’s given priority over other things, and I would change that. Examples of that would [be] housing. We could build lots of cheap housing very quickly, but it wouldn’t be that pretty, and so certain groups on campus wouldn’t let that happen. We could build much cheaper, bigger parking structures so that it wouldn’t cause permit costs to go up so much.

This isn’t the fault of the parking [office], this isn’t the fault of the housing [office]. There are so many layers of bureaucracy to the campus that it has to [get] through. And I would change that, because sometimes students’ needs and students’ happiness and students’ livability, in terms of costs, is a lot more important than how pretty your place is.

TV: So what’s in store for the future of Doc?

DK: I’m applying to med school. I don’t know where I’m going yet. Hoping to hear from some good schools that I got in, but I don’t know. I’ll just sit and wait for a few weeks.

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