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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

An interview with ASUCD President Francisco Ojeda as his term comes to an end

Ojeda reflects on his year as he ends a tenure marked by heavily covered impeachments and setbacks

 

By VINCE BASADA — campus@theaggie.org   

 

ASUCD President Francisco Ojeda’s year-long term has been nothing if not historic. The third-year political science and Spanish double major made history as the first AB540 President of the association and the first to be impeached by the Senate, who accused him of failing to carry out his constitutional duties. Ojeda announced during his State of the Association speech on April 4 that he would not be running for re-election and would leave ASUCD at the end of his term and the current academic year. He agreed to sit down with The Aggie to talk about his administration, what he’s learned and what’s next.

 

Below is a transcript of Ojeda’s interview with The Aggie that has been edited for length and clarity. 

 

Q: So, how are you feeling today? How are budget hearings going? How’s the association today?

Ojeda: It’s good. It has been a long wait for many people to see the budget, and it has taken us a lot of time but, thankfully, has been able to be released before the deadline. I served as [a] senator during the last budget hearing, and that was heavy and [required] long days […] we’re hoping this is easier on everyone.

Q: Let’s talk about your term as a whole. Have you been reflecting a lot?

Ojeda: Definitely. I feel like there’s some small conversations with people, with friends, that have made me think of my year more with the election this time around. It has been a year since I was out there in the quad, in the Silo, talking to students about my goals and putting myself out there. It has been a crazy and wild year in all aspects. I don’t want to sound egotistical, but there has been so much stuff happening. We had an Opportunity for All crash and the regents postponed that. We are able to accept [undocumented students], but we are not able to give them work. That was one of the unfortunate things.

Q: How do you feel your term went as a whole? I mean, it’s not over just yet, but you’re getting close to the end.

Ojeda: What, five, six more weeks? It was crazy at this point [during] week four [of] last quarter. It was stressful. I’m not gonna shy away from mentioning the impeachment. It stopped me from doing my work, and I’ll admit to that.

Q: During the impeachment, could you talk about specific things that you weren’t able to do?

Ojeda: Progress got stopped. I just felt like managing this whole position is already hard, but when you have to defend your position and also keep doing this work, I do believe it hinders my progress. I would like to apologize to the students for that particular time period [when] I wasn’t at my best. It’s like, damn, I finally get what this position demands from me, but I’m about to term out, you know? It’s definitely bittersweet the way you have all these skills, but you’re terming out, and it is what it is. You have conversations with the chancellor and different stakeholders; you need to know how to do it. And when I came [into power] in September and during the summer, I didn’t know that. I learned that along the way.

Q: Now that you’re kind of closing out this term, you feel like you’re getting the grasp of it, getting the hang of it. So why not run for reelection and keep going?

Ojeda: Well, although I have done things that haven’t been done, like being the first AB540 ASUCD president or other stuff, I’m a person too. I’m an individual person. And although some people have forgotten about that during this year, [I’m] looking [to go] into my [fourth-]year more relaxed. Like I said, this is a very demanding position. I do not envy any student government president. But, every time I was doing my work, every time I was starting a project, I wasn’t thinking about setting up any political reelection. I feel like it is very healthy for me to understand that. I had a year. I believe I accomplished things I wanted to accomplish.

Q: You mentioned that you accomplished some things that you were planning to and you accomplished some things along the way that you weren’t expecting. Could you be more specific?

Ojeda: The budget is one of the unexpected things. I hope [that] after budget hearings, the units and all the ASUCD bodies are able to say that they feel well set up for next year. And that’s one of the things I was surprised about. We always talk about how there’s no money around, and I was surprised that out of first impressions, people seem pleased about their budget. [Something] that were always on [my] watch was The Pantry’s transition to what was formerly known as Gunrock Gaming. There’s a bigger premiere lounge coming up which we hope to have balloons and stuff. I don’t know if it’s gonna be under my term or for the next president in fall.

Q: You mentioned the upcoming ASUCD president. By default, it will be Gaius Ilupeju. What are some messages of advice you have?

Ojeda: First of all, I know Gaius. He served as senator way before I came into Senate. I feel like ASUCD and the UC Davis students are going to be happy with his work. He knows ASUCD. I have some more advice for him that I’ll share with him privately, but I think he’s well set up. I have no doubt he’ll do an amazing job. I have a lot of faith in him and what he represents.

Q: This is kind of taking a step back a little bit, but looking at ASUCD as a whole, what do you think it can improve on? What do you think are its biggest failures and weaknesses?

Ojeda: Let’s start with the downsides. Outreach is something we don’t seem to get right. I feel like this academic year we have slightly improved, and I hope this election reflects it. We didn’t have a Sunset Fest this year, and for that I’d like to apologize to the students. We did fail. Hopefully, that’s improving for next year. 

It hasn’t been an easy year for students. We have seen the protests [on] campuses, and I want all the students to know that we have. I want students to know that we have brought those issues to the stakeholders on campuses. ASUCD is the whole undergraduate body, but, you know, we have a smaller family, which is our employees, and I hope they feel appreciated. And what better way to do that than [through] their wages, because we know prices are going up. We hope these budget hearings reflect that ASUCD wouldn’t be here without its employees. We also need to respect them and give them their respect. We know the minimum wage is going up. I feel like ASUCD has a responsibility to [pay] higher than that, to respect our students.

Q: Let’s move forward and address the impeachments. I mean, undoubtedly it marked your tenure. How do you feel about them now that a few months have passed? 

Ojeda: I do not owe an apology to the Senate. I don’t believe they owe me an apology. I feel like they said their piece. I feel like I wasn’t allowed to say my piece at the time. And when it comes to student government, it’s not functional. I hope future senators understand that it’s part of their role to make it functional, to create a good work environment. I aim to do that. This year, I couldn’t.

Q: What has having this role meant for you in your personal life?

Ojeda: There’s some times where you’re just walking and you look at the CoHo and you look at The Pantry or Unitrans, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I might have put my two cents there when I said this during this meeting.’ I wouldn’t say I cry, but definitely some tears come out when I see students happy with ASUCD services. I get to be the first ASUCD AB540 president, and that’s a big thing. And actually, sometimes I wish I wouldn’t have been the first, because it has come with its difficulties, and I hope and I pray I’m not the last AB540 student. I feel like AB540 students’ opinions are not on the high table there, and we saw it with Opportunity for All crashing the way it did. 

Q: You know what’s next for you, do you? I mean, you’re not going to be president next year– 

Ojeda: Thank God. 

Q: –do you think you’ll still be somewhat associated with ASUCD? 

Ojeda: Yeah, well, they say you can never run out of, just run away from, ASUCD. I hope that’s not true. I do need a break from the third floor [the home of ASUCD administrative offices]. I currently don’t have plans to stick around in any position in ASUCD.

Q: Is there something you want to say and get off your chest, for our readers to know?

Ojeda: I feel like during this time, please take care of your mental health. School, grades and all the other criteria [used] to rate us as professionals do not define you as a person. Please engage with ASUCD. We have Unitrans. You might have voted in the elections if you didn’t vote in fall elections. Elections might seem silly, but elected people like me, elected people like this year’s senators — If you want [things] to change, if you want to keep [them] the same, you know, you gotta keep an eye [on] the candidates. 

 

Written by: Vince Basada campus@theaggie.org

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