A Guide to Your Student Government

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By Celia Fong
By Celia Fong

UC Santa Cruz’s Student Union Assembly (SUA) is the undergraduate student government on campus. It’s completely student-led and student-funded, and it serves as a space for student voice both locally and nationally. There are six student body officers of the SUA, 10 student organization representatives and 30 college representatives, each elected by students in the spring. SUA meets weekly to present and vote on resolutions. Now let’s take a look.

ELECTIONS AND OPERATIONS

Every May, UCSC students vote online in the SUA elections to elect officers, representatives and approve proposed referenda. Student fee proposals and amendments need a 25 percent voter turnout in order to pass. For the last two years, that turnout has been consistent at about 40 percent for student fee measures and around 30 percent for officers. Until the 2015-16 year, voter turnout was so low for three years that referenda were unable to pass. Beyond campaigning for officer positions and student fees, candidates are tasked with encouraging voter turnout.

FUNDING

Measure 8, the Student Government Fee, was enacted in 1986 and increased in 1989 and 2003 to support the SUA’s funding of campus events, conferences and officer stipends. Students currently pay $7 per quarter, generating over $330,000 annually.

Additionally, 67 cents of the fee goes towards membership in the University of California Student Association (UCSA) and the UC-wide student government association, which hosts a number of conventions and meets to discuss student issues. Membership to the United States Student Association (USSA) is paid for by a 50 cents per student fee, which allows training and advisement for campus campaigns and attendance to conventions on lobbying and organizing on campus.

SUA officers are paid $10,800 each academic year and are allowed up to 2 interns, who are paid up to $900 per quarter. Much of the rest of SUA’s budget goes toward conferences, including the Womxn of Color Conference hosted at UCSC.

COLLEGE AND ORG REPRESENTATIVES

The student body from each college elects one representative in the SUA spring elections and the college governments elect two additional representatives to represent their college in SUA. The 30 college representatives also work with representatives from five student organizations –– Afrikan/Black Student Union (A/BSA), Asian Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APISA), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan (MEChA), Queer Student Union (QSU) and Student Alliance of North American Indians (SANAI). There are also five additional representatives from student organizations, which can apply for a voting seat.

OFFICERS

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“When we fight, we win. From tuition hikes to mental health, students on this campus face real challenges. It’s crucial that our student body is trained, strengthened and organized to win our much needed victories. My goal is to do just that: unite students to prove our strength to administration.”

As leader of the student body, the SUA president leads weekly SUA meetings, holds weekly office hours and acts as a nonvoting member for SUA committees, subcommittees and task forces. When SUA passes resolutions, the president is in charge of writing them. Likewise, the president meets often with UCSC administrators and has a direct line of connection, which is why it’s important that the president hear and reflect on all issues students face.

Last year, SUA President Julie Foster worked closely with the Global Food Initiative, which addresses food insecurity across the UCs, as well as a number of other causes, like housing and the Beach Flats Community Garden. She also set up a “Meet the Admin” series, which connected students and admin in Q&A style sessions.

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“Thank you to all who supported my campaign! My goals are tackling tuition increases, improving mental health services, addressing food insecurity, public transit and the housing crisis. To date, I scheduled a meeting with the Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) director to discuss accessibility to resources, drafted a plan to register students to vote in the national election and attended [the UC] regents meetings at UCSF.”

The vice president of external affairs represents SUA and UCSC on the state and national level in the UCSA and the USSA. This position advocates on behalf of student interests on a systemwide and national level through organizing campaigns locally, statewide and nationally. It requires research and knowledge of educational policy in order to serve student interests in legislation.

As last year’s VP of External Affairs Guillermo Rogel Jr. focused on issues such as police oversight, student retention and student mental health. He advocated for a 2-unit course for SUA to help students understand the politics of the UC.

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“My first goal is to better connect students and faculty on academic senate committees. I’m working with analysts and chairs to present at the academic senate orientation, discussing what students need to feel heard in committees. I’m also establishing a way for students to file complaints with their committee experiences.”

The vice president of internal affairs (VPIA) organizes and oversees on campus events, boards, campaigns and committees, including the academic senate and administrative committees.

Last year’s VPIA Jabari Brown helped to plan the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation, sat on the Student Committee on Committees and met with the Title IX office to discuss issues of sexual assault.

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“The Office of Academic Affairs is devoting most of its resources to reforming the online enrollment system, one of the largest goals in my platform. This project will seek to build a reliable, accessible system designed to give students accurate information about class requirements and facilitate easy enrollment.”

This vice president is the bridge between UCSC and the systemwide Academic Senate and serves as a representative on the Committee on Educational Policy. They assess student issues through polls and surveys and evaluates the SUA monthly. At least twice a quarter, they meet with the Student Academic Senate to create goals for academic policy and advocacy in the Academic Senate.

Last year, VP Seamus Howard worked closely with the Student Academic Senate and Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway to make improvements, and spent time going through the Class and Lecture Availability Student Survey (CLASS) to focus on student feedback. He also sat on the Student Committee on Committees (SCOC) and attended Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) meetings, which works on course approvals and other academic-related work.

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“As [vice president] of diversity my main goal is to increase the success of underrepresented students at UC Santa Cruz. I hope to accomplish this by increasing advocacy, spaces and resources for these students, while simultaneously creating a welcoming and safe climate at UCSC for all students.”

This officer works with resource centers including the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and other retention and outreach organizations. They coordinate programming focused on diversity and focus on diversity statistics involving enrollment, retention, dropout rates and hate/bias and Title IX reporting.

Last year, Sauli Colio helped prepare the Student of Color Conference, sat on the Board of Directors for Engaging Education and helped to plan UCSC’s Womxn of Color Conference.

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“I have three goals for next year and that was to have the SUA put on more programs for students, tackle food insecurity and raise more awareness and educate students on mental health. I want the SUA and my office specifically to make direct changes for students.”

Just added this year, this office creates programming for the student body to better the engagement between students and the assembly. So far, Owens has assisted with Slug Night at summer orientation, set up meetings to tackle food insecurity issues and CAPS’ “Let’s Talk” program.