Endorsement: President — Harry Khanna

To summarize his campaign, Student Voice! head Harry Khanna likes to quote what has become the unofficial mantra of UCSD student government: “We will work with the university, we will work against the university, but we will never work for the university.”

His opponent, Daniel Watts, could appropriate that statement for his own vision — since both candidates offer nearly identical policy manifestos.

At the end, this board must base its endorsement on who we think is most likely to assemble a coalition and act politically savvy — if unsavory — enough to get his platform implemented once in office. That person, we believe, is Khanna.

We wholeheartedly support Khanna’s plans to slowly muscle from Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson more control over registration fees and student-funded facilities. As it currently stands, Khanna is right to point out that students have all of the liabilities of owners of the latter, but none of the privileges.

We similarly believe that he understands what it takes to reform the “unnecessarily bungling bureaucracy” — the A.S. Council. Khanna’s plans for an independent audit, something that this board has called for since last June, is long overdue — as is a comprehensive committee to synchronize and modernize the A.S. governing documents and structural reorganization creating campuswide senators. Similarly, we trust Khanna in his pledge to finally introduce instant-runoff voting.

On the budget front, Khanna is also right to call for elimination of funding for college councils and new accountability measures for student stipends that are coupled with regular performance reviews and impeachments of incompetent administrators. Along with his pledge to use the line-item veto to trim budget pork, the promise to toss outdated funding rules should help the council do more with its money.

Though Khanna’s three-principled platform — access to higher education, student autonomy and improved campus climate — is familiarly vague and unrealistic, his vast political skill and powers of persuasion, a la Jenn Pae, should make him a far more capable administrator than current President Christopher Sweeten. After Sweeten’s focus on state and national issues, Khanna’s inward turn is much welcome.

That said, we offer only the most positive assessment of Khanna’s opponent. We strongly believe that no one loves UCSD more than Watts, and no one would bring more passion to the office of president.

However, Watts’ strength — his willingness to call bullshit and speak frankly — is also his biggest liability. In the world of political egos, he is likely to alienate as many as he converts.

While Watts shares many of Khanna’s major priorities, we fear that he too heavily discounts the institutional forces that stand in the way of council reform. We must disagree with Watts when he says all the student government needs is good and honest people to effect change; similarly, we cannot view previous A.S. experience as an automatic limitation, as Watts does.

During this past year, Khanna has taken stances that initially pitted him against the majority of the A.S. Council, and on the side of students: opposing Student-Run Television regulations and lobbying for unrestricted student access to the A.S. listserv. His reputation for having a knack for building diverse coalitions should help him win over the senators as president.

It is this patience and dexterity, we believe, that makes Khanna the stronger candidate in the race.