Executive ticket endorsement interview: Alisha Hacker and Justin Weiner

The California Aggie: If you could introduce yourselves — your names, your years, your majors, your pronouns and what positions you’re running for.

Alisha Hacker: My name is Alisha Hacker. My pronouns are she, her, hers. I’m a third-year and I’m a political science major. I’m running for President.

Justin Weiner: I’m Justin Weiner — my pronouns are he, him, his. I’m a third-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior (NPB) major and economics minor.

TCA: What slate are you running on? 

AH: Thrive.

TCA: And do you have — as an Executive slate — any platforms that you’d like to talk about?

AH: Most candidates are running on three platforms, which is a little bit of what we want to do if we are elected for the Executive office. One of the first ones that we have started to work on is an idea for a little bit of a CoHo expansion into the library. So, what we are hoping to do is expand the program that the CoHo currently does, which is they offer coffee and snacks during finals week in the library. Unfortunately, this program is not super well advertised, and not a lot of people know about it right now. They do it more like a mobile coffee style, so we are hoping to expand that program to offer to more students with better advertising and also potentially expand it to midterms and finals week so it gets a little more popular. Potentially in the future, we can work on getting a permanent installation. We talked with Darin from the CoHo, and he informed us that it is a profitable thing that the CoHo does. With better advertising and awareness, it can definitely be more sustainable. The president can actually work a lot on the dining features that happen at the university because they sit on this thing called the dining pack which is the CoHo, the student housing — all those people who run different dining operations and actually have more information on how CoHo expansions can be implemented.

JW: My big things are more focused on student health. One of my big platforms is to start a program to teach student leaders on campus how to recognize drug overdoses and teach drug safety. Going along with that, [also] making sure that no one gets in trouble for seeking medical help. Right now, if you call 911 in the dorms, or if an RA calls 911 in the dorms, the student gets sent to Student Judicial Affairs. And that discourages students to seek help when they need it. No one should be afraid of school repercussions when it can potentially be life-threatening. Anywhere else in the state of California, healthcare information is private, and I think that should be the case on campus as well. 

AH: The last thing we want to do is sexual assault awareness and advocacy. Some of you may have seen that there are some blue lights on campus, but there are only about eight for a campus our size. UC Irvine has over 150 blue lights around their campus and they’re five times smaller than the size of our main campus area. We want to expand that further, which we know [that] this is something the police department has been talking about or has started to work on; however, it’s been several years since they have even mentioned it again. Additionally, we want to make sure that every student has immediate access to resources and reporting options if they feel like that’s necessary for them. We want to put the number for CARE [Center for Advocacy, Resources & Education] on the back of every student ID. Right now, you have some non-emergency numbers for different things, but the CARE number can sometimes be hard to find. Reporting options are not always easy to access. 

JW: I think just generally making it more publicized that there are a lot of options for victims to report, and I think that’s something that hasn’t been very well publicized and is still stigmatized for people to report — that’s unacceptable.

TCA: I know that we talked to UC Davis Police Chief Joe Farrow, who’s told us that the blue light expansion costs quite a bit of money. Have you thought about where you would get the funds for that?

AH: The police chief has been working on this, and this is something you can get different grants for, and that’s definitely the route that I would also look into. I’ve been reading a lot of articles saying that you should be able to see them around you and that if they’re near each other, the police can also follow your progress. Hearing students say that we want this for safety purposes, I think we can find a way either through grants or through speaking with police departments or through campus in general.

TCA: This isn’t the first time that either of you has run before. What about the office specifically is making you want to run again?

AH: I ran through the Executive office before and, in a personal sense, I’m in a very different place. I feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of stepping into this role. I think last year — if I’m being honest and being reflective — I think it was a big jump that I wanted to make as a sophomore especially. Now, I’m a junior. I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about the campus [and] learned more about the space at ASUCD. Right now, ASUCD is at a very precarious point with the fee referendum going on. It’s like a life or death situation for ASUCD. Either we lose our autonomy or we pass this fee referendum. I do believe that my experience as a Senator — working on the fee referendum — and now, my experience as co-Senator [and] as a member on COSAF [Committee on Student Affairs and Fees], which oversees student fees, I am in a unique position to feel comfortable to start working on the post-fee (either pass or fail). I think because of where we are right now, I feel comfortable trying to do this, and I had so many things that I wanted to do before. The desire to help and to serve and to give back to ASUCD never went away, and now, we’re in an even more precarious point. I do feel that I gained the necessary experience and knowledge to take on this position. 

JW: I think [that] it’s a little bit of the same deal for me. At first, I wasn’t really that interested in ASUCD until my campaign manager when I was running for Senate, Daniella, pushed me toward it and opened my eyes. I got into the process really late, but I think I learned a lot from that. I was just a mess a year ago, and I’ve done a lot differently since then. Realizing this, I could take on a bigger role and get more of these things done more effectively. As Senator, your power is limited, and to come in with big ideas as we have as senators is a little bit tough to do. But having the Executive office to back you up can give you the platform to go into the community and make these changes.

TCA: Alisha, you were talking about the fee referendum — what, specifically, have either of you done to support the fee referendum in order to ensure its passage?

AH: As a [voting] member of COSAF — COSAF is one of the first on-campus steps for passage — we reviewed it, and I did vote in favor of it when it was proposed to COSAF. I’ve also been meeting with those at the Executive office. I’ve been helping back in last spring with some of the draftings, as I have been very involved with the Unitrans fee referendum before. Now that it is officially going on the ballot, we’ve done a lot of outreach just on people we’ve been talking to. We both fully support the fee referendum, [and] we encouraged everyone on our slate to support the fee referendum too. Every time we ask somebody to vote for us, [we ask them] to also vote for the fee referendum. 

TCA: In terms of how the current Executive team has handled the fee referendum process from drafting to getting the word out about it, how would you have done things differently had you been on the Executive when this was trying to get passed?

AH: They started toward the end of spring quarter, which I think they would’ve needed the beginning of spring quarter, and the reason why I say this is because the language hasn’t even been fully finalized, as you are all aware, and the election is in two weeks. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair that students haven’t had the chance to read something that can increase their fees by $26 and then $8 after. I would’ve started that outreach process a little bit sooner, and I would start the original fee process at the beginning of the quarter because the fee process for Unitrans took us almost a year. You have to get it approved by different campus organizations, you have to get it approved with the Chancellor, you have to get it approved by UCOP, [University of California Office of the President] [and] you have to get it approved by Senate. There are so many steps, and all of these things take time. I met with the current ASUCD President yesterday to ask for updates, and they said that they’re still having UCOP edit the language, and it’s time to get that on the road. If I was in that position, I think I would have just started the process earlier. I would put down some more hours.

TCA: What do you think is the biggest issue on campus? If elected, what would you do to address this issue?

JW: Personally, I think it’s a lack of attention to student health and wellness. There’s mental health, physical health — like even our platform about sexual assault awareness falls under health as well. I think that the campus is ignoring a lot of these issues, and you guys publish the article about the suicide thing more or less swept under the rug. I’m an EMT in the community, so I’m the one who gets the 911 call and sees that. Sure, I have a bias toward thinking that these things are bigger than they are, but I don’t think that a single student should be dying because of a lack of access to resources.

TCA: If elected, how do you plan to manage your time with complex classes and balancing your majors?

AH: Luckily, for me, a lot of the positions that I currently have are at the end of their term, [such as being] President of a club that I’m turning out in the next couple weeks for spring quarter. Just making sure that I dedicate myself to being President of ASUCD, I think that it’s a full-time job. It’s unrealistic to think that I can do that and have another job necessarily because you are on call 100%. I talked to Justin [Hurst], and he said he’s been sleeping in the office the last few nights preparing for the fee referendum, making sure that we’re going in understanding that this is what we are signing up for.

JW: Personally, I do a lot of things — it’s not super hard to manage your time. I have a Google calendar, and I say, ‘Okay, I have two hours to do it, let’s get this done.’ I told my EMT work that I’m running for this. If I win, I’d cut back my hours, and they have been fully supportive of it. And I’ve told a lab that I work in the same thing. Our grant [at the lab] ran out at the beginning of the year, and we’re about to close shop in May, so I’ll be significantly less busy.

TCA: Where do you both see either flaws or room for improvement in the budget?

AH: Well, it does depend a lot on this fee referendum passing. I can give you two scenarios — if it passes, I would like to see us focus on giving back to the students that work for ASUCD. I know that with your stipend positions, the amount of hours that you put in does not equate to the amount of money that you get back from ASUCD. I know that a lot of us who do work for ASUCD do it because we care, but we’re also students. This is such a huge time commitment for so many people that they can’t do other jobs, and they need money to survive. One of the things that I would like to do is focus on increasing stipend position pay. If the fee referendum passes, I would make sure that students can do this as a job and not have to risk their financial security. Additionally, assuming that we get this money, I would focus on reviving units that had to be cut because of the previous budget cuts such as Tipsy Taxi, which the police department has graciously taken over. It did mean that students at ASUCD had lost their jobs [though], so I would like to see if we can bring that back as well. On the flip side, if this fee referendum doesn’t pass, it will mean that we would have to make more cuts, which is why we are so supportive of the fee referendum. I don’t want to see more units or jobs cut, and I believe that so many people give so much for ASUCD that they deserve to get a fair compensation for the work that they do.

TCA: One of the things that the university is doing right now is working on moving pay from stipend to hourly wages — where would you foresee this heading for ASUCD if the fee referendum doesn’t pass?

AH: If it doesn’t pass, I know the plan is to transition stipends to hourly over the next 10 years, so I think we would have to start looking for other organizations on campus. I don’t want to say buy similar units but kind of like how Tipsy Taxi has gotten taken over by the police department. I think that can be an option to shed some of our units — to either sell them or let them be taken over so that we don’t lose their services. Additionally, there are so many programs that are so valuable under ASUCD, so I think we would probably need to reach out to the university and ask them for more funding. I know they currently fund MHI and they already pay for some staff positions, so asking them to take more of that burden would help but be extremely difficult, and I think we would need a lot more cuts.

TCA: How do you plan to make sure that ASUCD is working as a cohesive unit and not developing into partisanship?

JW: I can say that I personally have no interest in partisan politics. I think that almost everyone here pretty much agrees on most issues, and they tend to fixate on very minor things that don’t affect anything that ASUCD actually does. A lot of national political issues have no difference in how we handle the budget here or how we hire people for units. Frankly, I think a party system on a college campus is kind of silly. I say that while knowing and being part of one, I have no issues working with the other party. I think that all the hostility is made up and perpetuates itself because people get so fixated on how, ‘Oh, they aren’t going to vote with me on something,’ and I just have no patience for that. I think you should vote on what you believe in because that’s what you’re elected to do.

AH: I think as someone who has served on the table and had voted for things, I would say 99% of the time, things pass almost unanimously. I think it’s just divisive; we’re here for student government. We are not Congress, we are not the United States Senate — we are here for ASUCD. We are here to represent students, and we can do so much more if we work together. I think passing the Unitrans referendum last year was a great example of bipartisanship because everyone from both sides supported it. It passed, and if the fee referendum passes, [then] it would be the same concept.

TCA: What are your stances on resolutions regarding national politics since those tend to build more toxicity?

JW: I personally don’t think they’re the most valuable because they create divisiveness unnecessarily. Frankly, I don’t think anyone outside of the bounds of this town really cares [about] the university’s opinion on a national subject. I think that if we released a statement on something that’s happening in our community, it should be solely on what the university and students care about. We’re not elected for our beliefs, we’re elected to represent the students’ beliefs. I have no interest in bringing my personal politics, or lack thereof, into a resolution. 

AH: The only resolutions that I saw that were effective were directly related to issues on campus. There were issues related to getting more funding for mental healthcare — I thought that was an absolutely perfect piece of a resolution — and there were [also] ones related to housing that we passed and sent to City Council. These are direct issues that directly affect students. If you cannot draw a direct line that encompasses students’ ability to succeed at UC Davis, then we don’t care.

TCA: Justin, if elected as Vice President, you would be leading Senate meetings. Where do you see room for improvement with these meetings?

JW: Actually enforcing rules and not wasting time debating pointless issues. If people have something legitimate to say then they can say it, but if they have redundant statements, arguing the same two sides over and over again is never going to change anyone’s minds. If you have meaningful discussions then that’s important, and you should have it. But there’s no point to bicker for two hours.