Tias Webster was appointed Student Union Assembly (SUA) president on Jan. 18 after previous president, Ray Inoue, resigned last quarter and Vice President of Internal Affairs (IVP) Grace Shefcik and Vice President of External Affairs (EVP) Judith Gutierrez both declined the position. Webster ran because of his previous experience in student government and with the platform to establish more interaction between SUA and the student body.
“Being more open to students is our top priority and it’s not one that we’ve always succeeded at,” Webster said.
The SUA constitution does not specify the measures that should take place in the event of a vacancy for the presidency when first declined by both the IVP and EVP. However, it does outline other seats, so SUA relied on Section F.2 of the constitution as guideline, which specifies that if a temporary emergency appointment must be made, the voting membership of SUA will make that appointment.
After meeting with interim Dean of Students Lucy Rojas and SUA parliamentarian Jane Loughboro, the officers decided to open the position to all registered students.
Finding a new president began with a campuswide email detailing how to run, followed by a two-week — plus winter break — advertising campaign that resulted in narrowing the candidates down to four students.
From there, a round of secret ballot voting took place, followed by a second round between the top two candidates. After interviews with each contender, deliberation between SUA officers and representatives and a final vote, Webster was finally chosen. IVP Grace Shefcik served as acting president during the process.
“I have known Tias for quite some time, and he has never failed to impress me with his professionalism, knowledge, communication skills and motivation,” said Shefcik in an email. “I have full faith in his capabilities.”
Shefcik stepped in as acting president in line with the SUA constitution, and received double pay for holding the name of both president and IVP.
Webster’s new position will have him meeting with officials like UC President Janet Napolitano and UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal once per quarter to discuss planning and the budget for SUA. SUA’s roughly $500,000 budget for the 2017 fiscal year was approved in November, with the president’s salary reported as $9,450 annually.
“I really came into it to try to correct some problems that arose during my time with SUA,” Webster said. “The level of dysfunction, miscommunication and distrust that began to build during [Inoue’s] presidency was reaching a point where I no longer felt we were effectively serving the student body.”
Webster’s decision to apply for the president position was meant as a direct response to his predecessor’s resignation. In an effort to increase transparency between the student union and the public, Webster vows to publish daily reports on the SUA website.
“I agree that there is a great deal of miscommunication, dysfunction and mistrust with the Student Union Assembly this year,” Ray Inoue said in an email. “So much so that they elected the new student body president behind closed doors amongst themselves. I wish [Webster] the best of luck with solving these problems.”
Before applying for the position, Webster acted as vice president of academic affairs — a role which now needs to be filled. He said he came to the presidency having already established relationships with school officials as well as an understanding of campus concerns like overcrowding, tuition hikes and financing.
The SUA receives funding and allocates those funds to student-run clubs, organizations and events on campus. The main goal of SUA is to benefit the students and use UC money, raised through fees, in a way that gives back to the students as effectively as possible.
“I want to try to be as open as possible,” Webster said. He is currently working on setting up a table in Quarry Plaza every week for students to come talk to him. “[SUA is] taken as the voice and opinion of all 17,000 students, so it’s important that we at SUA take the time to listen to what exactly those student voices are saying.”