Protesters shut down ASUCD Candidate Debate

Protesters shut down ASUCD Candidate Debate

Photo Credits: LUIS LOPEZ / AGGIE

All candidates leave event in solidarity, join in with protesters

The semi-annual ASUCD Candidate Debate was held the morning of Feb. 19, the first day of the 2019 Winter Elections. There are 12 prospective senatorial candidates running for six open positions on either the Unite! or BASED slates. There are also two executive tickets running for the presidential and vice presidential positions from both slates.

The debate, which took place at the CoHo, began with the candidates present introducing themselves and explaining their platforms. Candidates addressed questions such as “what is the difference between a committee and a commission” and asked about working with the association’s budget.

Third-year managerial economic major Andre Spinoglio, running on the Unite! slate, serves as the current ASUCD Business and Finance chair and has extensive experience working with the budget. In this position, he has witnessed first-hand the lack of knowledge there is in the association about the handling of the budget. He emphasized the importance of budget hearings and said, if elected, he wants to make the hearings process run more smoothly and ensure elected officials are better informed about financial operations.

Questions were taken from the audience, the first of which accused the Unite! slate of being anti-Black and of other discriminatory acts and behaviors. Second-year English major Victoria Choi, running on the Unite! slate said she felt the question was hostile but also said she supports UC Davis students.

Another member of the audience asked the candidates where they would like to see changes made in the association. Fourth-year English major George Liao, running with Unite!, said he wants to see more of an effort made by elected officials to attend community meetings.

Third-year political science major Perla Ornelas, running with the BASED slate, also addressed the question, saying that as a member of the Chicanx/Latinx community, she would like to see greater outreach to underserved communities.

“There’s a lack of presence of ASUCD at the Chi center,” Ornelas said. “I’ve been here for three years and it really took me three years to know that I could […] run [as a] candidate or vote and have my voice heard.”

Third-year sociology and Chicana/o Studies double major Anna Estrada, running with BASED, said she would like to see a greater push for more mental health resources.

A member from the audience asked the candidates to address an action taken by the association they disagreed with.

“Something I really disagreed with was the way the Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission handled the reaction to the Natalie Corona officer shooting,” said third-year managerial economics major Arjan Singh Heer, running on the Unite! Slate. “As a person of color, I totally understand the fear of law enforcement because I share that fear sometimes. But the fact of the matter is a young woman, not too much older to us and local to the area died.”

The candidates were asked how they would show support for undocumented students on campus if elected.

Karolina Rodriguez, a first-year political science and Chicana/o studies double major running on the BASED slate, said ASUCD should be aware that a lot of undocumented students don’t feel comfortable and safe with a police presence on campus and this presence should be limited.

During Liao’s answer to this question about undocumented students, a group of student protesters began chanting “What do we do when we’re under attack? Stand up fight back.” Liao stopped speaking, and the protesters began chanting “Join us.”

“We want the candidates to speak on the anti-Blackness within the association, so as students running, what will you do to ensure that black students on this campus feel safe?” one of the student protesters, holding a large banner with the words “F*** ICE,” said into a megaphone.

The same student protester referenced an executive candidate who they claimed had made racist comments.

“I really want to thank y’all for showing up, this is amazing and this is exactly the type of student advocacy and student activism that needs to be supported on this campus,” said third-year cognitive science and sociology double major Shreya Deshpande, running for vice president on the BASED slate. “No hatred should be tolerated. I’m here in solidarity and I’m going to walk out with this entire rally right now.”

Deshpande then stood up and left the table.

Shondreya Landrum, a third-year political science and cognitive science double major running on the BASED slate, then addressed the protesters.

“Thank you all for coming out, as you can see, I am Black,” she said. “Being on campus is so hard sometimes, it’s so hard to walk around and not feel safe. If I don’t speak up, if we don’t speak up, nothing will ever be said.”

Estrada, a self-identified Latina, also said she stands in solidarity with every student on campus and left the table.

“As a white man, I can’t really claim to be an ally if I don’t stand up for this type of thing and join y’all,” said fourth-year evolution and international relations double major Justin Hurst, running for president on the BASED slate.

One by one, members of the BASED voiced their support with the protesters and left in solidarity.

“You ask us how we’re going to be different, I’m going to show you how we’re going to be different,” Hacker said. “I’m joining too.”

After Hacker left, all of the Unite! candidates followed suit. The last to leave was Liao, who finished his response to the question about undocumented students, saying every student has a right to study at UC Davis, “no matter where you come from.”

With no candidates left sitting at the table, the debate was cancelled. The group of student protesters and the candidates exited the CoHo, chanting “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now. And if we don’t get it? Shut it down.”

Written by: Alexis Lopez-Perez and Hannah Holzer — campus@theaggie.org