The Student Union Assembly (SUA) serves as the undergraduate student government at UC Santa Cruz and the voice representing the student body. It is made up of six elected officers who lead the organization, as well as elected and appointed representatives from colleges and ethnic and identity organizations.
Questions and answers edited for brevity and clarity.
SUA Presidential Candidates
The SUA president serves as a leader and spokesperson for the student body. This entails leading the SUA internally and representing the student body to external bodies like administrators. This year’s president, Tias Webster, was hired in February after the former president resigned. Since taking office, Webster said he has worked to tackle issues regarding the SUA’s purpose. Webster said he has worked toward transparency, by uploading daily reports on the SUA website and tabling in the Quarry Plaza almost weekly.
City on a Hill Press: How would you describe the SUA’s current relationship with SOMeCA-identified organizations? Would you work to change it? And if so, how?
Max Jimenez, second-year, Kresge College
“I know that the SUA used to be a part of SOMeCA [Student Organization Advising & Resources (SOAR), Student Media and Cultural Arts & Diversity] and at that time it was more student oriented, in my opinion. Now that it is under the Dean of Students I feel like it has become a lot different in terms of the dynamic with different student organizations, and because I am a part of SOMeCA, and I’ve been involved with a lot of spaces with different ethnic groups, different organizing groups and groups affiliated with the university or not, I have a good relationship with different organizations. I feel like the SUA needs a different type of support, one that follows the student agency model, that makes sure it is really students who are creating their spaces and not having students provide it for them.”
Jacob Jones, third-year, Porter College
“Well clearly the SUA president and all the officers have to work right with all the big organizations on campus, all the ethnic organizations […] and all those sorts of things. The SUA really hasn’t had a good relation with them. A/BSA [the Afrikan/Black Student Alliance] recently came to the SUA last quarter and was discussing their demands and what they wanted the president to do was sit down with the chancellor and clearly that meeting wasn’t a success and instead A/BSA had to go out of their way to not necessarily occupy, but reclaim Kerr Hall to have their demands met. The president should have already been able to have that worked out with the chancellor beforehand, and the president should have been talking with the heads of the ethnic organizations to be like, ‘How should we go about this? How should we address this problem?’”
Jane Loughboro, third-year, Crown College
“I think that the SUA has a definite issue when it comes to that relationship because this year the officers have been mostly focused on working on their own projects, which I think has been very good for helping students. However, it’s a lot more direct to be engaged with those spaces, especially outside of the SUA space. I also want the SUA to become a more welcoming space, because it’s hostile even for the members within it, so it’s very hard for someone to come into this space and feel like they can share their problems with us. Beyond that, I think it’s necessary to work on collaborating with those organizations as well as bringing them into administrative spaces because, again, I’m not here to tell students what they need. I think it’s very important for the SUA to use its advantages — the advantages that it has as an organization that has connections to administration — by amplifying those student voices.”
CHP: What is something you would potentially do differently than the current SUA president?
M.J.: “Something I would do differently is actually engage with the students because I’ve been a part of different organizations on campus. I’ve been in the SUA before, I know how it works and I’ve also been in other spaces like with co-ops [and] environmental groups. I’m even a part of non-affiliated groups who organize on campus because they don’t want to go through the institutional barriers, but they do have a lack of resources. In my opinion, what I’m going to do differently is actually going to the events, being present. When things come up we need to be present, we need to be there. Whether we are leading it or being part of it, it is important that we be present and know what is going on. […] I’m a strong believer of surveys, but students are not statistics. We need to fix that and instead we need to have one-on-one conversations with these leaders because having statistics is not going to do anything. We need to listen to these stories and individualized experiences.”
J.J.: “I want to put more pressure on George Blumenthal. He has straight up bulldozed everything that the students are about. He’s essentially an obstacle to student success on campus. The housing crisis is only getting worse by accepting more students. We’re at maximum capacity. George Blumenthal really doesn’t care, I personally don’t think George Blumenthal cares at all for the students. Maybe he says he does, but I really don’t think so and […] my biggest plan as president, if I win, would be to put direct pressure on George Blumenthal and make sure that demands are met. All the student life, we’ll get a list, I already have a list of what I think is important. But I think George Blumenthal is going to have to meet the demands of the students. Otherwise I feel like the president should be in charge of a strike or a shutdown of campus or an occupying of Kerr Hall. All of these are good steps in the right direction to make sure demands are met by the students. If George Blumenthal’s not at work getting his paycheck, then he’s going to be pretty upset about that, so he’s going to have to meet the demands of the students if he wants his paycheck.”
J.L.: “I’ve been working in the Office of the President this year and there have been a few things I’ve been disappointed with. I have seen this general attitude where the relationship to administration is placed above interacting with students, especially in regards to the activism recently, especially with the May Day protests that happened. I think that while the SUA does have a foot in the door when it comes to talking to administration, the best way it can serve students is by getting that door opened. And it’s not going to be able to be fully related to students or bring them into those spaces with an understanding of what they need if they’re refusing to interact with students on a regular basis.”
Vice President of External Affairs
The vice president of external affairs (VPEA) is responsible for advocating on behalf of UCSC undergraduates on local, state and federal levels by representing the SUA to the UC and nationwide student organizing bodies, the UC Student Association and the United States Student Association. Before the presidential election, current VPEA Judith Gutiérrez headed efforts to register students to vote and lobbied for bills that would protect affected students. She has also hosted on-campus events and facilitated the UC Santa Cruz Housing Survey to gather data on student houselessness.
CHP: Do feel like the SUA has been accessible to the student body within the past year?
Judith Gutiérrez, third-year, Rachel Carson College
“In my opinion, the SUA by definition has been accessible in the fact that our meetings are open, but in the literal sense it is not accessible to students. You ask a student if they’ve heard of the SUA, and chances are 70 percent of the room, or 60 percent [will] say they haven’t heard of it. It’s a little disheartening on my end because as the external vice president, my work by definition is external. It’s outside of the campus, it’s systemwide, with the UC Student Association and the United States Student Association. A lot of the work we do is just pushing for longterm solutions at the local, state and federal level and to come back here and see that students feel a disconnect to their own student government is disappointing, but definitely something we should and can improve on.”
Vice President of Internal Affairs
The vice president of internal affairs (VPIA) chairs the Student Committee on Committees (SCOC) and works to ensure there is a student voice on various committees on campus to speak on behalf of student needs. This year, VPIA Grace Shefcik worked on creating an orientation for students appointed to the Academic Senate and worked with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to address issues surrounding mental health on campus. She also chaired multiple committees that required an SUA representative. Shefcik served as a temporary stand-in president before Tias Webster took the position
CHP: What will you do to make the SUA more transparent and accessible to students?
Alice Malmberg, third-year, Cowell College
““I have several things in mind for that. My first is to really get freshmen orientated — new students — oriented right away. And I plan to do that not only by tabling at summer orientation as officers have done in past years but also [by] going to the colleges during their welcome weeks, during their events that are mandatory for all new students and explaining this is what the SUA does, this is what I do, this is how you can get involved [and] this is where you can go if you need help or you want to do something. And I also want to promote through SCOC [Student Committee on Committees] committee membership in the same way. And a final thing I want to do is, officers are required to have three hours of office hours every week in the SUA office, but in addition to that I want to have open tabling hours in more accessible locations such as outside of libraries, dining halls and in [Quarry Plaza] to really connect with students and figure out what the areas of greatest need are so I can do a temperature check and make sure I’m advocating for what students need the most. And I will encourage other officers, regardless of who they are, to do the same.”
Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion
The vice president of diversity and inclusion (VPDI) helps coordinate programming related to diversity. This involves keeping track of enrollment statistics and being in contact with ethnic and identity resource centers, the Educational Opportunities Program and the Title IX Office. This year’s VPDI, Hector Navarro, met with Campus Diversity Officer Teresa Maria Linda Scholz, helped plan the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation and collaborated with UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis to plan a town hall with the UCSC Police Department, which was canceled due to the Kerr Hall reclamation.
CHP: This year, there have been many instances of hate and bias incidents, what do you think of the university’s response and what, if anything, would you do differently?
Katherine Lê, second-year, College Nine
“There certainly have been responses to different hate crimes and incidents on campus, but I think that more could have certainly been done in regards to it — not only [by] reaching out to protect communities that have been directly impacted by these hate crimes but also [by] making sure the larger student body knows that the university does not support these hate crimes that are going on, especially with the flyering and things like that. So, in summary, although efforts have been made, I believe that underresourced and marginalized student groups on this campus deserve to be supported more. I think the political climate directly relates to why these incidents are happening more and more on this campus and there is certainly a heightened sense of fear and prejudice revolving around the rhetoric that is currently being dispersed. I believe the university certainly has the power to do more, whether it be listening to students more rather than telling them how they should reach out or feel about the issue. I think that that is incredibly important in making sure that students consistently have resources for them to be able to uplift communities on this campus.”
Jay Semana, who is a VPDI candidate, did not participate in an interview with City on a Hill Press.
Vice President of Academic Affairs
The vice president of academic affairs (VPAA)’s role is to advance undergraduate student academic success, which includes being in communication with the UCSC and UC academic senates. The current VPAA, Jessica Xu, was hired mid-February to replace Tias Webster when he became president. Xu started her time in office meeting with campus resource centers, EOP and Learning Support Services (LSS) to gauge where students need the most academic support. She regularly meets with administrators to discuss issues which they may not realize affect academic success, such as the price of materials and the impact of shortened class time.
CHP: Do feel like the Academic Senate has been accessible to the student body within the past year?
Jessica Xu, second-year, College Ten
“No. It’s always very puzzling to me that there are so many administrators and adults that work to advance student academic success and there is minimal student input. I take my job very seriously and I think that the [students on the] Student Academic Senate, which is the [student] counterpart to the Academic Senate, also take their jobs very seriously because we are responsible for representing the needs of over 16,000 undergraduate students. And the decision the Academic Senate makes does impact every student because we are all here for academics and we are all here to pursue a degree in higher education. So I guess the short answer is no, definitely not. But I think that that makes jobs like mine and jobs like the Student Academic Senate’s even more meaningful and influential as well as all of the undergraduates who sit as representatives. So a lot of the Academic Senate committees have anywhere from a dozen administrators or faculty members and just one student to voice the concern of all of the undergraduate population. So the ratio is just completely absurd. But we have got to do what we can given our means.”
Vice President of Student Life
The vice president of student life’s (VPSL) duty is to create and advertise programming for students. This year is the first the SUA has had this officer position. Previously the sixth officer position, the organizing director (OD) oversaw relations between the Vice President of External Affairs (VPEA) and the Vice President of Internal Affairs (VPIA). With the approval of the student body in spring 2015, the SUA amended its constitution in light of a student survey, which showed students think the SUA should organize more programs. The amendment moved the OD position under the VPIA’s office and the sixth officer position was changed to the role of VPSL. This year’s VPSL, Tamra Owens, worked toward improving mental health services on campus, creating more programs in collaboration with student organizations and creating a food pantry to address student food insecurity.
CHP: What types of events would you prioritize if elected and why?
Tamra Owens, third-year, Oakes College
“I really want to prioritize having more concerts on campus. Earlier this year I released a student life survey campuswide and over 2,600 students responded to it. When asked ‘What do you want to see the SUA support more?’ far beyond anything else, number one was music events. I want to go look at that survey and that’s how I dictate what to do for the next year because students voice their opinions, and that is what they want to have. Also, with the Quarry Amphitheater opening next year, it will be a lot easier to go host these events as well. So I want to have more music events, I want to host more comedy shows since that was also on the top three of what students want. Anything that students want is what I want to prioritize.”
Jennifer Santos, second-year, College Nine
“So there are different plans that I want to prioritize. However, one thing that I really would like to plan is to have this big kickoff event at week zero, which is like the very first time that first-year students come to this campus. And having this big event where student musicians, artists and even athletes come together onto a huge stage, and it’s this huge kickoff event where they can show off the kind of skills and talents that students have on campus, so that the transfers and first-year students can see what UCSC is all about. […] And also another program that I really want to emphasize is having a mental health program that would allow students to also learn about the importance of understanding what mental health is, because I know a lot of students may not know how to go about it because we all come from different backgrounds. But also just making sure that what’s being advocated and what’s being addressed is important, so having a program for that. And also another program that I would like to see is having all of the ethnic organizations come together on campus and having one big event together. I do know we have MCF [the Multicultural Festival] which is coming up soon actually and I think that just having that established throughout the whole year, just the ethnic organizations coming together. Because that brings liveliness of student life here and having various events for that, but one kickoff event for that, would be super awesome. And I would like to see that here at UCSC because we promote diversity but I also want to bring that into student life here on campus.”
How to Vote:
Voting has begun and will close at midnight on May 23. Students can vote online. This year’s ballot includes funding referendum measures 67 and 68, amendments to the SUA constitution, SUA officer elections and opinion polls for the Career Center, Slug Support and the Student Environmental Center.
Full interviews here.