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Friday, January 28, 2022

Letter to the Editor: Regarding “YOU Should Run for Senate”

Last week, The California Aggie published an opinion piece by the ASUCD Elections Chair entitled “YOU Should Run for Senate.” I took issue with many of the claims made in this piece. With this I mean no disrespect to the Elections Chair; I consider Mr. Renslo a good friend and unquestionably qualified in his role. However, having run successfully for Senate myself, I would like to address his arguments for running for Senate and present some of my own. I will begin with his three reasons, which I’ve paraphrased here.

           1. Student government has a $11.8 million budget, which senators approve.

Most of this money is not discretionary to Senate, being preemptively allotted to Unitrans and the CoHo each year, and the rest is awarded as closely to arbitrarily as possible. There is little consideration of each units’ budget in the context of the rest, and most of the discussion from my peers during budget hearings was not focused around how to optimize our day-to-day, but how to fund pet programs. The numbers are quite appealing to rattle off to voters, so if you, dear reader, decide to run for Senate, this is still a good figure to remember.

           2. Senators legislate and vote.

Our only explicit duty is not one to be neglected, but this is hardly an appealing facet of the job to many beyond a political nerd, which is one of the biggest issues in student government. How well do we reflect the student body if we have not had a senator from the College of Engineering in over a decade? The College of Bioscience found its first representative in nearly as long just last quarter in Senator Sahota, with Senator Torres and myself happily serving as the occasional delegates for the College of Ag. If you’re already sold on politics, I don’t need to convince you, but if you’re not, understand that your unique perspective could provide something incredibly valuable to the whole student body.

           3. Senators are attractive potential employees.

Too many treat Senate like Teach for America or a “gap year” in a foreign country, where the experiences they gain end up being all about themselves rather than the people they are supposed to be serving. Chair Renslo’s article reinforces that, going as far as to herald Senate as a fantastic talking point in job interviews. Personally, I would prefer to be represented by someone whose first priority is to make the student experience at UC Davis better, not to bloat their resume.

So why should you run for Senate?

           1. You’ve found success in making a difference elsewhere on campus, and would like to use your skills on a larger scale.

           2. You’ve identified areas on campus that could use improvement and will work tirelessly to make sure that they’re made whole.

           3. You believe in representative democracy and are excited to endlessly address the needs of the student body.

If these things are true of you, make sure you do what very few of your potential predecessors have done and attend a Senate meeting and a few commissions so that you know what you’re getting yourself into, and talk to someone in the position who’s not emotionally invested in seeing you run in the race.

And if you are indeed set on running for public office at this wonderful university of ours, also make sure to check out another feature The Aggie ran last week: a visual breakdown of ASUCD. The graphic details the three branches of government that mirror the federal system our country and state employ, and what they mean in the context of UC Davis. However, something absolutely critical is missing from it — the components of student government that really matter.

ASUCD is not the collective of self-important students who “govern” but instead is the hundreds of people who drive the busses, make your coffee, compost your bananas, fix your bike, provide food to hungry students, save the environment, drive you back from parties on weekends, lobby on behalf of the student body and host a radio show at 4 a.m. on a school night. That it’s all run by individuals who often begin their tenure without even being able to name every unit is testament only to this nation’s understandable love of democracy.

Given all that, if you believe that you’d be able to make an impact on the student body that is positive, substantial and permanent, I encourage you to run for ASUCD Senate. Show us what you have to offer; Aggies are easily satisfied with the very best.

Miles Thomas

ASUCD Senator

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