Editor’s note: Last Thursday, Abrham Castillo-Ruiz, Don Ho, Joel Juarez, Andre Lee, Levi Menovske and Bree Rombi termed out as ASUCD senators. The Aggie interviewed the senators to see what they felt were the highlights of their year in office.
Castillo-Ruiz said the only reason he ran was because under-represented communities needed a voice in ASUCD. His platform issues focused on ethnic graduations, increasing AB540 awareness, increasing the number of 24-hour rooms during finals week, opposing Sodexo and fighting for the Chicana/o studies department.
The ethnic/lavender graduations were put into the budget with relative ease, the MU was opened up as a 24-hour room during finals week and Sodexo signed with a union. However, Castillo-Ruiz said he can’t take credit for these actions.
“I felt like it didn’t really come from me, but the job got done and that’s what we wanted,” he said. “I was happy for that.”
Castillo-Ruiz ended up dropping the AB540 issue but was able to restore two of the three lost faculty positions within in the Chicana/o studies department.
“To be honest, because of the way most of those issues turned out, I almost feel like I regret running for senate in the first place,” he said. “But I don’t regret being there purely as a representative.”
Castillo-Ruiz doesn’t plan on staying involved with ASUCD.
“I feel like the kind of change – the kind of impact I want to create – isn’t going to be achieved through ASUCD or some other institution,” he said.
Ho aimed to represent the “Average Joe’s” on campus.
“I feel that most of the campus is underrepresented and I thought I represented that constituency very well,” he said. “I’m proud of my voting record, what I said and did.”
His platform issues included bringing mainstream entertainment to campus, tailgating at sporting events, the edible garden and budget transparency.
“Entertainment Council is there for us but I always felt like they were doing alternative, indie things that are not conducive to mainstream audiences,” Ho said.
Ho also worked with the athletic department for tailgating and worked with Menovske to author a bill for the edible garden.
“I hope for the future senators, there is a lot more collaboration,” he said. “Senate is very divided and everyone’s proud of their individual projects. I wish I’d understood earlier that all the senators and everyone at the table is working toward one goal – we’re just doing it for the students.”
Ho is in the process of working with controller Joey Chen and the webmaster on his last platform issue to make it easy for students to have access to the ASUCD budget by winter quarter.
He also intends to stay involved in ASUCD by applying for a commission or interning for a senator.
“It would be a shame that any leaving senator just forgets that they put so much of their time and so much of their soul into their projects,” he said.
An ASUCD senator should represent the entire student body, Juarez said.
“As a queer person of color, I was always pushing for certain issues because I haven’t seen any of those issues addressed by other senators and they weren’t going to be brought up until I brought them up,” he said.
Juarez’s big platform issues were anonymous HIV testing, making financial aid information more accessible and creating a student advocate position.
With the HIV testing, Juarez collaborated with other senators to find money in the budget for health and education services. Juarez also worked on financial aid awareness week, which offered events put on by representatives from the financial aid office that ranged from workshops on budgeting to how to fill out a FAFSA. He hopes to bring the week back this year.
He has also worked on the student advocate program, where a student in legal trouble would have accessibility to legal information, but it has yet to be created.
Juarez plans to stay involved on campus, although his involvement may not be within ASUCD.
Lee’s original platform issues included creating a program for first-years about bike safety, making Picnic Day more sustainable and creating a rest lounge for students. Lee also had plans for a bike-sharing program, but said he dropped it early on when he realized it was unfeasible.
“The platform I was most recognized for and most interested in was getting a sort of rest lounge on campus,” Lee said. “But it’s been very difficult. There are just so many veto points, so many people with a say.”
Lee collaborated with Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS), AggieTV and the Bike Barn to make an informational video and brochures that were distributed to 400 first-years. He is also working to make the campus more compostable, including Picnic Day.
“Part of the reason I ran a second term is I really want to see these things finished,” Lee said. “I’m humbled the students gave me a second chance.”
However for Lee, being a good ASUCD senator isn’t just about accomplishing platform issues, but attending senate meetings, commission meetings, hiring committees, being effective unit sponsors and holding office hours.
“Everyone runs on a lot of really big platform issues,” he said. “They want to change the world. What gets lost is being competent.”
For Menovske, a large part of being a senator is to author legislation. However, he said he only chose to write pieces that applied to his platform issues.
“There are so many different things that fall under student interests that it’s absolutely impossible to represent them all,” Menovske said. “I did a good job of sticking to what I said I would do. I held myself to that standard and didn’t make an effort to take on extra projects.”
Menovske’s platform issues were to start a textbook rental program at the bookstore, lay the groundwork for an edible garden and increase financial aid awareness. Menovske was able to successfully implement the rental program this fall as well as lay the base for the edible garden.
“It was a success overall,” he said. “But it was really just the groundwork. This is a project that I’m really passionate about and I want to see it prosper before I graduate.”
Menovske intends to stay involved in both of his main projects and keep working with ASUCD until he graduates.
Rombi’s main issues were bringing class readers to Campus Copies, composting and updating the ASUCD website to include a calendar.
She worked to get Campus Copies a new binding machine and more business through the Education Abroad Center.
Rombi said a lot of people thought it was a waste of time to run on composting as a platform. However, with help from people in the Memorial Union, Grounds Division and Will Klein, a senior environmental science and management major, she was able to bring composting to the MU and the ASUCD Coffee House.
Rombi has only just begun to work on the ASUCD website with Chen.
“A lot of senators that I know did more after senate than as a senator,” Rombi said. “I feel like I did a lot when I was in senate and I still want to continue.”
Of the six senators terming out, Rombi was the only one to meet and exceed the 80-hour office hour requirement, which was one of the reasons she received the Michael J. Tucker award.
AKSHAYA RAMANUJAM can be reached at email@example.com.