This Letter from the Editors is published with our Elections Special Issue, on stands Thursday May 14.
Vote at elections.ucsc.edu. Voting ends May 18.
About 430 seats in Classroom Unit 2 were empty during Monday night’s Student Union Assembly (SUA) debate. Fittingly, almost every candidate uttered some version of “no one knows what SUA is.” While the number of people in the audience seemed dismal, it was no different than what has been seen throughout the last few years.
Year after year of low voter turnout — typically less than 30 percent — suggests that SUA is struggling for relevancy, and this isn’t a secret. SUA recently conducted an online survey to gain more understanding about what students do or don’t know about SUA. The results told us what we already knew: most students aren’t aware of what their student government does.
This is alarming for a governing body that, in principle, should represent and advocate on behalf of roughly 16,000 undergraduate students.
Each of the six elected officers can earn up to $12,900 during the academic year, including summer, and the entirety of SUA, which includes representatives from the 10 colleges and select student organizations, is responsible for a yearly budget of more than $300,000, excluding carry-forward — all of which is provided by the student fees allotted through Measure 8. If evidence suggests that UC Santa Cruz students have no idea what SUA is doing, are officers earning their pay?
Curiously, the most common criticism aimed at some of the candidates, specifically those who, historically, haven’t attended SUA meetings, is a lack of SUA experience, but such a background isn’t necessarily indicative of success.
In four of his last six monthly reports — from October 2014 to March 2015 — SUA Chair Justin Lardinois criticizes SUA for “advancing [its] own political career,” “political grandstanding” and failing to address “more than procedural necessities, funding requests, and resolutions.” In another, he condemned the collective for a “running joke” where SUA members “race to be the first person to shout ‘second’ after a motion is made,” resulting in “ill-conceived motions” that are “wasting everyone’s time.”
While constitutional awareness and conscientious facilitation are important for governance, voters should judge candidates on their ability to engage critical campus issues and organize in a way that serves the interests of UCSC students — something that current SUA members have, at times, struggled to do. Ideal candidates are those rooted in a passion for community leadership and a history of creating substantive change for students at UCSC — past, present and future.
Guillermo Rogel, Jr. embodies this type of leadership. Repeatedly, Rogel, Jr., a candidate for external vice chair, has been a key ally and organizer in addressing issues of sexual assault, school-to-prison pipelines and the accessibility and affordability of higher education.
Rogel, Jr. was the only UCSC student representative at the last UC Board of Regents meeting. He served as the undergraduate representative on the UC regents’s Planning and Budget committee and facilitated workshops at this year’s Lobby Corps. Before Monday night’s SUA debate, Rogel, Jr. was with the Sexual Assault Facts and Education (SAFE) program, participating in a short educational film about preventing sexual violence.
Sauli Colio, a candidate for the commissioner of diversity, also has a history of organizing to change this campus for the better. She has been an active member, coalition-builder and leader within one of UCSC’s largest student organizations, Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MEChA).
For three years, Colio has demonstrated a sustained commitment to the outreach and retention of Chican@ and Latin@ students, serving first as a coordinator for Oportunidades Rumbo A La Educación (ORALE) for two years, and now as a Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP) intern for Chican@s and Latin@s Educandose (ChALE) — both student-led and student-initiated organizations with a storied history of bolstering the diversity of UCSC’s student body.
While it would be foolish to ignore the experience afforded to those who have previously worked within SUA, it is equally thoughtless to assume that one candidate is more qualified than another simply because they’ve been an SUA member before — this is especially true given the evidence suggesting that SUA is detached from the student body and SUA Chair Lardinois’s criticism of SUA’s history of hijinks.
If you don’t know much about this year’s ballot, this issue includes information about SUA, the candidates and the proposed student fee measures. Whoever we vote into office this year should be worthy of both the salary officers earn, as well as the responsibility they take on as our student advocates.
Gabby Areas and Lauren Romero
Visit cityonahillpress.com for video interviews with candidates before voting at