ASUCD President Joe Chatham and Vice President Chris Dietrich came into office amid controversy over their slim margin of victory.
With their successors also assuming the reins of government after a disputed election, the two leaders felt they accomplished much in their term in light of this and other crises that came to define their presidency.
Chatham and Dietrich were elected with the second largest voter-turnout in Aggie history. But they also defeated L.E.A.D. candidates Lula Ahmed-Falol and Rebecca Schwartz by a mere 13 votes. The close election convinced them to not take their offices for granted.
“I knew it could have easily gone the other way,” said Dietrich, a senior political science major. “So I really had to work at it, give it my all because somehow – I’m here. It was a motivator for me.”
Running as independents, Chatham and Dietrich, campaigned on a platform with objectives such as improving campus bike infrastructure and safety, committing resources to sustainability, strengthening student advocacy and balancing the budget.
In a year wracked with budget cuts, both Chatham and Dietrich believed they accomplished many of their goals.
Chatham said he was particularly proud of his efforts in strengthening student advocacy, such as expanding the activities and resources of Lobby Corps, which recruits students to promote campus issues to university and state government officials.
“We knew that it [advocacy] would be an important thing this year,” Chatham said. “They’ve been expanding and very active at both the state, university level and also at the city level.”
Dietrich was proud of his work on expanding covered bike parking to the Memorial Union and his current project of publishing student evaluations of instructors and courses online.
Both expressed satisfaction with the establishment of wireless Internet in Wellman and Giedt Hall and other academic classrooms. They also mentioned the ongoing process of setting up video podcasting – with a bill to establish a system in 194 Chemistry and 123 Science Lecture Hall now going through the Senate – as a sign of their success.
“I think overall, it [the presidency] was successful,” said former ASUCD senator Kevin Massoudi, who worked with the presidents on the wireless Internet project. “The emphasis was pushed to more services provided to students, more so than in the past.”
Reflecting on unfinished objectives, Chatham and Dietrich said they wanted to do more in encouraging independent candidates to run for office.
But ASUCD senator Adam Thongsavat said the two executives have already increased the viability of independent candidates to run for office.
“They’ve definitely paved the way for people like me, Kevin Massoudi and Justin Petrizio,” said Thongsavat, a junior history major. “Joe didn’t run a very political campaign. He ran a result-oriented campaign.”
Looking back at their year, Chatham and Dietrich said they were most surprised at the increased level of responsibility and work that came with the presidency. Both were struck by having to make the final decisions and acting as liaisons between the administration and the students.
“It was a real challenge, and it still is,” Chatham said. “And I finally feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it and now we’re done.
The Chatham and Dietrich presidency also weathered a year of state budget cuts to the UC and student fee increases, during which the ASUCD Senate passed a vote of no confidence resolution (SR #9) for UC President Mark Yudof.
Chatham defended his veto of the no confidence resolution saying it was more constructive for the administration and students to work together.
“I would definitely take the same position that I did,” Chatham said. “I think there’s a more productive way to handle it that’s going to get more of a result for the average student.”
However Mo Torres, former ASUCD senator and author of SR #9, said he was disappointed in the Chatham presidency for undermining student activism. The veto, he said, hurt students on a personal level and prevented ASUCD from confronting the UC administration.
“This was a perfect time when the ASUCD president could have been a strong voice for UC Davis students,” Torres said. “Unfortunately, he was a really strong voice for the UC Davis administration. He represented the chancellor and chancellor’s office so much better than he represented the students.”
In closing, Chatham and Dietrich advised their successors to be open to other opinions in ASUCD but to also do what they think is right. Time management and pursuing priorities were also crucial.
“Be willing to say no,” Dietrich said. “You’ve got to focus your time and your energy on what’s really important. You’ve got do what you feel is the best thing you can accomplish.”
Talking about the troubles the next executive team might face, Chatham said that his work in ASUCD sometimes affected his personal relationships with others.
“Having people blatantly not like me and losing friends over decisions I made in ASUCD, that was a pretty hard lesson,” Chatham said. “That was emotionally hard for me sometimes.”
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.