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Monday, June 10, 2024

This election cycle, ‘Bitch’ was on the ballot

Two UC Davis students discuss their unique ASUCD Senate campaign

 

By EMME DUNNING — features@theaggie.org

 

Editor’s Note: The candidates were interviewed and this article was written prior to the ASUCD elections. Both Dhilena Wickramasinghe and Amrita Julka were elected to the Senate table. 

 

Chances are, if you’re a woman, you’ve been called a bitch at some point in your life. The term is an all too common insult, often aimed at women who hold leadership roles. 

Dhilena Wickramasinghe, a second-year sociology major, and Amrita Julka, a first-year political science major, are embracing their identities as bitches. The pair ran for open spots in the ASUCD Senate under a slate poignantly titled, “Bitch.” As prominent women in student government, Wickramasinghe and Julka have personal experiences with the struggles associated with being women in leadership. 

“Women are constantly called bitches for advocating for themselves, for standing up for what is right and just trying to seek higher positions of power in general,” Wickramasinghe said. “Naming our slate ‘Bitch’ is kind of a punch back. We’re women, we’re proud to be women and we are reclaiming the power that is trying to be taken from us when men call us that word.” 

Although supporting women holding positions of power is a priority for the pair, Wickramasinghe’s slate partner Julka noted that this election is particularly important in terms of the need for adequate representation.

“[Our campaign] comes at a crucial time because all the women who are currently serving on the Senate are leaving,” Julka said. 

Due to the small number of women running for Senate, Julka worries about the possibility of a Senate without representation for women, and the impacts this may have on ASUCD as a whole.

 “There is a very high chance that women will not be represented fairly on the Senate table for next year. That’s why we’re focusing so much on this ‘women in charge, women empowerment move,’” Julka said. 

Julka and Wickramasinghe both currently serve on committees within ASUCD, which they feel has helped strengthen their understanding of the campus’ needs and informed the priorities outlined in their campaigns. Although they share a vision of making the ASUCD Senate more equitable overall, they also hold their own distinct views and priorities within their respective campaigns. 

Wickramasinghe, a current member of the Sexual Assault Awareness and Advocacy Committee, hopes to continue advocating for sexual health resources in a senatorial role. In their campaign statement, Wickramasinghe outlined initiatives supporting this goal, including increasing access to sexual health products in different locations around campus and ensuring sexual health education workshops are inclusive of the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. In addition, she hopes to advocate for diversity awareness and increase knowledge surrounding protections for student activists. 

Julka, who serves as a committee member on the Student Health and Wellness Committee, wants to ensure Aggies have adequate resources to support their well-being, including expanding access to menstrual and contraceptive products on campus and giving students more options for gender-neutral restrooms across campus. Additionally, she hopes to allocate money toward supporting minority groups such as first-generation, transfer and veteran student populations to ensure they feel supported academically and socially at UC Davis. 

Apart from her stated campaign priorities, Julka also recognizes the need for more transparency within ASUCD and, if elected, would implement transparency and accountability initiatives to ensure the Senate body works effectively with and for the students of UC Davis. 

“I think accountability for [the] Senate is a huge thing that we want to work on,” Julka said. “Each senator has adopted units and committees that they are required to attend meetings for, but unfortunately that does not happen a lot of the time. They just aren’t showing up. Our units, commissions and committees play such a huge role for our legislative body, and by not going to those meetings it is doing the student body a huge disservice. I’d definitely like to work on holding senators accountable for going to [these] meetings.”

Wickramasinghe echoed this sentiment, highlighting that as students pay a considerable $85 per quarter fee for ASUCD, they should be able to easily understand and utilize the resources they fund. 

“We’re giving so much money to [ASUCD] and I think ASUCD themselves should be more transparent and be promoting themselves more to the student body, and students should be able to know what they’re paying for as well,” Wickramasinghe said. 

The “Bitch” slate has been endorsed by many organizations and individuals across campus, including Dani Antonio, a current ASUCD senator and the pairs’ slate manager. 

Antonio, a third-year psychology major, played an integral role in establishing the “Bitch” slate following her decision not to run again for her ASUCD Senate position.

“I wanted to make sure that the candidates who were women and who were running for the same goals and values as me had the same support that I had when I was running,” Antonio said. “I decided to reach out to [Wickramasinghe] and [Julka] and see if they were interested in being in a slate with each other, and a slate called ‘Bitch’ at that.”

Ensuring informed and passionate women are adequately represented in the ASUCD Senate was a major factor for Antonio when deciding to support the “Bitch” slate. 

“If we lack representation at the table, other student voices aren’t gonna be heard. With women for example — menstrual equity, sexual reproductive health, student safety — all of these issues revolve around women, and if we don’t have voices to represent that on the table then they’re just gonna get lost. They’re not even just silenced, they’re fully going to be neglected,” Antonio said. 

“I think it’s super important that there are not only women on the table, but there are multiple women of different backgrounds, different priorities, different advocacies and specialties,” Antonio said. “As a senator, you shouldn’t be advocating for something you don’t know anything about and what I love about my candidates is that they’re both very well-educated on the things that they are running on.”

In the male-dominated field of politics, the “Bitch” slate believes women’s representation is immensely important. If elected to the ASUCD Senate, Wickramasinghe and Julka would have the opportunity to play a vital role in embodying informed representation for the UC Davis community.

Written by: Emme Dunning — features@theaggie.org

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