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Friday, April 19, 2024

Student profile: ASUCD Vice President Shreya Deshpande

Current vice president talks all things ASUCD — from fee referendum to UCPath and future of association

Shreya Deshpande sat on a wooden bench outside of Wellman Hall facing the quad, returning waves to students they recognized every five minutes. People come up to Deshpande, and they respond warmly, ensuring that everyone who passed by felt personally acknowledged. 

As Vice President of ASUCD, Deshpande is a people person — a skill that the position necessitates and a quality of theirs that was only further highlighted through their vice presidential position. Deshpande works to improve the lives of students, seen both in their current position and through their work in previous advocacy-centered extracurriculars — including the Whole Earth Festival, Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission, a fusion style dance team and Shifa, a UC Davis community-run clinic that primarily helps the Muslim population in Sacremento. 

Deshpande said they chose to get involved in these groups to work with marginalized communities, better the environment and be around people —  which were all topics that comprised their ASUCD campaign. 

They are also involved with the Mental Health Initiative (MHI), an organization that aims to educate and empower students in mental health discourse as well as offer a healing space. Desphande was unaware that the MHI fell under the purview of ASUCD when they first joined, and now they work to ensure that students are well aware of all units and commissions that ASUCD encompasses. 

“My first year I got involved with the Mental Health Initiative because I’m really passionate about mental health,” Deshpande said. “Coming from India, and a really rigorous education system, there wasn’t […] that much support from my teacher, they never really went out of their [way] to ask if students were doing okay.” 

After spending most of their formative years in India, Deshpande moved back to the U.S. their junior year of high school. Shortly after, they decided to attend UC Davis, instead of UC Riverside, which was their original plan for school. They are now in their fourth and last year of their undergraduate career, as a cognitive science and sociology double major — which was not their immediate choice.

“I came in as [NPB] because I wanted to be a doctor,” Deshpande said. “But moving through and navigating classes and feeling out what my professors were telling me about what the health field is [like], I realized that there is a lot of community-centric health care that I wanted to focus more on. That’s why I picked sociology as an add on, just to understand how different communities are disproportionately affected by these larger systems. I want to become a child psychologist for children with special needs.”

Deshpande previously ran for the vice presidential position in Winter Quarter of their second-year, but was disqualified because they missed a mandatory candidate workshop.

“I’m grateful that that happened to a certain degree,” they said. “It gave me the chance to learn a little more about how ASUCD works and I came in knowing a lot more people and knowing what different communities want and getting that year to build connections and community, which really shaped why I ran.”

In their second attempt to run for the vice presidential position, Deshpande was randomly paired with Justin Hurst — the current ASUCD president. Common interests shared between the two, such as dedication to the same slate and mutual friends, formed their relationship. 

“We had a couple of mutual friends who wanted to change up the BASED slate — the previous Gender and Sexuality Commision chair recommended that we run and we were like, ‘Sure, why not,’” they said. “Then we just started talking to different communities, we talked to different groups on campus, we were kind of everywhere to get a sense of what students really wanted to see. Especially given how toxic of a perception ASUCD had/has, we saw that there was a way to switch it up and that students who wanted to see change [should] have direct contact with executive members and Senate.”

This year, Deshpande has worked with Hurst to ensure the longevity of ASUCD, including by enacting a 10-year plan. The plan adds student manager jobs in ASUCD, roles that are typically done by an adult or administration member, to encourage more student voices and participation. 

Other highlights from Deshpande’s time in office include going completely paperless, working to resolve ASUCD’s budget deficit, proposing a constitutional amendment that would move voting to Spring Quarter and working on a fee referendum that they say would ultimately put more money into the pockets of students. 

“When Justin and I were elected, we had to find a Controller in a week and do a budget within three weeks,” Deshpande said. “We had very little time to […] learn about the $15 million budget that we have and then be able to talk to all of our units, and be like, ‘What do you want to see, and how can we best support your vision for the year and balance the budget?’ That was stressful, we don’t want to give that to the next executive team.”

Desphande also discussed the fee referendum ASUCD is currently considering, which would raise student fees allocated toward ASUCD, as these fees have not been raised in 40 years. 

“We get $8 dollars per student per quarter to pay into ASUCD, and that’s how we get our pot of money to give out to our units,” Deshpande said. “However, that [amount] has stayed the same since since 1979, when we only had 12,000 students on campus and when the minimum wage was $7 or $6. All of the money that students pay into us we give out to each of the units through the budget. We’re trying to increase that fee, which is always a concern given that we have to increase student costs. Hopefully, just talking about it will make people see that it’s necessary.”

Deshpande is also vocal about the school’s lack of communication on issues — one of the larger ones being the shift to UCPath, the UC’s new payroll system.

“I really think that the university can learn from a lot of the initiatives ASUCD and student organizations […] are doing,” Desphande said. “I get connections with campus administrators that I think so many more people should be able to get. I shouldn’t have to be the primary liaison between certain departments and the campus, especially when there are more knowledgeable people. [The payroll issue] is really big, the school needs to be communicating with students more. There are so many issues that students need to be knowing about, like when it comes to students pays and lives. Increasing transparency would be better.” 

Desphande wants students to think of them as a resource. 

“Anytime you have an idea, I’ll be down to just talk it through and hear about your experiences,” Desphande said. 

In regards to advice for the next set of executives, they suggest to simply listen and learn. 

“Talk to the previous administration, follow our 10 year plan,” Deshpande said. “Having more institutional memory is so much better for the association so we are not reinventing the wheel every time. Take what we have and grow it.”

Written by: Isabella Beristain — features@theaggie.org


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