A.S. Elections Endorsements – President

    With five candidates running for A.S. President, the A.S. Council and student life could be taken in many potential directions next year.

    Some candidates tout their relationships with the administration. Others plan to mobilize student organizations or restructure the student government to become more efficient. All of these goals are admirable and make those candidates attractive to voters, but it’s in the best interest of campus life to elect a president who thinks beyond the ASUCSD offices on the third floor of Price Center and will be able to give a less bureaucratic, more approachable face to the A.S. Council.

    Independent candidate Steve York has enthusiastically demonstrated the mindset that more needs to be accomplished on campus — namely, jump-starting student life beyond Geisel Library and even traditional outlets like student organizations — to include the average UCSD student, not just the groups who flood council meetings to demand resolutions be passed or their funding be augmented.

    While York agrees that student organizations and student media are the lifeblood of this campus, he feels that not enough has been done to introduce and promote these organizations to the average UCSD student. Making student leaders and the decision-making process more visible to students is a top priority as student-administration conflicts regarding the University Centers expansion, non-affiliated but student-run “UCSD” services and free speech continue to escalate. The University Centers expansion, York feels, typifies how current leaders have not ensured student representation on an on-campus issue to its full potential. The Building Advisory Committee, while not officially the responsibility of the Associated Students, has an A.S. representative. It is an undergraduate issue local enough for students to actually influence.

    And the local issues are most important. Students First! candidate Harish Nandagopal has worked on statewide issues like combating student fees and Proposition 54, and the positions he represented on those issue are only favorable to college students in California. However, these projects come off as being partisan and divisive. The approach of his campaign, as demonstrated at the John Kerry event on March 30, is to play up the progressive politics of his slate. Yet focusing on campus issues should be given more importance than a partisan agenda or label.

    To his credit, Nandagopal has tried to include more student organizations into the Students First! mix by soliciting the Greeks to join his slate’s coalition. Greek housing is an issue that would only help campus morale and Nandagopal has recognized this. However, it is a year too late, as very little was brought to the surrounding community about the issue when that responsibility fell under the duties of the vice president external, Nandagopal’s position on the 2003-04 council.

    Nandagopal represents the A.S. Council status quo and the students who believe lobbying for off-campus progressive issues is appropriate for a student government. His on-campus goals, such as lobbying the Academic Senate for a committee on athletics to make intercollegiate sports a higher priority, are mostly reasonable. Others, like passing two budgets and forcing students to choose between one with $175,000 in cuts and another with funding preserved by a campus fee increase, smack of scare tactics and are contradictory to his campaign to stop fee increases. The important thing, however, is that Nandagopal has put significant thought into his goals. But it is in the best interest of student life to focus primarily on campus issues and avoid a divisive political agenda.

    The rest of the candidate pool is somewhat less attractive. Independent candidate Jenn Pae, currently the vice president internal, is very approachable and has served in leadership positions ranging from a resident advisor to the student representative on the committee to select a new chancellor. She recently won the endorsement of the Triton Athletic Council and has efficiently conducted the A.S Council meetings this year. However, she lacks York’s excitement or Nandagopal’s planning. Pae has not taken a firm position on what is best for the campus community and has been vague as to how solutions can be reached.

    Jeremy Cogan, the Unity candidate and current A.S. Commissioner of Enterprise Operations, has worked hard this year as a commissioner and has been involved in many facets of campus politics. His mantra is to unify the campus and has set forth a list of uninteresting ways to achieve this goal. He recognizes that Associated Students must be a more visible unit for students and that the campus climate needs to be improved. Cogan is dedicated to reaching goals and says the budget problem can be solved without a fee referendum by studying smaller budgets of the past and seeing how those councils allocated funding. However, Cogan represents the bureaucratic side of the A.S. Council, as exemplified by turning the book exchange concept into an A.S. enterprise rather than lobbying on behalf of the students whose non-affiliated “UCSD” sites were shut down.

    Kris Saradpon, an independent, is concerned with diversity and increasing UCSD’s name recognition. However, he has little knowledge of campus politics and has not outlined how his goals are attainable. Saradpon used the April 2 debate to promote ticket sales for Fusion, an event he was to co-host. He should be applauded for his initiative, but would be grossly confused if elected.

    Truth be told, York does not have the student government experience of opponents like Cogan, Nandagopal and Pae, but lack of experience hasn’t kept students from succeeding in A.S. leadership positions in the past. After last year’s disqualification of the entire Students First! slate, the inexperienced Eric Webster assumed the role of A.S. vice president finance and has performed the duties of his office remarkably. In the 1980s, the Very Silly slate was elected into many of the A.S. positions — including president — and while there were doubts of whether an inexperienced “joke” slate could perform their duties honorably, records show that the council was successful and the only difference was that students found their leaders to be more fun.

    But York is no joke. While his candidacy last year on the New Students First of the Unity Action Parking Wave Slate slate was a self-affirmed “satirical” campaign, he has spent the last year monitoring the planned University Center expansion and the current flaws in the existing (or non-existing, according to York) student strategy. He delivers a fresh perspective on why student life at UCSD is dismal and will continue to stand up to the conventional wisdom of UCSD politics whether he is elected or not. York will not pander to a coalition of supporting groups — as past presidents have done — but will produce a much-needed alternative way for the Associated Students to do business. York must be surrounded by experienced and well-qualified vice presidents and commissioners to be successful, but given that, York represents the prospect of a leader who’s capable of building a broader student voice to fight the battles most immediate to UCSD undergraduates.

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