SUA Officers Reflect One Year Later

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As the new Student Union Assembly (SUA) campaigning season begins, City on a Hill Press (CHP) asked the current SUA officers to assess themselves and what they accomplished this year. Using their answers to last spring’s interview questions from CHP, the officers reflected on how their original goals came to fruition. 

Questions asked last spring include:

• Why are you running for office?

• Do you have any projects that you’re currently working on or that you plan on starting if you’re elected? 

• What issues are important to you and what do you think are important to students?

Shaz Umer, Chair

With experience as Internal Vice Chair (IVC) prior to becoming SUA Chair, Shaz Umer had been involved in SUA long enough to have an idea of some things he wanted to achieve as SUA Chair. For one, Umer said he wanted to increase awareness of SUA. Umer said his recent email regarding 4/20, as well as some other “controversial” decisions by this year’s SUA, allowed students to become more aware of SUA. 

Umer said he was one of the first Chairs to send campuswide emails, including both the email following winter break and the one prior to 4/20.

“Then I sent out another email — the 4/20 one — that wasn’t a popular message,” Umer said. “People asked if I would have taken that back. I would have reworded it but it’s just something that hadn’t been said. Students need their frustration let out and it’s better for people to hate the student government than to know it doesn’t exist. I’m glad they’re targeting me as Chair because it’s my position to receive their complaints.”

Shaz Umer, Chair. Courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.
Shaz Umer, Chair. Photo courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.

One of Umer’s other goals was to lower the UC Student Health Insurance Plan (UC SHIP) premium. While the premium actually raised from around $1,500 to around $2,200, Umer said they are in the process of evaluating possible options for health care next year, including possibly not using UC SHIP any longer.

“Did it go down? No, it actually increased,” Umer said. “But right now we’re just looking at different plans so we can stay in UC SHIP, but is it gonna be sustainable? If it continues to rise on us we’re not gonna stay in.”

Aside from UCSC health care, Umer also ran on the platform of trying to solve the problem with limited housing space and increasing triples. However, Umer said this issue was largely intended to garner support and votes.

“[Decreasing triples] was more of something that looked sexy to campaign on,” Umer said. “Something I’m telling candidates right now is when you run an election, sometimes you have to stretch the truth. It sucks that you have to use that kind of tactic because that’s not politics — we’re all human beings and we should be championing stuff we really care about the most.”

Umer said some of his proudest accomplishments this year have been the upcoming Edge of Eden concert, as well as being able to speak to around a thousand incoming UCSC students and RAs in the fall. Umer said he is also proud of their ability to outreach to various organizations on campus.

While Umer said many students disagreed with some of the things they have done, this is the students’ freedom and he will protect this freedom.

“I came in with the understanding on day one that you know everyone comes in with different experiences and different backgrounds and I can’t expect everyone to like me,” Umer said. “A lot of students don’t like me and that’s because they’ve never met me, but I have to understand that it is not their fault. It’s my fault because I didn’t do much outreach.”

Max Hufft, IVC

Current Internal Vice Chair (IVC) Max Hufft wanted to be a part of SUA as IVC because he felt student life at UCSC was different than the student life he saw at other UCs. With this in mind, Hufft ran on a platform primarily rooted in the hope of building collaboration between the different SUA offices.

Last spring, Hufft hoped his position would be able to ensure both financial aid and library hours were working for students. Though Hufft said his position as IVC does not have much influence over student financial aid, he worked on permanently extending library hours and is currently working in collaboration with other officers on the 24/5 referenda, which will extend Science and Engineering Library hours to 24 hours a day, Sunday through Thursday.

“Hopefully if the [24/5 referenda] passes, we’ll see a lot of pressure from students on administration that when that fee is over, there is clearly a need for 24 hours, 5 days a week at the libraries,” Hufft said.

Aside from library hours, Hufft also had run in the hopes of setting up a food bank for students. Yet, for this particular project, Hufft said there were too many obstacles, such as deciding where the food would come from and how it would affect other food banks on campus, such as the Family Student Housing (FSH) food bank and Second Harvest Food Bank.

“At a certain point, we just didn’t have time to deal with all that,” Hufft said. “It was a shame because I really wanted to see that project go through, but hopefully someone can learn all of the different movements we were able to make on that and see how they can work better with FSH.”

Max Hufft, IVC. Courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.
Max Hufft, IVC. Photo courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.

Much of Hufft’s work as IVC this past year arose from events requiring collaboration with other SUA offices. For instance, the Holi Festival, which took place at the beginning of the quarter, required collaboration between the IVC and the Commissioner of Diversity Charlsie Chang, as well as other organizations on campus. Hufft said he was also proud of the attendance at Crown/Merrill movie nights and the Porter/Kresge Carnival, hoping the UCSC’s Got Talent Event on May 16 will garner similar attendance.

“We’re really excited for [UCSC’s Got Talent] and there has been a lot of collaboration between [Chang’s] office and my offices trying to get that event happening,” Hufft said. “It’s a different kind of office now.”

One aspect of his work Hufft said he feels will go most unnoticed is his work with the Student Committee on Committees. Hufft said he pushed for the members of the committee to be paid more efficiently through the ER system, trying to resolve what Hufft said was a “bureaucratic mess.”

“This year we’ve really been able to push a lot on the outreach, a lot on the committee pay and really get these funds back to the students,” Hufft said. “It’s been an awesome honor being able to just have that work for once.”

Tony Milgram, EVC

Tony Milgram ran for External Vice Chair (EVC) last spring because he didn’t see what his $7 per quarter fee for SUA was funding. He wanted to outreach to students to see where they wanted their student fees being spent and create transparency between the student body and SUA.

His goals were on the local, state and national level, and started with a “political outreach council.” Last year Milgram described this as a group of students who meet with city council members and state and U.S. representatives, essentially “representing us as students and citizens of the city of Santa Cruz.” Milgram addressed that goal this year through Lobby Corps, which kicked off winter quarter.

Last year Lobby Corps was a committee that met during SUA meetings and didn’t specifically meet weekly or go on lobby visits. Milgram boosted this program and stuck to his “50/50” goal, meaning that during several lobby visits this year, at least half the group included students who were new to the program or had not previously been lobbying. He said the new students in Lobby Corps brought new perspectives and the 50/50 program allowed people from different communities within UCSC to experience lobbying.

Tony Milgram. Courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.
Tony Milgram, EVC. Photo courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.

While Milgram’s political outreach council underwent a dramatic improvement last year, community outreach proved less successful. Milgram hoped to set up a group of students who would feed the houseless, create community gardens and organize carnivals for underprivileged students. But he said creating a group to facilitate these programs from scratch took more time than he expected.

“Since local affairs has never been a part of SUA, we had to work to start that up and create relationships with legislatures, people from police and other law enforcement agencies, transportation and public works,” Milgram said. “This year we started a foundation that hopefully next year’s EVC will take up. Hopefully all those relationships we’re building now will create something like the community outreach programs in the future.”

All year Milgram worked to push the EVC position to not forget about local affairs, while still focusing on state and national issues. He was pleased with the passing of the Middle Class Scholarship Act and AB540, which were part of his campaign.

“We’re trying to get more people involved and show how, for example, the Oil Severance bill or a bill addressing sexual assault on campus can affect a lot more than a small group of students,” Milgram said.

Charlsie Chang, Commissioner of Diversity 

Commissioner of Diversity Charlsie Chang worked toward her goal of working hands-on with SOAR to help a variety of student organizations plan events and get involved. She said SUA coming under the Dean of Students Office and other internal SUA changes allowed her to more easily fund events and book venues for various religious and ethnic groups. Chang oversaw the Queer Prom venue booking and Theta Pi Sigma’s conference trip to San Diego.

Last year Chang vowed to address the concern of safety on campus. She defined safety in regard to the campus climate as “feeling like you have a safe space where you can be who you want to be and be comfortable with yourself.” One of her moves to accomplish this goal was organizing UCSC students to attend the 25th annual Student of Color Conference at UCLA, and fundraising as much as possible in order to get the maximum number of UCSC students in attendance. This year 90 UCSC students attended the conference, in comparison to roughly 70 students for the past two years.

“Seeing these students in a place where they are not used to being the majority was very empowering,” Chang said. “They are leaders in the community and they learned what they can bring back to our university.”

Charlsie Chang, Commissioner of Diversity. Courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.
Charlsie Chang, Commissioner of Diversity. Photo courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.

Chang said she is proud of the more large-scale events she was a part of organizing this year. Although UCSC’s Got Talent was pushed back due to other major events — including SOAR’s alumni weekend and Edge of Eden — taking place in April and May, it will still be held on May 16. UCSC’s first Holi Festival took place on April 4 with about 1,400 students in attendance. Chang worked with the Indian Student Organization and Tau Kappa Epsilon to hold this event.

While events like the Holi Festival, which bonded together different student organizations, were Chang’s focus this year, she also had a say in the artists booked for Edge of Eden. Coming from a diversity standpoint, Chang wanted to ensure that the musicians at the concert would spread a positive message and reach out to different student populations on campus.

Looking back, Chang wishes she would have started to tackle reconstructing the Resource Center Advisory Council earlier in the year so she had more time to start expanding the council. Aimed to get students from different backgrounds together to plan future student events, the council has yet to collectively plan any events.

Vanessa Morales, Commissioner of Academic Affairs 

As a tour guide last year, Vanessa Morales thought, as the Commissioner of Academic Affairs, she would have a strong idea of what resources incoming students wanted. She was concerned with students being able to afford their education and securing a job after college, and as a part of SUA she wanted to expand the Class and Lecture Availability Student Survey (CLASS).

CLASS included questions about tutoring services in order to gauge interest in Learning Support Services, which has a referendum up for ballot this spring.

“I want to work with administration to secure funding for our library and maybe even expand the hours so eventually we can have a 24/7 library,” Morales said last year.

Vanessa Morales, Commissioner of Academic Affairs. Courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.
Vanessa Morales, Commissioner of Academic Affairs. Photo courtesy of Mick Del Rosario.

Student measure 58 is also on the ballot to expand the Science and Engineering Library’s hours to be open 24/5. The fee will cost undergraduates $4.25 per quarter and is a temporary fee that will sunset in spring 2017. With Return-to-Aid factored, the fee will generate $131,456 annually. Morales spearheaded the library referendum and presented it to the Student Fee Advisory Committee and SUA.

SUA Chair Shaz Umer said he wished Morales would have pushed for programs during finals week to offer free snacks, blue books and scantrons.

“There hasn’t been much done through our Commissioner of Academic Affairs office and I want to see more,” Umer said.

Along with extending library hours and extending the Academic Resource Center hours during finals week, Umer said there is an effort to keep the Redwood Building open longer during finals. Morales’ last goal was to create an undergraduate opportunity database through the Career Center, which has not taken off this year.

Ivan Medina, Organizing Director 

As SUA Organizing Director, Ivan Medina’s primary responsibilities were to organize the internal and external issues on campus, keeping students involved in SUA activities, as well as keeping the student body and campus organizations in contact with SUA.

For Medina, one of his primary goals in organizing campus issues and keeping the student body educated on the work SUA was doing involved immigration reform and coalition building on campus. Medina said he supported student issues, such as those protesting UC President Janet Napolitano, by being present at rallies on campus against Napolitano and facilitating conversation around coalition groups against Napolitano.

“My capacity was to make sure students could voice their concerns on campus and at a state and national level,” Medina said.

Medina said he also tried to educate students on the various pieces of legislation affecting the university. Some of these pieces of legislation included CA SCA5, AB640, AB420, and AB218, some of which passed and some of which have been tabled. Whether these bills passed or not, Medina was primarily concerned with establishing workshops to prepare students for lobbying on these bills. Medina said his goal for the current quarter is to ensure students are engaged in the pipeline for lobbying these bills next year.

Ivan Medina, Organizing Director. Photo courtesy of Daniel Green.
Ivan Medina, Organizing Director. Photo courtesy of Daniel Green.

Aside from preparing bills for the future, Medina also hopes to support and build up non-profit organizations such as The Artistic Rehabilitative Therapeutic (ART) initiative. The ART initiative is run by UCSC students and provides art therapy to female inmates at the Santa Cruz County Jail. The ART initiative will have its first open art show at UCSC on May 1.

Student loan debt was another issue Medina planned to tackle during his term. Medina said he had conversations about certain options for loan debt, such as paying off 10 percent of your student loan debt for 10 years until the debt is eliminated. However, Medina said the ultimate goal is that these loans are not needed in the first place.

“We’re always striving to make sure we have no loans and education is free,” Medina said.

Overall, Medina said he was proud of his work to bolster the student voice, coming into a position largely surrounded by bureaucratic institutions which made this difficult. While Medina said this was one of his proudest accomplishments, he still wishes he had more time to be able to work on all of the students’ ideas and projects.

“[I wish I had] more time to be able to organize more productively,” Medina said.