Submission: A letter to you, from the UC Student Association

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Students don’t have lobbyists, don’t have focus groups, and don’t have Political Action Committees funding candidates that uplift our issues. Students are our own best advocates, and we oftentimes are the only ones advocating for ourselves. These circumstances have led to the formation of the UC Student Lobby, as well as the creation of the position of the External Vice President in most campus associations. What began as the UC Student Lobby later became our organization –the University of California Student Association, or the UCSA. And for more than 50 years, we have been pushing the student cause.

The UCSA is the premier advocacy arm of California’s 270,000+ UC students — student-funded, student-led, and student-organized. Made up of all of the incorporated UC campuses, we galvanize and empower our fellow students from the Bay Area to the Central Valley, to the unincorporated Isla Vista community, to the Inland Empire and the farthest reaches of Southern California.

  • Through our Racial Justice Now Campaign, we created a scholarship that is directly allocated to students of color that fight for racial justice. This is an annual scholarship that campuses like UC Merced, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Cruz have already benefited from.
  • As part of our Fund The UC Campaign, we gathered thousands of student testimonies and made the student presence known in Sacramento from January to June. This led the state legislature to approve a $248.8 million dollar increase in state appropriations — buying out a tuition hike, providing funds for deferred maintenance, and also supporting critical student services. At the July regents meeting, we also saw the first rollback in tuition in nearly two decades.

As maturing young adults beginning to learn about true advocacy, we can be honest about the troubles we’ve had along the way.

On multiple occasions, the UCSA has faltered in validating, supporting, and empowering our most marginalized students. We’ve dedicated our largest conference, the Student of Color Conference (SOCC), to centering our most marginalized, and yet still we fall short. This year, we will bring community leaders together and rebuild SOCC to better combat anti-blackness, bigotry, and xenophobia.

As a new year brings new leaders and new challenges, the UCSA will strive to improve on its journey towards proper and adequate representation of the student body — not just through advocacy, but by empowering communities to be their own advocates.

  1. Through our Racial Justice Now Campaign, we will push for every UC campus to have strong, developed retention, recruitment, and cultural centers so all students can build, find, and retain community.
  2. Through UC We Vote, we will register thousands of students to vote and push against the narrative that students and youth are politically disengaged.
  3. Through the #FundTheUC Campaign, we will roll back tuition. With a new governor, a California budget surplus, and reinvigorated importance of education as a fundamental right for everyone, there has been no better time to ensure that the UCs are more financially accessible to everyone.
  4. Through our ACQUIRE Campaign, we will support the needs of our undocumented student communities by pushing for Resource Liaisons, trained mental health professionals, and undocumented legal support at every campus.

At UCSC, students will have several opportunities to interact with our campus EVP office. This winter quarter, they will be revamping and re-launching their Lobby Corps. Lobby Corps is a branch within the EVP office that is committed to producing an advocacy strategy for students, by students. This advocacy space will have students interacting with several people in power within the political spectrum; whether it be lobbying local legislators in Santa Cruz city and county about housing, or attending committee hearings about state investment in the UC in Sacramento, Lobby Corps will provide folx with a space where they can exercise their power and agency as students. In March, they will take a delegation of students to Sacramento to lobby the California State Legislature on issues like UC tuition, faculty diversity, and more. In April, they will have their annual trip to Washington D.C. to lobby their federal legislators on issues including, but not limited to, DACA, Title IX policy, Higher Education Reauthorization etc.

As a group of young, passionate students like yourselves, we are eager to give you the tools to fight for what you care about. The UCSA has done well to represent students on issues that impact us all; what we have lacked is a concerted effort to understand the diverse needs of our students. Ultimately, that can only be accomplished by meeting with you, listening to you, and implementing your desired changes. All in all, we want to hear from you. Check us out on Twitter, facebook, Instagram, and contact us at https://ucsa.org/about/contact-us/.

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Laretta Johnson is co-editor in chief at City on a Hill Press. Before this, she wore many hats within City on a Hill, starting as a copy editor and working as copy chief, opinions editor, city news editor and campus news editor (at different times) over the past year and a half. She sees journalism that helps people understand things, whether it’s a portion of a complicated bureaucracy or the way systems of power function within the UC, as a way to help facilitate change. Beyond the walls of the Student Media Center, Laretta can be found riding her bike around town, cooking food with her 11 housemates, journaling, going on long neighborhood walks or convincing herself one more cup of coffee isn’t a bad idea.