With the clock ticking on campus elections, the Student Union Assembly hosted a virtual debate to garner election engagement from the student body. This comes after a record low turnout, with only 11 percent of students voting last spring.
Most of the candidates ran unopposed, as only two positions were competitive. All candidates still participated in the event.
Shivika Sivakumar — SUA President
Current SUA President Shivika Sivakumar was the first to debate her case for reelection, despite being the only candidate.
In her opening remarks, Sivakumar focused on the uncertainty surrounding the university’s future and the direction she plans to take it. Sivakumar commented on the success of her previous election campaign “CHANGE” and its accompanying initiatives like the social media-based crisis information system, which proved useful through the pandemic and wildfires. This year, she runs under the campaign slogan of “HOPE,” which aims to connect the campus community after what Sivakumar called a tough academic year.
The moderator for Sivakumar’s time slot, Nick Adair, asked her how the role of the presidency may change during an emergency.
“Because I’ve been a pandemic president, I’ve been faced with a whole lot of crisis.” Sivakumar said. “But I think that’s exactly why I stepped up and wanted to be the president — so I can have students’ backs.”
Rojina Bozorgnia — Vice President of External Affairs
The next position in the debate was the Vice President of External Affairs, which serves as the primary coordinator of campuswide SUA campaigns. Incumbent Rojina Bozorgnia is the only candidate for the 2021-22 academic year.
As VPEA, Bozorgnia advocated for increased COVID-19 testing capacity, worked to protect international students from being barred from attending classes this fall, and ensured job security for union workers during campus closures.
Each section was moderated by SUA affiliates. Questions were prepared beforehand by SUA, although moderators would deviate from prepared questions during cross examination when necessary.
Syd Abad – Associate Elections Commissioner
Nick Adair – College Elections Commissioner
Owen Cooksy – College Elections Commissioner
Alex Salkin – College Elections Commissioner Brent Insua— College Elections Commissioner
Bozorgnia led the office in promoting safer sleeping locations for houseless students and supporting student-led efforts to lower UC tuition costs during the pandemic.
If they were to be reelected, Bozorgnia says they plan to continue these efforts and improve areas where they may have lacked as Vice President since last year.
Dora Rasch vs. Matthew Moran — Vice President of Academic Affairs
This was the first portion of the debates that saw two candidates vying for one position. The Vice President of Academic Affairs coordinates social media and in-person initiatives and attends Academic Senate meetings as an undergraduate representative.
After a coin toss, Matthew Moran was the first to speak. Moderator Alex Salkin, a current college elections commissioner, was the first in the debate to cross-examine two candidates at once.
Moran focused on equity, inclusivity, and transparency within the academic senate. They plan to utilize social media as a means of communication between the SUA and the student body, while creating a biweekly podcast to discuss UC news and events.
“Historically, this office hasn’t reached out to students enough, and included them in valuable discussions, especially in academic settings,” Moran said. “As we know, an online environment has made transparency really difficult, and reaching out to students has been extremely hard. I want to change that, especially when we’re going back in person.”
Moran’s competitor, Dora Rasch, outlined their goals for the office position, namely improving the process for reporting allegations against faculty or staff.
Rasch also hopes to abolish the use of ProctorU and encourage instructors and UC Administration to give lower-stakes examinations and implement better teaching practices.
“My initiatives are to reform the academic integrity system, make official channels of justice available to students who want them, and to protect our student representation in the Academic Senate,” Rasch said. “The past year is only a highlight of the problems we have with it, and they’re not going to get fixed when we go back in person.”
The second of the two contested races saw Maria Dolores Castillo and Jose Marquez Cuevas compete for Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. This position maintains communication between the SUA and administrators, and organizes all programs on issues of diversity.
The debate started with Dolores Castillo reflecting on her experiences as a third-year at UCSC.
“As a 21-year-old, Latinx, first generation woman, I have been constantly fighting battles within myself on how I can be a more accepted member of society, and this is not right,” Dolores Castillo said. “I have grown a passion for building a more equitable, just, and inclusive environment for everyone around me.”
Dolores Castillo’s priorities include increasing student individuality and student organization representation, which she believes can be accomplished through dialogue between administration, students, resource centers, and student organizations.
Marquez Cuevas then laid out his planned initiatives, which include improving campus safety, increasing college affordability for low income students, encouraging students and student organizations to voice their concerns and provide feedback about any decision-making process at SUA, and ensure equitable vaccine distribution and logical approaches to maintaining public health.
Marquez Cuevas is a fourth-year at UCSC and the only transfer student running for a position in the SUA elections, a fact that he finds startling.
“Transfers don’t really have representation in any legislative body,” Cuevas said. “I’m trying to work alongside the Vice President of External Student Affairs, the SUA body, and anyone trying to increase transfer [student] representation within the SUA.”
Kayla Gomez — Vice President of Internal Affairs
Kayla Gomez is running unopposed for Vice President of Internal Affairs. This position was created to ensure that students fill campus committees, coordinate campus events and maintain the internal interests of the SUA.
Gomez shared four goals that she hopes to accomplish in the 2021-22 school year — increased retention and graduation rates, campus equity, transparency and inclusivity within the SUA, and COVID relief for students.
Many of the questions for Gomez centered on her goal for SUA transparency and inclusivity.
“If we want organizations and students to engage with SUA we need to be focused on actually making it accessible […] and making accountability a priority,” Gomez said. “Being honest and seeking to understand what we don’t know and honoring the knowledge of students.”
Jimmy Gomez — Vice President of Student Life
Jimmy Gomez is the sole candidate for the position of Vice President of Student Life. Responsibilities of the position include organizing programs and activities for the student body and working with the SUA to publicize and improve outreach for events.
His platform is based around three main ideas — increasing accessibility for basic needs, increasing student engagement, and advocating for mental health resources.
Gomez aims to accomplish his platform through maintaining programs that provide basic needs for students, such as CalFresh and the SUA food pantries. In addition, he plans to increase student engagement in SUA by supporting more funding for campus organizations and having more paid leadership positions within SUA.
To help student mental health, Gomez plans to work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to create workshops that focus on mental wellness and self-development for the UCSC community. He hopes this will create mental health resources that better identify with students and alleviate some of the pressure on Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
Ciara McDavis — Stevenson Elected Representative
Stevenson College is the only subsect of UCSC that nominated a representative for the 2021-22 election cycle, making Ciara McDavis the only representative set to be elected across all 10 colleges. The Stevenson Elected Representative speaks on behalf of Stevenson students to voice any of the community’s concerns or questions.
McDavis is the only first-year SUA candidate, meaning her UCSC experience has been primarily virtual. McDavis believes she will provide a unique perspective that will benefit the Stevenson students as the university transitions to in-person instruction this fall.
“This year with the pandemic has been tough, and it was a tough transition for me personally,” McDavis said. “As someone who was new to Zoom, I tried to get involved but it was discouraging. […] I am here today because I want to be a voice for the community and be an advocate.”
CHP is publishing this story during the week of June 7 as part of a backlog on unpublished content from spring 2021. The article was originally written on May 2.