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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Senator term review: Shaitaj Dhaliwal


At the end of the Winter Quarter, Shaitaj Dhaliwal’s one-year term as an ASUCD senator came to a close.

Dhaliwal spent four years in ASUCD. She served as an ASUCD staffer her freshmen year, worked on the Office of Advocacy and Student Representation board and became chief of staff for the executive office as a sophomore. She then was elected senator in the Winter Quarter 2016 elections.

Her platforms in 2016 included starting a student-based music festival, offering healthier food choices at the Silo and creating temporary lounge spaces within Shields Library. According to Dhaliwal, these platforms were thwarted following the resignation of former Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, as all required the signature of the chancellor to allocate the necessary funds for each project.

During her time in Senate, Dhaliwal, along with former ASUCD President Alex Lee, was invited by Interim Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter to participate in UC Davis’ decision in the switch from food vendor Sodexo when the contract expires at the end of this year. By agreeing to a new contract with the University Managed Food Service, healthier food options would be made available in the Silo. Dhaliwal’s involvement in this process included reviewing the potential options for new food vendors to make sure they aligned with her vision of providing students with healthy food options.

Dhaliwal also had the chance to meet with contractor Koby Learner to discuss student lounging spaces in Shields Library. During her campaign, Dhaliwal heard student opinions on what should be included in a library renovation and participated in the open forums as part of The University Library Space Planning Project to gain knowledge on the student body’s opinion regarding the library’s future. She took these ideas to Learner during her meeting with him and, in return, received a promise from the contracting company that they would implement the desired aspects in the future construction.

“I’m happy to know that whatever they do end up doing with the library isn’t just what the consultants think is right, but is actually what student input suggests,” Dhaliwal said.

Dhaliwal was unable to fulfill her platform of establishing a student music festival. UC Davis currently has the highest student government fees, which are imposed on all students, in the entire UC system. Dhaliwal was hesitant to increase the ASUCD student fees, which would be a necessary step for the prospect of a music festival.

“[Alex Lee] was in the works of getting the fee referendum with the Entertainment Council [for the music festival], which is essentially another student fee that students would be paying for in order to fund, which I was really against,” Dhaliwal said. “I already know [UC Davis is at] the top of the list […] for the highest tuition and fees of all the UCs.”

Instead, a tentative music festival is scheduled for fall 2017. The event is a collaboration of Dhaliwal, Senator Jose Meneses and possibly the executive branch and will showcase student talent on a stage that UC Davis already owns for use during the Whole Earth Festival. The event would be student-run and completely ASUCD funded.

In addition to working on her platforms, Dhaliwal was able to establish UC Davis as the first college to host a Silver Ribbon Campaign, an event that promotes women’s reproductive health and rights. Dhaliwal hopes that with help from new Senator Rahi Suryawanshi, the campaign will become an annual event on campus. Also during the 2016-17 year, Dhaliwal worked with the ASUCD Entrepreneurship Fund and the club Start Up Hub to organize the first UC Davis conference for business and entrepreneurship. The event is slated to be held May 28 this year.

KDVS and Picnic Day were Dhaliwal’s adopted units — units that she felt were sufficiently self-reliant. Her involvement within these units consisted mostly of assisting with bureaucratic processes and scheduling quarterly check-ins.

“We did not have a lot going on while she was our adopted senator, so we did not do much one-on-one,” KDVS general manager Olivia Henderson said. “Our major stuff wasn’t major. It didn’t require her to get down and dirty. She was a supportive senator and a great person.”

As a senator, Dhaliwal sponsored five bills and had a staff of six, two of whom, Meneses and Suryawanshi, are now current senators. According to Lee, Dhaliwal voted “occasionally” during Senate and had a lack of noteworthy achievements during her term.

“Aside from the Silver Ribbon Campaign, I cannot think of any other remarkable feats,” Lee said. “I am not too sure about the remarkableness of her term.”

Lee also noted that this lack of term accomplishments was common in Senate and attributed it partially to lack of accountability enforced from the student body and little competition during elections.

To future senators, Dhaliwal gave the advice to find a work-life balance. She noted that often senators deal with copious amounts of criticism and stress.

“I would definitely say a work-life balance is really important,” Dhaliwal said. “If you just see [senators] at senate meetings, the reasons why they get so upset over minor things are because they are really stressed out over everything else that’s going on […] Senate I would say is more stressful than exec, and that’s just because you’re criticized so much more whereas exec you can always fall behind your office, close those doors and just take some time.”


Written by: Lindsay Floyd  — campus@theaggie.org


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