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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

2023 Spring Elections — Meet the Candidates

This spring, there are two executive tickets, and 13 candidates running for Senate, two candidates for International Student Representative, two for Transfer Student Representative, one for External Affairs Vice President and one for Student Advocate

By JADE BELL, SYDNEY AMESTOY, RACHEL GAUER, LEV FARRIS GOLDBERG, KAYA DO-KHANH, LILY FREEMAN AND SONORA SLATER — campus@theaggie.org 

 

The following candidates are running in ASUCD’s 2023 Spring Elections for elected official positions in student government. Two Senate candidates and the sole candidate for Student Advocate did not respond to a request for an interview.

 

Elections will take place from Monday, April 24 at 8:00 a.m. to Friday, April 28 at 8:00 p.m. Students can vote online at elections.ucdavis.edu.

 

Executive Ticket:

JT Eden (he/him/his), a third-year double major in environmental policy analysis and planning and international relations, said that he is running for ASUCD president because he wants to ensure students’ voices and needs are being met. His platforms include creating programs that advocate for mental health, addressing student-employee concerns like wage equity and expanding paid advocacy roles. Eden has extensive previous experience in various student-government positions, including as a senator, where he became familiar with administrative logistics like budgeting and event planning. In addition, he was previously the chair of the Internal Affairs Commission (IAC) and is currently serving as the internal vice president of ASUCD. A recent project he worked on was the initiative to increase pedestrian safety on campus by introducing crossing guards at the Silo bus terminal.

ThuyAnh Truong (she/her/hers), a third-year double major in philosophy and international relations, said that she is running for the vice presidential position because she believes that good change happens together as a community. She runs a shared platform with presidential candidate JT Eden, which includes advocating for student mental health, increasing student-worker satisfaction and increasing diversity efforts on campus. Truong is currently the internal vice president of the Internal Affairs Commission, where she oversees the legislative process and meets with administrators to discuss areas of improvement on campus.

Francisco Ojeda (he/him/his) is a second-year political science major running for president who previously served as senator alongside his running partner, Aarushi Raghunathan. He said that his reason for running was a lack of advocacy for undocumented students that he noticed and the lack of opportunities he has seen for some marginalized communities. During his time as senator, Ojeda worked with Chicanx and Latinx Student Success Center to provide snacks and worked on a spending bill. He hopes to improve the onboarding process, especially for undocumented students, as well as increase funding for the Entertainment Council and for training Bike Barn employees to repair wheelchairs. 

Aarushi Raghunathan (she/her/hers) is a second-year double major in political science and managerial economics running for vice president with the BLOOM slate. She has experience with ASUCD, serving as a staffer for Sergio Bocardo-Aguilar the summer before her senior year. She assisted with projects, wrote bills, did research and continued his project for free menstrual and safe-sex products into her own term as senator. Alongside her running partner, she hopes to work with the Entertainment Council to expand events for students, working toward fee transparency for students and expanding Bike Barn training for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. She also hopes to increase ASUCD outreach.

 

Senate:  

Dani Antonio (she/her/hers), a third-year political science and psychology double major, said that she is running with the MOOve slate because both her and the slate value addressing student fees and student labor. Antonio said that her campaign centers around creating safe spaces for students to embrace their individuality, advocate for their rights and learn without barriers. She plans to do so through her three-pronged platform of addressing gender and sexuality issues, increasing mental health awareness and resources and ensuring inclusive education. To achieve these goals, Antonio said that she wants to increase sexual harassment and assault prevention and create support systems for victims, establish a human resource department within ASUCD, expand the Pantry to have more locations on campus and lower equitable access fees for students. As an international student from the Philippines, Antonio said that she hopes to represent marginalized voices in student government.  Although Antonio has not been previously involved in ASUCD, she said that her four years of high school government experience, involvement in She’s the First, a nonprofit organization that advocates for girls’ rights and education and immersing herself into campus events has prepared her to be a senator.

Trinity Chow (she/her/hers), a first-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, said that she is running with the Launch! slate because her values of mental health and creating improved relationships between student organizations and ASUCD closely align with the slate. Chow has a three-pronged platform: increasing student fee transparency, addressing student burnout and mental health and expanding campus sustainability efforts. Within this platform, Chow said that she wants to create and expand peer support groups to build a community on campus as well as hold mental-health workshops through working with the Student Health and Wellness Committee and the Mental Health Initiative. Additionally, Chow said that she seeks to make composting more readily available on campus and hold more upcycling and flea market events to further promote campus sustainability. Chow said that she wants to address the financial burden that students face through fees. Chow served as a staffer for Senator Priya Talreja this past year, which she said has given her a better understanding of ASUCD and student needs and prepared her for the senator position.

Christine Do (she/her/hers), a second-year sociology and philosophy double major, said she is running with the Just Do It slate. She wants to increase awareness of ASUCD on campus and the organization’s involvement in student life. She has been involved in the Internal Affairs Commission for a year, and she is now running for Senate because she wants to represent students and advocate for their needs in a voting position. She wants to ensure that ASUCD funds are allocated in the ways that students want them to be. Her main platform is increasing professional opportunities and resources on campus, as she said that she has heard from many peers that there is a lack of recruiters actively looking to hire UC Davis students as employees and interns. She also wants to build the alumni network to help students make more professional connections. She is passionate about advancing the Asian American and Pacific Islander and immigrant communities, as she is a child of Vietnamese immigrants. She wants to work with the AB540 and Undocumented Students Center and provide immigrant communities resources and funding through ASUCD. She feels she is qualified for this position as she has previous experience in ASUCD and has a good understanding of the units and committees and how they operate. She has a background in public speaking, and said that she thinks that she would be able to connect with students and talk to people from many different communities on campus. 

Binh Do (he/him/his) is a second-year history and economics double major running with the Just Do It slate. He is currently serving as an Internal Affairs commissioner and after seeing the senate bill process and attending Senate meetings, he decided to try and make a change by running for senator. His platform focuses on three main values: increasing the efficiency of the use of Senate reserves, increasing autonomy for UC Davis subunits and increasing marketing for UC Davis resources. He said that he also has experience with event planning from his time in the Davis Economic and Business Student Association.

Gabriel Gaysinsky (he/him/his), a second-year international relations and Middle East/South Asia studies double major, said he is running for ASUCD Senate as an Independent. Gaysinsky has been involved in ASUCD as an Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Committee (ECAC) (ECAC) since fall quarter of this year. He is running for Senate because he said he feels he can make more substantial changes as a senator as compared to an ECAC commissioner. One of his main platforms is expanding Jewish representation on campus. He was involved with a Senate bill last quarter that aimed to institute a mandatory antisemitism training for ASUCD senators, which did not pass. He hopes to pass a bill that can provide education about antisemitism if elected. His second platform is environmentalism, as he wants The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) to continue to exist and wants to provide services through ASUCD such as micro-grants to maintain a culture of sustainability on campus. His third platform is a focus on residents at Sol at West Village, because he sees a disconnect in that they do not receive on-campus amenities and still have to pay on-campus fees such as parking but are considered to live in campus housing. He wants to resolve that disconnect by working with the External Affairs Commission to ask the administration to either consider West Village residents on-campus residents and provide them with certain amenities or stop charging them the fees associated with being on-campus residents. He feels he is qualified for the position because he has been involved with ASUCD and is familiar with the legislation processes and bylaws. Additionally, he has participated in Model United Nations for about six years, so he is familiar with diplomacy and parliamentary procedures. He would also like for readers to vote for The Green Initiative Fund on this ballot.

Sam Hopwood (he/him/his), a first-year political science major, is running with the MOOve slate. He wants to focus on improving campus resources to better students’ quality of life by advocating for increased frequency, reliability and range of Unitrans services, increasing the hours of the Pantry and building better online resources such as a delivery service for the Pantry as well as an online internship-finder program. He also noted a commitment to student laborers, promising to work toward eliminating onboarding delays, converting stipend ASUCD positions to hourly ones, organizing monthly open meetings between senators and student workers and more. Previously, Hopwood has assisted in labor organizing and political education for high schoolers, which he believes has given him sufficient experience in organizing students in their schools toward fighting for the resources they want.

Zahar King (he/him/his) is a third-year transfer student majoring in English and design. If he is elected senator, King plans to prioritize improving identity-affirming resources for LGBTQIA+ students, extending assistance for students with disabilities beyond the classroom and uplifting student organizations. He has previously worked with ASUCD as a senate staffer where he had the opportunity to connect with several student organizations. King stated that as a transfer student who lost healthcare coverage, he was not given Student Disability Center accommodations while struggling with self-identity, so he wants to improve these programs so no other student will have to experience these struggles. 

Rahul Mukhopadhyay (he/him/his) is a first-year political science major who is running as an Independent. He noted that he did not want to be affiliated with any “big groups” or slates and preferred to run for himself and his constituents. Mukhopadhyay chose to run because he felt the issues on campus, particularly recent hate incidents, have not been responded to accordingly. He is running on a three-part platform. Mukhopadhyay hopes to improve campus safety, stop bigotry and hatred in all forms and increase the dining options for students on campus. Because Mukhopadhyay is a first-year student, he feels that he can provide the perspective of the current freshmen to the Senate table. Mukhopadhyay noted his lack of experience with ASUCD but said he believes that he makes up for it with passion and energy. 

Inbar Schwartz (she/her/hers) is a first-year international relations major running as an Independant. Schwartz’s platform includes three main goals. First, she hopes to improve housing support and services — especially for first-year students. Second, Schwartz wants to improve resources for students with disabilities, neurodiverse students, English-language learners, and study-abroad students and improve student involvement in ASUCD government. Schwartz aims to increase lecture recording for students who may not be able to attend class in person regularly. Obtaining proper captioning technology for recorded lectures is also key, the candidate said. She also hopes to increase student voter turnout, transparency from senators and face-to-face interaction between ASUCD and the student body. In her first year at Davis, Schwartz has been involved with the Student Advocate’s Office, a non-partisan office dedicated to assisting students in disputes with the university. She is also a member of Davis Women in Business (DWIB) and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission for the Design Department. Shwartz also worked with NYU last year to review curriculum materials to improve its level of cultural responsiveness. Schwartz is running for Senate because she wants to make a meaningful difference in the everyday lives of the student body.

Noblejot Singh (he/him/his) is a second-year political science public service and cinema and digital media double major running with the MOOve slate. Singh’s campaign slogan is “Don’t Vote Later, Vote N.O.W.” N.O.W. stands for “Nothing is negligible, Open the outdoors, We are Davis.” According to Singh, the first point in the acronym describes his goal to advocate for basic needs resources on campus, like free bike lights, laundry supplies and rent negotiation assistance, that are available to students but not well advertised. He hopes to collaborate with ASUCD media units to address this issue. For Singh, “Open the outdoors” is his idea to improve collaboration between centers on campus. For example, he notes that building pipelines between the Internship and Career Center, Alumni Center and Student Startup Center could create more opportunities for students. “We are Davis” is Singh’s vision to connect Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) with corresponding departments and faculty to create an exchange of ideas. As part of the MOOve slate, Singh is passionate about student-worker’s rights and fee transparency. He has five years of experience in student advocacy work. In high school, Singh worked with the Sikh Student Association to advocate to the local school board on education resolutions. He is also a part of Jakara Movement at Davis and has worked with its parent nonprofit organization. He is currently interning for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he is engaged in advocacy for farmers in California’s Central Valley. Singh believes his organizing experience, campus organization involvement and background in advocacy could benefit ASUCD.

Chasa Monica (he/they) is a second-year double major in molecular and medical microbiology and philosophy running as an Independent. Monica chose to run for Senate because he wants to make campus a more welcoming and inclusive place for students, especially by increasing the availability of gender-neutral restrooms on campus. They noted that this ties in with their mental health platform, which is at the heart of why they are running for the position — they want to push for greater resources and funding for UC Davis’ counseling center and establish peer support groups to build a sense of solidarity and community in mental health struggles. He also wants to focus on community outreach and making sure students feel that their concerns are being heard and their needs are being met, and seeks to be a very approachable senator if elected. Monica is currently on the Japanese American Students Society Board, where he has helped organize several events, and has other experience in delegation, leadership and event planning.

 

External Affairs Vice President:

Celene Aridin (she/her/hers) is a third-year international relations major who is running for the position of the external affairs vice president as an Independent. Aridin said she chose to run independent to both mirror the position’s non-partisan quality in the “real world” and also because she feels the position works closely with all members of the Senate regardless of slate status. She held the position for the duration of the winter quarter and noted that her close involvement in organizing the Students of Color Conference was both difficult and rewarding work. Aridin noted several upcoming events that she feels particularly excited for. Aridin, alongside her legislative director and a selected group of students, plan to travel to Washington DC in May to participate in federal lobbying. Since she is running unopposed, Aridin plans to be reelected and is excited to continue to connect people to resources that pertain to their needs. She plans to hold her office hours outside due to the warmer weather and encourages all students to stop by, especially those who plan to lobby and are interested in collaborating with her office. 

 

International Student Representative:

Asif Ahmed (he/him/his) said that his main focus is strengthening the international student community on campus. The second-year economics major and coordinator at the Cross Cultural Center is an international student himself and engages with the community frequently in his current role. His plans if he is elected include numerous events to build that community and help international students adjust, such as hosting a job fair with companies looking to sponsor international students. Ahmed also stressed his availability, especially when it comes to answering questions an international student may have, as part of his qualifications. “If anything, even if I don’t get elected for the position, I’m always on campus,” Ahmed said, “I’m always willing to listen to people. And everyone can feel free to come up to me and say hi, just express any concern.”

Khaled Al Mutawa (he/him/his), a third-year mechanical engineering major, has had no previous ASUCD or political experience but feels that his collaborative work as an engineering student has given him the communication and people skills to work with others successfully. Al Mutawa previously tried to run as ASUCD president, but was unable to obtain the threshold of 400 signatures to begin the campaign. If elected, Al Mutawa has two goals he hopes to achieve: increase the amount of resources that ASUCD can provide to international students and specifically provide more information about internships and career opportunities for these students. He noted that from his own experience, it has been difficult to both find internships and know which ones accept international students. Al Mutawa also noted that he does not want to make any promises except to try his best and always take students’ suggestions. He also encouraged students to participate in elections because ASUCD is behind services such as the Bike Barn and the CoHo. 

 

Transfer Student Representative:

Erek Leschyn (he/they), a third-year political science major and transfer student, is running with the MOOve slate. He has served as an ASUCD senator since last fall, and worked with the Office of the Transfer Student (OTSR) throughout the year. He also has experience in leadership and management for nonprofit organizations outside of ASUCD. They plan to continue the work that the OTSR has been doing throughout the past year in terms of lobbying and advocating for transfer students, re-entry students, student parents, formerly incarcerated students and student veterans, as well as hoping to build a strong transfer-student community next year through in-person and online events.

Kaito Clarke (he/him/his), a third-year political science public service major, was initially not planning to run for the position; however, he was approached by current ASUCD senators who encouraged him to run. Clarke serves as the director of communications for the Executive Office and also has political experience as both a staffer for a county supervisor and later as the digital coordinator for a congressperson’s campaign. Clarke has three priorities for his campaign: increasing community-building for transfer and re-entry students, expanding access to resources and improving academic flexibility. He noted that as a transfer student himself, he faced issues adjusting to the quarter system and finding community and hopes to help other transfer students through similar issues. Though Clarke is aware he does not have much power to change the “Pass/No Pass” deadline, he wants to advocate for pushing back course drop deadlines as well as work with the Academic Affairs Commission to ensure that lectures are recorded and mandatory attendance is reduced when possible. He emphasized that the mental and physical health of students should be prioritized and that students’ basic needs of housing and food should be guaranteed. 

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article did not include the profile of Chasa Monica, a candidate for Senate, and the article has now been updated to include Monica’s profile. We apologize for the error.

Written by: Jade Bell, Sydney Amestoy, Rachel Gauer, Lev Farris Goldberg, Kaya Do-Khanh, Lily Freeman and Sonora Slater  — campus@theaggie.org