ASUCD office brings student issues to the state Capitol

ASUCD office brings student issues to the state Capitol

Photo Credits: ANDREA ESQUETINI / COURTESY

Office works on food, housing insecurity issues

A student-run office under the ASUCD executive branch that works to represent the needs of UC students on the local, state and federal levels is currently undergoing a period of change and expansion. 

The Office of the External Affairs Vice President (OEAVP) was previously known as the Office of Advocacy and Student Representation, or OASR. The name change came in the fall of 2018 with the passage of an amendment to the ASUCD Constitution and is now going into effect. While the function remains the same, OEAVP will join other UCs by having elections for the External Affairs Vice President instead of appointments. Adam Hatefi, a fourth-year political science and technology studies double major will be the last appointed EAVP. 

According to Jesse Steshenko, the Communications Director for OEAVP, “we are the only group that can claim to speak on behalf of the student body as a whole.” 

Previous successes of the office include partnering with California Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) on a bill designed to reduce water usage on California farms by providing farmers with funding to transition to more sustainable irrigation systems. Hatefi wrote the bill and was then able to bring it to Bauer-Kahan’s attention. She agreed to author the bill, which passed in the Assembly but not the Senate. It will come back this year for another chance to pass. 

The group also advocates for other bills, such as SB24 and SB461. SB24 would make abortion care accesible at California public universites. The bill has passed the Senate and Assembly and now waits to be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. SB461 would extend Cal Grants to students participating in summer school. 

“Students are more likely to graduate and graduate much faster if they take summer sessions, so we’re really trying to push for an expansion in summer Cal Grant,” said Ilma Syed, the Legislative Director of OEAVP.

Through his position, Hatefi — who was granted asylum in the United States — testified for a bill that would allow others who are granted asylum and live in California to receive Cal Grant benefits. This opportunity to interact with members of the state government is not unique to Hatefi as the EAVP. The senior staff of the office hopes that UC Davis will lead the UCs in lobbying efforts at the Capitol, due to its proximity. Students can volunteer to go to the Capitol and lobby representatives about bills and they will be trained to do so. 

“This year I’m hoping to make us the hub for legislative activity,” Hatefi said.

Other bills the office is working on gaining the support needed for a legislator to introduce them include one to expand mental health services on campuses and one that would move the civics class required in high school to an earlier grade — before the age students are legally allowed to drop out. 

OEAVP also works on non-legislative projects, some of which are specific to UC Davis. One of their current projects is UCweVote, which aims to register as many students as possible. During move-in weekend, their efforts registered over 400 students. Ben McDougall, in charge of this effort as the OEAVP Organizing Director, said they could continue registering students at “all the major events.” Hatefi emphasized the importance of a strong voter base in order to succeed with the office’s legislative goals. 

During the next year, OEAVP hopes to continue to grow. It is in the process of hiring the rest of its staff, including legislative aide, chief of staff and legislative analyst. Other priorities for the office include food insecurity, environmental issues, discrimination and housing insecurity.  

“We get to do the work that people usually need years and years of experience before they get to do,” Hatefi said. “We get to determine the bills and the policies that we push for.” 

Written by: Andrea Esquetini— campus@theaggie.org