Senate candidate endorsement interview: Shreya Deshpande

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

The California Aggie:  Introduce yourself — tell us your name, your year your major and your pronouns.

Shreya Deshpande: Hi, everybody, my name is Shreya. I use they/them pronouns. I’m a fourth-year cognitive science and physiology double [major].

TCA: And are you running on a slate?

SD: I am, I’m running with BASED.

TCA: And why did you choose BASED?

SD: I currently am the vice president of ASUCD and I ran with BASED. And beyond just having run with them before, I really believe in the values and the demeanor with which previous candidates have carried themselves. I’m not sure if y’all have seen our slogan, but we’re based in action, advocacy and community, and so we’re really focused on uplifting voices of underrepresented or marginalized voices on campus, but also broadening out that discussion to see what creates those conditions. We were talking about environmental sustainability and how that affects different people on campus, and obviously social justice, but also student workers’ rights. So, BASED has sort of been in this vein for as long as I’ve been in ASUCD the past two years, and so I really aligned with their values and their work ethic and their presence in a ASUCD as a whole.

TCA: What are your specific platforms, and how do you plan to accomplish them?

SD: My specific platforms are fighting for student workers’ rights, mental health and better ASUCD funding. As we all know, the referendum is upon us, and I want to ensure its successful passage as a candidate for Senate. As a senator, I would be able to vote on the budget during budget hearings in spring. I think that that’s where a lot of that power and that ability for me as a senator would come in, is to be able to ensure that units that want their budget for specific reasons are properly allocated. And I’d be able to advocate with the units. 

Mental health is something that I ran on before, while coming in as well as vice president. I’ve been working a lot with the Student Health and Wellness Center. And I’ve been on the Basic Needs Advisory Committee for mental health. And I think the projects that they’re pursuing right now are incredible ways that ASUCD can support them through that; for example, they’re working through orientation videos and making sure that student health and wellness is, like, right off the bat when you come into college as a non-traditional student, transfer or first-year are aware of mental health resources we have on campus.

 [For] student workers rights, there’s going to be a constitutional amendment to add in the Student Workers’ Rights Commission. It was previously on the ballot in a special election last quarter. It didn’t pass last quarter, but I think that that was more due to elections mishaps rather than students really knowing what the purpose of what the amendment was. The reason that I want to support student workers rights is, as undergraduate workers, we’re not allowed to be unionized, and we have no voice.  Especially given all the things that are going down with UCPath because ASUCD was the biggest event that took like the biggest hit — so 85% of all of our employees either got delayed paychecks, missing paychecks, incomplete amounts or only got their pay raise — and so it was really messed up. And after having negotiations with our campus administration, folks in the financial office and associate vice chancellor were basically like, ‘Suck it up, we’re sorry UCPath is like this, tough luck.’ What I really want to do — having my experiences as vice president, having these connections that I’ve already built — is [be] able to go back to them and say, ‘We used to have all of the financial autonomy to be able to pay our own employees, and you’re just making it that much harder for us. These are the only sort of tangible ways, because we can’t unionize and organize as undergraduates — I see this commission [as acting] in lieu of a union [and] can concentrate their efforts on focusing on undergraduate student workers’ rights and mental health.

TCA: Can you talk about some of your proudest accomplishments as vice president?

SD: Wow, well, getting the language for the referendum all the way up and down from here to UCOP and back, that was a really proud accomplishment that we had. Working with Amelia George, who’s part of the Student Health and Wellness Center — she’s a staffer — they’re working with her on launching the project for orientation, for mental health to be at orientations, specifically, and launching a video series that’s been in my capacity as vice president and doing that through ASUCD. 

Also, one of my biggest accomplishments, honestly, is reducing the length of Senate meeting times. I’ve heard in the past they’ve gone to like 2 or 3 a.m., and, thankfully, I’ve gotten everybody out before 11:30 [p.m.] at the latest. I’m definitely very proud of that. And I’m honestly mostly proud because I have been able to establish really close relationships with a lot of the unit directors, committee directors, commission chairs and sort of rooting ASUCD not in the politics but more in the interpersonal liquidation with student government, the units that they’re supposed to be directly working with and serving, unlike the greater campus community. Being able to know everybody on a first-name basis and then know what each of the units are going through, not obviously exhaustively, but to be able to have that trust and relationship building with them has been one of my most proudest moments.

TCA: Are you graduating in the spring?

SD: I am.

TCA: So you’ll only be here one more quarter?

SD: I am graduating in spring, yeah.

TCA: Why would someone vote for you — who will only be here one quarter — as opposed to a younger candidate?

SD: That’s definitely a very valid question. And the answer is: I can’t convince people to vote for me just on age basis. Because I’m graduating, [that] is very, very fair. But at the same time, I think the knowledge and expertise having come from understanding being on the table, every Senate meeting, going through the budget and talking to all of the unit directors, I think it’s more of the experience that plays a bigger role as to why I would be a good senator. Knowing, again, the relationships that we have, the ins and outs, being on the Senate table, I think, will give me a voice, even if it’s just for one quarter. And then whoever will be the new executive team, we’ll be training them anyway and completely trusting [them] to make good decisions about the senators that they decide to put in as interim after my time. That’s not something that I can really control, but I hope that it’s more experience-related that I have going for me.

TCA: Given your knowledge and experience working within ASUCD, is there anything in particular that you would change as a senator?

SD: I think last quarter, toward the end of Fall Quarter, Senator Maya Barak had brought up a bill to create an ASUCD drive — that basically would centralize all the resources for ASUCD, various units, committees, branches of government. So the unit director has their notes from their adopted senator, or they have like their logos from Creative Media, which has also been a really big issue, just like the branding and marketing aspect. And so they have all their information centralized onto one drive, which is what this bill was supposed to create. I’ve been working on institutionalizing that in my capacity right now, but I would definitely like try to make sure that I, as a senator, do my due diligence as adopted senator for various units and committees I decide to adopt, and to make that more of a practice on the Senate table too. Because I feel like, as of right now, as vice president, I’ve seen a lot of senators that half-a– their work. And I think that that’s really disappointing, especially when it comes to units and committees that they’re supposed to adopt and support and be that liaison between student government and the unit. And what this drive is going to do is sort of centralize where they put their meeting minutes and their interviews and all of that, so that transition is going to be easier. So I really, really want to institutionalize that.

TCA: What units would you like to adopt, should you be elected as senator?

SD: HAUS [Housing Advising for Undergraduate Students], primarily, because I think the leadership currently is lacking. It’s definitely a smaller unit, and I think that they could do so much as a unit that provides a basic needs housing. And they can do a lot more advocacy, they can pair up with the Office of External Affairs Vice President, the Mental Health Initiative and The Pantry to address basic needs on the UC Davis campus at a broader level. Also, Aggie Reuse, because their unit director decided to step down, and so I would like to pick up where they left off and talk to their current employees right now. And then I would love to be on COSAF, going through the budget process and the referendum, understanding that the Council on Student Affairs and Fees plays a really big role in allocating and determining a lot of parameters for fee referenda or how money can be spent. Also, I’m not going to be biased, but I do want to adopt The Aggie — I think y’all are really, really great, especially now that y’all are moving to A Street. Definitely want to help in any capacity that I can to like make connections with SSO and y’all smoother or anything like that. 

TCA: I’m sure that you, probably more than anyone, would have a really good understanding of what would need to happen in terms of budgeting if the fee referendum were to be passed, but if it weren’t, what sort of reality do you think the association would face? And why do you think it would be important that someone like yourself, who’s had extensive involvement with the association, be there?

SD: There’s the infographic or some[thing] floating around everywhere about what a “no” vote means to cut student jobs and all that. And I think it’s drastic, and it is definitely going to be a very drastic result. What we did last year is where I can pull my primary experience from, and it was really, really difficult last year to trim the fat — that literally met foregoing student wages and having to turn them into volunteers just to make the unit exist. This is what happened with Aggie Reuse. And if the fee referendum were to not pass, I think that’s where a lot of operational cuts would have to come from. We can see the Coffee House having reduced hours. And again, the knowledge and the relationships that I’ve built with all the units, it’s hard, it’s going to be hard to have that conversation. But what I think could be a really good solution, definitely short term, is just resource sharing in general. And overall, if there’s marketing charges, consolidating that, like, ‘What can you use, or what can I use that you have?’ or vice versa, to strengthen the relationships amongst the units and committees themselves. And I have definitely worked extremely closely with the controller’s office. Kevin [Rotenkolber], also, last week just got reconfirmed as a controller, so having already known him and worked with him, to work extensively with his office to make sure that he’s the money man. I’m not that financially savvy, I’m not an econ major or anything, but I’ve learned a lot from him. Weighing the pros and cons of each unit’s priorities — it would have to result in either units being cut entirely, which is going to be really difficult, or, again, trimming as much as we possibly can. And that potentially means losing student jobs or reducing hours. Being able to have the experience of building a budget before, it’s really important to have that discussion and that communication constantly with the units and committees before making their budget [or saying], ‘Your budget is slashed and you had absolutely no idea and now you’re in Senate fighting for it.’ I don’t want that scenario.

TCA: Is there anything that we haven’t asked you about that you want to add, or do you have any final thoughts?

SD: I feel like all of my questions are more logistical, like vice presidential. How are y’all feeling about this election? Has it garnered a lot more attention, and where can we be improving?

TCA: I personally think that the campaigning just to even vote in elections has been much higher than anything I’ve ever seen before, and I think that’s something that I wish I could see every single time there’s an election.

Also, just speaking from a BUDS [Board of Unit Directors] standpoint, I think we’re a lot more interconnected with our unit directors, and that’s also helped a lot more in terms of gathering the troops.