The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

Student grievances with AS: A call to action

Photo by Dave Vo/ UCSD Guardian

Three interviews uncover the in-depth experience of members within Associated Students at UC San Diego.

During Week 4, Associated Students was in the process of holding a senate meeting when Students for Justice in Palestine entered the chambers criticizing the board for the lack of a statement denouncing the genocide of the Palestinian people as well as the siege of Gaza and the West Bank. 

Over 50 public comments were made that evening, including one from Leticia Guzman, the Associated Vice President of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. 

In Guzman’s public comment, she expressed that she couldn’t remain silent on the matter as she read a message sent to her from A.S. President George Lo, urging her to take down a repost of one of SJP’s walkout flyers. 

“This is what we are in fear of,” Guzman said. “We’re afraid to speak out. Because there is an abuse of power that is currently happening — that no one is talking about.” 

A few days after the confrontation in the chambers, Guzman told The UCSD Guardian that she faced retaliation from Lo while in the A.S. Offices. 

Guzman said that as she finished a conversation with another Senate member, Lo stood in the doorway of the office cubicle. 

“He cornered me in the A.S. offices. He wanted me to repost the Tritons for Israel’s walkout post,” Guzman said. “He said, ‘If you don’t, then I’m going to give you a warning letter and you could lose your position.’ He was forcing that on me.”

Tritons for Israel (TFI) backed Lo during the A.S. election process, and Guzman believes that Lo has expressed a preference for pro-Israel efforts on campus since then. She referred to Lo being present at Hillel and TFI events while SJP has yet to hear from the president. 

Guzman said that she experienced emotional trauma during the conversation between her and President Lo. 

“I don’t feel safe. I hadn’t gone to [the A.S. Offices] since the first warning letter — because of that fear of him cornering me or being verbally aggressive with me,” she said. “I carry my own trauma responses. Him standing at the door and me being in this little office — it caught me off guard.” 

Guzman added that the power dynamic between her and Lo strengthened this emotional fear as he had already established an air of dominance within the office. 

“It seems like it’s more of taking orders, rather than a collaborative-brainstorming work relationship,” she said. 

Guzman also mentioned that a few other A.S. members within the office did not feel safe there, but those members did not wish to come forward publicly due to fear of retaliation. 

In an interview with Off-Campus Senator Elizabeth Guadalupe Lopez, she explained that Lo’s recent behavior was unsurprising. 

“[There] were six grievances filed before George’s election into office,” she said. Lopez referenced Lo taking down other candidates’ posters and purposely placing additional posters of a rival candidate in order to falsify a grievance against his rival. 

According to Lopez, she and another A.S. member had confronted him. Lo told them that he already took a photo of it, then later filed a grievance against the rival candidate. 

Lopez added that Lo placed posters of himself exceeding the limit designated by the A.S. Constitution while telling students on Library Walk to yell his name in order to receive a dollar. 

This was confirmed in an interview with former elections manager Guillermo Maldonado, who recalled an encounter he had with Lo while drafting questions for the presidential debate. 

“I ask questions that the candidates are not supposed to know, but [Lo, in a] change of tone asked if it’s possible to have the questions [beforehand]. I said no, a strong no,” Maldonado said. 

Maldonado also referred to the numerous times in which President Lo would raise questions about other candidates to then ask Maldonado if he would do anything in response as the elections manager. 

When asked for his input on the recent recall letter, Maldonado said that the accusations didn’t surprise him. 

“He’s not aware of the things he says, and he’s pretty defensive,” he said. 

Maldonado recalled other instances of Lo being disrespectful to students in addition to the incident with a Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH) student worker. 

This information arises along with the recent testimony by an anonymous UCSD Halloween Maze actor during the Nov. 15 senate hearing. 

“President Lo touched me — in an inappropriate area without consent,” the actor said. “He looked at me, he walked toward me, his hands were outstretched, and touched me. That should speak for itself.” 

After this testimony, a SJP member took to the podium to speak on how Lo’s accusations felt like an indication of a larger issue within Associated Students. 

“The fact that workers at school are not being treated properly by our President, what type of precedent does that set for all other students? These allegations should not be taken lightly, and should be carefully analyzed by each and every one of you,” they said in reference to the altercation Lo had with an HDH worker that occurred earlier this quarter as well as the incident with the Halloween Maze actor. 

In an interview with The Guardian, an anonymous SJP member specified how the issues pertaining to Associated Students extend to professional staff within the A.S. Offices as well. 

The SJP member recalled a meeting with Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Patricia Mahaffey. The distribution of wristbands among SJP members was one of the main topics of discussion. 

Mahaffey allegedly first offered 20 wristbands for both Students for Justice in Palestine and Tritons for Israel in order for both student groups to equally speak at the A.S. Senate meeting on Nov. 1. 

SJP expressed this act as inequitable since SJP had a large number of speakers and had proposed the motion to extend public comment time as the board did in the previous hearings. 

On the morning of Nov. 1, SJP received two follow-up emails from Mahaffey expressing unfinalized protocols for wristband disbursement while Associated Students had already announced via Instagram that wristbands were ready for pickup. 

In the interview, SJP members recalled Mahaffey’s response when confronted about this situation. 

“[She told us] nothing was finalized. She said, ‘Well, you said you didn’t want 20 each, and that it wasn’t equitable. So we just did a first come, first served basis. It’s only fair because [SJP] had [their] chance last week to speak at the AS meeting.” 

In this conversation with Mahaffey, an anonymous SJP member responded with, “I didn’t know we only get to use our rights once a month.” 

Mahaffey expressed that she sent an email detailing the new protocol to SJP members, but she failed to find the email when searching in her inbox in front of SJP members. 

By the time the conversation settled and SJP received their wristbands, only eight SJP members were allowed public comment while TFI were allowed 40. The eight SJP members spoke after waiting two hours on the outdoor chambers patio in 52-degree weather. 

SJP also expressed their frustration with Mahaffey after they explained their experiences with rising Islamophobia as well as hate crimes against Palestinian and Arab students on campus. 

“Patty could easily help us meet with the Chancellor. She just put her hands up and said that ‘there’s nothing that we can do’. They could just give [us] counseling services as if the threats we’re receiving are a generalized anxiety disorder,” they said. 

SJP members also expressed their frustration with administration, as they’ve failed to take their concerns and demands seriously. 

“The dozens and dozens of emails that [doesn’t] answer anything and [doesn’t] do anything. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is the biggest scam at UC San Diego,” said an SJP member when expressing their attempts to work with administrators. 

The anonymous SJP members also told The Guardian that administrative members were present during the Oct. 12 Honor Our Martyrs Vigil when Palestinian students and Middle Eastern North African Student Association members were harassed by pro-Israel counter protesters. 

“We were screamed at that we support terrorism. That we’re terrorists, and that we’re rapists. We were called Nazis and ISIS. There were admin standing right there in between us and the Israeli protesters,” they recalled. 

The SJP members said they felt as if these experiences weren’t taken seriously by the A.S. Senate as well as A.S. professional staff since no statement was made in response, nor were any emails sent in acknowledgement of the violence. 

A.S. released a SJP-drafted statement of solidarity on Oct. 26, two weeks after the incident on Library Walk.  

SJP members have expressed their own opposition to A.S. leadership as well as the board’s failure to address accusations against Lo, in addition to the rise of Islamophobia and hate speech on campus. 

For example, a representative from SJP stated the following at the Nov. 15 senate meeting: 

“George’s selected attendance at events involving Hillel and Tritons for Israel while neglecting the Arab and Muslim communities raises concerns about inclusivity … George mistakenly refers to all Palestinians in Gaza as Hamas when visiting Israel [in an Instagram story post].” 

Another SJP member referenced Senator Eric Chen’s statement regarding the Oct. 25 walkout at the podium. 

“It is important to bring up the comments made by senators and our president in interviews. Senator Eric Chen [compared] Palestinian [student protesters] to the January 6th riots,” they said. The SJP member also expressed that several A.S. members released the names of SJP members to the San Diego Union-Tribune without their consent. 

The growing number of individuals coming forward, as well as statements made against Associated Students’ response to the Palestinian genocide, have led many students demanding immediate change. 

An anonymous SJP member closed the Nov. 15 senate hearing with the following statement: 

“We need someone who represents us and understands us as people. It’s very disheartening, and we hope to see a better change. We hope to see an Associated Students that better represents the people.”

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  • N

    NicoleDec 18, 2023 at 3:57 pm

    Great piece of writing!!! People are afraid to hear the truth so they have to reply with a threat, lol! That’s great journalism when you aren’t afraid to stand up and speak your mind for yourself and all others that is affected by toxic people!

  • D

    Don't Worry About a ThingNov 28, 2023 at 6:38 pm

    Super unprofessional journalism. You obviously aren’t trying to paint an accurate picture, rather capitalize on sensationalism. Luckily for you, the Guardian is gonna have a lot of fun in store in the next couple of weeks :] :]. I sure hope the newspaper can operate when the truth comes out!

  • A

    AleinaNov 28, 2023 at 2:41 pm

    I have been extensively emailing safety concerns to the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, with over 65 attachments of blatant Islamophobia and orientalism, and the only thing she’s been able to tell me is that “people are working diligently to ensure campus is a safe place for all,” even though I’ve shown her over 65 examples of campus not being safe “for all.”