Joe the Student has a one-up on Joe the Plumber: His name is actually Joe and he is, in fact, a student.
After a successful campaign to appeal to a broad swathe of students, new ASUCD President Joe Chatham and Vice President Chris Dietrich have an ambitious plan to overhaul ASUCD’s image.
Chatham and Dietrich, who ran as independents, mark the first time in four years that ASUCD has not been headed by the L.E.A.D. slate.
“There’ll be a lot of work for me in changing the attitude of student government,” Chatham said. “Right now it’s perceived as an elitist group. I want to rebrand ASUCD so that people can see what we do.”
Chatham vows to work more closely with the ASUCD Senate than outgoing ASUCD President Ivan Carrillo. Though L.E.A.D. holds the majority of the senate, Chatham has veto power. He said he wants to work with the senators rather than against them.
Chatham says his first priority is expanding wireless Internet access, which was one of the central issues of his campaign. Some lecture halls, such as 123 Science Lecture, are still without Wi-Fi.
“Professors think it’ll lower productivity of students, but most people in the administration are getting beyond that,” Chatham said. “It’s a good resource, especially as we move into more interactive stuff.”
Dietrich’s first project will be to improve bike infrastructure to expand covered bike parking, which was also one of his platform goals as a senator. He also wants to renew ties between the Aggie Pack and ASUCD to improve cross-marketing efforts.
With UC tuition rising 10 percent by the summer and looming ASUCD budget cuts, fiscal issues will likely dominate Chatham and Dietrich’s term. Both executives plan to continue L.E.A.D.’s advocacy efforts in Sacramento. They do not plan to re-join the University of California Student Association, which includes all of the UC campuses except Davis.
Dietrich said UC Davis’ proximity allows the campus to engage in more cost-effective efforts via its own Lobby Corps, rather than subsidize travel for the other UC campuses.
“We want to have a relationship with UCSA and communicate with them, but we can reinvest $30,000 into Lobby Corps, which is much more efficient,” Dietrich said.
Next spring’s budget hearings will likely be contentious, as ASUCD faces cuts of up to $60,000. To help offset the costs, Chatham wants Unitrans to absorb the Tipsy Taxi unit, which he says will save $20,000.
Their next cut will likely be more controversial. Pathfinder, a philanthropic K-12 outreach program for underprivileged students, has been a unit dear to L.E.A.D. and opposing ASUCD presidential candidate Lula Ahmed-Falol. But the unit is plagued by poor administration and its function is already covered by other campus units, Chatham said.
“I think it really has been pretty ineffective,” Chatham said. “There are serious, serious concerns.”
Dietrich said not all of Pathfinder’s $10,000 budget would be eliminated, but the money could be redirected to other units that serve underprivileged communities.
Chatham and Dietrich said they plan to work together more closely than outgoing President Carrillo and Vice President Molly Fluet, who had different priorities and constituencies.
But Chatham and Dietrich may have to wait before embarking on their platform projects, as an ASUCD court case challenging their election is pending.
Though Chatham said he has already privately met with many senators to get off on the right foot, Carrillo had refused to meet with him until yesterday.
As the ASUCD president serves as the sole student representative on a number of committees – including the one to determine the next UC Davis chancellor – Carrillo possesses institutional knowledge valuable to Chatham.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to meet with [Chatham] because the complaint is still filed,” Carrillo said. “Once the decision is made, I will definitely get behind him.”
Though the election has generated a firestorm of controversy, it may have silver lining: widespread publicity for ASUCD.
“I think students at large should be coming to request help from student government,” Chatham said. “The overall problem is that people aren’t coming at all.”
LAUREN STEUSSY contributed to this article.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.