The California Aggie: Can you introduce yourself — your name, your major, your year and your pronouns?
Alexis Lopez: My name is Alexis Lopez, political science and economics major and I am a current third-year. He/him/his.
TCA: Are you running with a slate?
AL: Yes, BASED slate.
TCA: How come?
AL: To be honest, there isn’t really much to it. When I first got into ASUCD I so happened to work with a lot of people that were on the BASED slate, and they were just incredible [and] caring people. I thought the mission that they had to serve students was something that I could really get behind, [so that] made the choice pretty easy for me.
TCA: What are your platforms?
AL: My platforms are the idea of making sure that we get funding [for] basic needs and services that we are pushing with the referendum, as well as academic success and outreach.
The first one is pretty much when the budget comes in Spring Quarter, if the fee referendum were to still pass, hopefully, that I make sure that I work with other senators on the table as well as on the Exec. team to make sure that funding goes to those resources such as The Pantry and Mental Health Initiative. I know the Mental Health Initiative historically has had very little funding, if not any funding at all, and I think it provides a very good resource for our students, as [does] things like The Pantry. They have, on occasion, asked the Senate for more funding, but given that there’s such a big budget deficit, it’s been something that’s increasingly harder for them to do. Making sure that our money gets allocated to those units that really do need it and follow that idea of basic human services.
Second one is academic success. I am a first-gen student, so when I came here, for me, it was very new compared to the high school I went to [in a] under-poverished area. [During my] first year, first quarter, I failed a class — straight F. A quarter later, I failed another class — straight F. For me, it was very difficult to find that type of support system academically — finding a tutor was difficult for me. I think that one of the things that we need to work on is our academic success and the way that we help our students, given that they do pay that money into our association. And if the fee referendum were to pass, they’d be paying even more. I want to make sure that that money that they allocate to us gets sent right back to them with the resources that we provide. One of the things that I’m trying to campaign for is a free tutoring program that ASUCD can provide. Even if we didn’t use the same fee referendum dollars, I do know that the Senate reserve is about $11,000 that historically has not been used in the past four years. Even if we use half of it, we could offer — the average rate of a private tutor goes $35, $30 dollars I would say — around 180 free tutoring hours. That’s something that I want to work with, and I don’t really see myself having too much trouble passing [it]. I do know that there will have to be some compromise and some collaboration with a lot of the other senators to get it passed. But I feel that academic success is something that every senator can and should get behind.
The last one is outreach. One thing that I’ve learned through campaign[ing] is that there are a lot of clubs and organizations out there that don’t know much about ASUCD. On top of that, some of them have told me, ‘Yeah, I wanted to get involved, or we wanted to get involved as an org, but it’s been very difficult. We’ve had a hard time getting a hold of you.’ I think that’s another historical problem within the association — we do not have a lot of outreach, and we don’t communicate with our students the way we should. The idea of outreach is to pretty much create an outreach committee. I know a lot of senators that campaigned on the idea of transparency, on the idea of outreach. And it’s not to say that they weren’t successful in doing it. I think it’s just a very difficult task to do just because, again, we are students as well. We do have our own midterms and finals. On top of your Senate duties and the other things you campaigned on, it can get pretty difficult. I think creating an outreach committee that works specifically on reaching out to different orgs [and] clubs, saying, ‘Hey, do you want to get involved in ASUCD? How can we help you?’ and listening to their concerns is something that would be very important, because a lot of times I feel that ASUCD might not listen to some of the student concerns when there are a lot of them. We campaign on our own platforms, and we say, ‘This is what I think is great for students,’ but I think it’s important that we reach out to the different communities and say, ‘What’s important to you?’ and, ‘Let us work on that.’ Like, if you want to talk at a Senate meeting, public announcement isn’t until 10 p.m. — that’s not something we should expect students to come [to]. I think this idea of an outreach committee, again, is something that other senators would definitely get involved in, and I think it’s something I can pass within the first quarter of my term.
TCA: What specifically have you personally been doing to ensure the fee referendum’s passage?
AL: I do have a couple of positions within ASUCD. One of them is Senate recorder. There isn’t much to it, most of the communications are with the Executive office. I’ve been working with them to reach out to different clubs and orgs. I talk to them about the fee referendum specifically. I would send a lot of orgs emails like, ‘Hey, can we come talk to your organization as ASUCD executive office outreach? We want to talk to you about the fee referendum and answer any questions.’ Just last week, me and one of the other senators went to H.O.P.E and they were the ones that told us, ‘Yeah, we wanted to get involved, but it’s very difficult.’ And so not just from my own campaigning, but through Executive Office campaigning for the fee referendum, I’ve learned a lot of these different lessons. Of course [I’ve been] talking to my friends and people that I know like, ‘Hey, do you know about this?’ and answering any questions that I can because I think that it is very important that we are transparent about where their money is going. You can’t just ask students to raise their fees and not be transparent about it.
TCA: As Senate recorder, you’ve gotten an inside look into ASUCD. What do you think that you could personally do to make things run more efficiently?
AL: Personally, I think it is that idea about outreach. I think that a lot of times when certain decisions are made or have been made — not to say that they aren’t right decisions, a lot of the justifications for them make a lot of sense — if we told some of the students [about those] decisions, they might not be okay with that. I think the best thing is to listen to students, because at the end of the day, in a perfect democracy, I think it’s about your representatives representing your ideas, not just their own. I think having the word and the voices of others besides those that are on the Senate table [is important], because a lot of times you can kind of get in that ASUCD bubble.
TCA: Why do you think you have to be an ASUCD senator to accomplish these goals?
AL: One of the reasons why I ran for Senate is because I saw what the Senate can do for others. The budget is insanely huge right now, obviously there’s some issues with it given the fee referendum, but knowing that if the fee referendum did pass, there is going to be a lot of weight on [the] budget hearing. Come next year, when anyone talks about anything budget related, there’s a lot of weight that comes to those bills, and that’s something that I’ve seen as Senate recorder.
TCA: What is one area that ASUCD falls short on, and how would you address this?
AL: I don’t want to sound too repetitive, but it really is outreach. I’m talking about academic success and I’m also talking about making sure that those basic needs and services get their funding that they need. But at the same time, how are we supposed to know what students find beneficial if we don’t talk to them? I know it’s very repetitive to say outreach, but outreach is really the biggest thing that we can do after — hopefully — this fee referendum passes. The fee referendum is going from here to another 10 years where their fees are going to get raised. So I definitely think outreach is just the number one thing that we have to do and the number one thing that I hope the fee referendum is kind of an eye opening, kind of a wake up call like ‘Hey, it’s really focused on our students and working for them.’
TCA: How would you do outreach to make sure more people know about ASUCD?
AL: First would be the outreach committee. I would start talking to other senators that I know have campaigned on the idea of transparency and getting others to know about what’s going on in ASUCD. I know there are at least a couple of senators that are running on that platform, and I think that we could get together, write some legislation to start the new committee, set up a committee chair and provide them with the resources, clubs [and] organizations and have them start contacting. We could start contacting clubs and organizations. [An] outreach committee would be a great way for us to get the voices back to the Senate table.
TCA: In terms of outreach, what are you planning to tell those different organizations about what ASUCD can do for them?
AL: It really depends on what it is they want, right? H.O.P.E. [wants] to help with housing. I think it’d be a great idea to connect them with HAUS — Housing Advising for Undergraduate Students. I think that would be a great connection to make, and I know that they expressed interest in doing that. I think [with the] outreach committee saying, ‘Hey, what ways can we help you?’ they’ll tell us and we’ll say, ‘You know what, this is a good unit that you can talk to,’ connecting them together and getting them to work together to accomplish what it is that they have because there are a lot of units, or at least committees and commissions, that have very similar goals.
When I tell people, ‘You should probably vote for the fee referendum,’ it’s not because I’m saying, ‘Save the student government, save the Senate, save the president,’ it’s save those units, save those committees that do a lot of great work and that people are very passionate about. Aggie Studios, you see them doing their thing and I’m pretty sure they love doing that. And there’s just a lot of career opportunities and basic things that the association does that’s more than just our student government. That’s something that I try to campaign on. This is why. It’s not the Senate. It’s not the president. It’s about these committees and units that do a lot of great work and we need to connect them to our students.
TCA: You were a writer here and you covered ASUCD as a writer, what made you want to switch over from covering ASUCD to being on the table?
AL: Every now and then, I would do the [article that week] cover[ing] Senate. [While] there, I would see, not necessarily inefficiencies, but I [thought], ‘Hey, there’s a lot going on here.’ Just like many other students, when I got here, I didn’t really know how much ASUCD really did. And so going to those Senate meetings [then made me think], ‘Oh okay, they’re talking about some serious stuff.’ I remember I went to one of the meetings where they passed the Disarm the UC resolution. I saw that these things affected our communities here at our school, and that there was a lot that goes on and there’s a lot that they can do for our students. So I said, ‘I want to get involved in any way possible,’ and see where that takes me. That’s taken me to apply for communications director, I also applied for Senate recorder and now I’m here campaigning for a Senate position.
TCA: Is there any part of basic needs and services that you specifically want to focus on or is there any particular unit that you plan on adopting as senator?
AL: There’s a few units that I really want to adopt as senator. One of them is The Pantry, but I know that there’s a lot of people that focus on The Pantry. So of course, if I get the opportunity, I would love to help The Pantry, because I know that they’ve been seeking more funding and I know that they’ve been wanting to expand and I know they moved their area from the current unit that they have over to by Aggie Compass so they have a much bigger space. And definitely The Aggie. There’s also HAUS that I really want to adopt, because the one thing with ASUCD is again providing resources for students. When you think about HAUS, I don’t know if many people know this, but it is a commercial unit, so its goal is to make money. When you think about housing for undergraduate students, and you think [HAUS’s] goal is to make money, it kind of doesn’t add up. When we talk about those basic needs and services, [The] Pantry, of course, that’s insanely huge. I don’t think there’s one person that would say that The Pantry shouldn’t exist. But as well with HAUS — housing has been a huge problem here. And there’s a lot of students that have trouble finding an apartment. I would consider that a basic need in Davis right now, it’s getting worse and worse and worse, so that’s definitely a unit that I want to get involved with and I would want to adopt.
TCA: You talked a little bit about external efficiencies in terms of how ASUCD can improve its relationship with the student body, but in terms of internal efficiencies within the student government, I think it touches upon this idea of an ASUCD bubble that you mentioned. We are thinking about toxicity that the student government is notorious for, and having gone to numerous Senate meetings as recorder and then as campus news reporter, how do you think that some of that toxicity might be mitigated?
AL: There definitely is that toxicity, or there has been at least. At my time sitting at that table, Fall Quarter there really wasn’t much of it, but probably because a lot of them were on the same slate. Then, this coming up quarter, you have some new, different slate Senate candidates. I want to say that the toxicity, I don’t want to say it’s necessarily there anymore. At least from what I’ve heard years prior, it was very bad. But I do know that there is still some differing opinions. Regardless, people have certain political beliefs or they think certain things. I really do think it is about finding a middle ground. Like I said, when it comes to the idea of the free tutoring program, I know for a fact that if I bring that up with [a] ‘this is what I want [attitude]’ I know that that probably won’t get passed. I do know that there’s going to have to be some collaboration, and there are going to need to be some cuts or maybe some expansions here that I don’t really think that that’s what I want to do. But I know that part of passing Senate bills, Senate resolutions and making sure that the table works together is by working together. We can’t just come up with a bill or resolution saying, ‘This is what we think, this is what we want passed,’ without even talking to the other side. From what I’ve seen, all the people on the table have been reasonable. I’ve seen them this quarter discuss certain topics, and I’ve seen them go back and forth. And you can tell that they differ very much so. But I’ve seen that they all have the ability to come to a compromise. And I’ve seen that they can work together. So knowing that I know that if I just went in with that same mentality of compromising and working with them and always having everyone involved in the discussion, at least, is what would work best. That’s what I’ve seen work. I’ve seen that when you don’t involve others in the discussion that’s where that toxicity comes in and that partisan divide comes in. We can just definitely come in with the mind that we might not always get what we want but if we can compromise, we will probably get something great done for students.
TCA: Is there anything else you want to touch on or any questions you have for us?
AL: I don’t necessarily have any questions. But if anyone ever does read this transcript — I hope people do — the one thing that I want to talk about when it comes to the fee referendum is, again, it is not the student government that I’m trying to save. Of course, I’m running for this Senate campaign. But let’s say someone gave me an opportunity [of] fee referendum or my campaign, obviously, it’s the fee referendum for two reasons — there’d be no Senate without the fee referendum, but if there was a Senate without the fee referendum, that’s not really an association that I would want to be [in]. Because those are a lot of student jobs, a lot of student services that are cut. When I talk about the fee referendum, I plead to everyone that it’s not the student government that you are saving. It’s those units and committees and all those jobs and all those people that do great work and care about what it is that they do.