UCSD Associated Students Election Advisory

AS Election Advisory
Justin Morse

On April 4th, UCSD students will begin electing their student government (AS) representatives for next year. Students will choose everyone from AS President to their college senators, and will vote on referendums for increased fee hikes. The people who will preside over the huge budget of AS for the next year will be elected. But what does our Associated Students actually do?

The only two explicit powers that our Associated Students has are to, “control all ASUCSD funds and appropriate those funds [and] represent the interests and opinions of UCSD undergraduate students.” How AS actually represents the interests and opinions of a diverse group of over twenty thousand students is beyond me. The reality is that AS can only represent the interests of the AS. So the disbursement of funds serves as the only substantive power that AS has. I know that AS candidates promise everything under the sun when running for election, but they luckily have very limited power on campus. Since the only real power AS has is to dole out money, whom do they give money to?

AS spends money on various events, like Sun God and pancake breakfasts, but it also gives money to student organizations for operating funds. Everything from newspapers, political groups, ethnic groups, religious groups and Greek organizations get money from AS. The amount of money given out is ultimately determined by an AS council vote. This system operates much like legislative directed spending, better known as pork barrel spending, on the federal level. Representatives in Congress have large amounts of money that they give out to various groups and projects, very similar to what AS does.

Now imagine if Congress was filled with people who worked for or had associations with the groups and projects that were getting the funding, I wish it were more difficult to do this. Imagine if the heads of Lockheed Martin sat on the Defense Appropriations Committee, or the heads of Goldman Sachs sat on the Finance Committee. If the very people who were lobbying for more money were the same people who decided how much money to give out, people would be outraged. This outrage would be warranted, as a clear conflict of interest would exist in funding allocation. Well this is exactly what happens in AS year after year.

The same people who sit on the very council that decides funding often have ties to the groups that are requesting the funding. SAAC (Student Affirmative Action Committee) groups largely operate on funding they get from AS. The problem lies in that any passive observer of AS operations can clearly see that AS is dominated with people who either have ties to SAAC groups or are overtly sympathetic to their political agenda. SAAC groups, like the BSU and MEChA, have a clearly disproportionate amount of influence on AS.

I see the clear conflict of interest that exists in AS to be a problem. It is extremely difficult for AS to objectively allocate money when many of their members have ties to the same groups that are requesting funding. This is an even bigger problem because SAAC groups have a blatant ideological agenda. SAAC groups push a “social justice” agenda that the students did not vote for or endorse. It is not the job of AS to be a partisan ideological body with an agenda, although it often is.

I’m not saying that people who have ties to student groups should not be allowed to be on AS. This would be punishing people for being active in the student community, something I think all of us should be. I am, however, saying that when you cast your vote in the upcoming election look at the groups that each candidate is associated with. The slate “Students First”, or more aptly called “Students Who Aren’t White First”, is for all intents and purposes the political action arm of SAAC. Each one of their candidates has ties to various SAAC groups, and if elected they will serve merely to enhance the power and influence of these groups. If that is what you want, then by all means vote “Students First”. If you think members of AS should look at funding requests in a more unbiased manner then vote for someone else. Unfortunately there are very few AS candidates who will be fair and unbiased, but a great way to know is by getting informed about how the UCSD AS candidates choose to affiliate themselves.

Justin is a senior in Marshall College majoring in political science. Angad is a sophomore in Sixth College majoring in philosophy.

AS Election 2011:
Candidate Associations

This list is meant to aid you in understanding which candidates are running in this year’s AS elections. It’s important to keep in mind which groups on campus candidates are associated with before voting in the AS elections. Tracking pre-power loyalties can explain why certain special interest groups have so much power in AS.

* CCC (Cross Cultural Center)
* CGIU (Clinton Global Initiative University)
* HS (High School)
* ICRA (Inter-College Resident’s Association)
* MCC (Muir College Council)
* SAAC(Student Affirmative Action Committee)
* SCSC (Sixth College Student Council)
* SSC (Student Sustainability Collective)
* TMCSC (Thurgood Marshall College Student Council)
* WCSC (Warren College Student Council)

*Data Compiled from Campaign Statements by Angad Walia and Alec Weisman

A.S. President

Ryan O’Rear (Tritons First)
– Commissioner of Finance – Muir College Council
– Treasurer, Fundraising Chair – Tau Kappa Epsilon
– Muir College AS Senator
– UCSA Student Lobby Conference Delegate

John Tran (Flush the John)
– PR Coordinator – Lurk
– Vice President Public Relations ICRA*
– Enviroment, Health & Safety Student Assistant

Jasmine Philips (Students First)
– Vice Chair SAAC
– SAAC Rep – Black Student Union
– Board of Directors – SPACES
– Chair – UC Statewide Afrikan Black Coalition
– Affiliates and Outreach Coordinator CCC*

Alyssa Wing (Board the Wing)
– President – Warren College Student Council
– Chair – AS College Council Funding Committee
– Warren College AS Senator
– One Stop SILC

Marc Chew (The Ohana Movement)
– UCSD Office of Admissions and Relations with Schools

Parminder Sandhu (We are Tritons)
– Sixth College AS Senator
– Worked with Ca. State Assemblyman Jim Beall
– Second Year Senator – SCSC*
– Representative – Committee on Undergraduate Admissions
– UCSD Relay for Life Membership Development Chair (09-11)

VP Student Life

Meredith Madnick (Board the Wing)
– AS Associate Vice President Student Services
– AS Finance Committee
– AS Finance Principles Special Committee
– Convocation Committee
– AS Speaker of the Council

Donald J. Zelaya (Students First)
– External Outreach Coordinator – BSU
– Student Affairs Intern – Thurgood Marchal College
– RA – UCSD Village
– Alpha Phi Omega
– BSU/MEChA HS* Conference Co-Coordinator

Pam Sran (Tritons First)
– AS Senator – Warren College
– Student at Large- WCSC*
– AS Columnist – Warren Briefs
– External Affairs Officer – CGIU*
– Student Advocate – AVP Office of Advocacy
– Spirit Committee – WCSC*

VP External Affairs

Sarah Johnson (We Are Tritons)
– White House Intern
– Joint Civilian Orientation Conference – Office of the Secretary of Defense
– Presidential Campaign Staff 2008
– Gubernatorial Campaign Worker 2010
– Senatorial Campaign Worker 2010

Victor Flores (Students First)
– Publicity/Operations Coordinator – MEChA
– Community Law Project
– Delegate – Students of Color Conference
– AS Campus-wide Senator
– JusticeCorp Intern – Ca. Superior Court, San Diego

Samer Naji (Board the Wing)
– AS Transfer Senator
– AS Campus Affairs
– Director of Internal Affairs – Moorpark College AS

Tyler Nelson (Flush the John)
– Mystery. We do not know much about him.

VP Finance

Lynne Swerhone (Tritons First)
– Chief of Staff – AS Finance
– Chair – AS Store Advisory Board
– Representative – Social and Environmental
Sustainability Committee
– One Stop Help Desk
– Student Conduct Code Workgroup

Kevin Hoang (Board the Wing)
– Chief of Staff – AS VP Student Life
– AS Finance Principles Special Committee
– AS Freshman Senator
– AS Senator – Warren College

Arts & Humanities Senator

Alex Parra (Tritons First)
– Intern – AS Concerts and Events
– Production Assistant – UCSD Theatre & Dance
– Intern – Triton TV
– Curator – Vis Arts Undergrad Art Show

Cyrus Kiani (Independent Candidate)
– Core Member – UCSD Food-Coop
– Programming Intern – SD Asian Film Foundation
– Gallery Assistant – CALit2
– Stage Manager – Student Film Festival

Biological Sciences Senator

Randze Lerie Palmaira (Students First)
– Member – Kaibigang Pilipino
– Intern – Initiative for Maximizing
Student Diversity
– SAAC* Representative
– Member – HMP3

Sarah Saad (We are Tritons)
– Research Assistant – Cardiovascular Epidemiology
– UCSD Dept. of Family and Preventative Medicine
– Member – HMP3
– Member – College Democrats
– Veterinary Technician Assistant,
X-ray Technician Assistant

Physical Sciences Senator

Kevin Fish (Independent Candidate)
– Mystery. We do not know much about him.

Benjamin Hass (We are Tritons)
– AS Physical Sciences Senator
– SHIP and Financial Practices Committee
– Physics Lab Worker

Social Sciences Senator

Lilianne Tang (Students First)
– AS Special Events Manager
– Facilitator – APSA High School Conference

Jacob Tyler Wisdom (We are Tritons)
– AS Transfer Senator
– Campus Affairs Committee
– Pre-Law Society
– Youth Student Outreach Program

Rashika Rakibullah (Independent Candidate)
– Chief of Staff – AS AVP Diversity Affairs
– Secretary – Schools 4 Schools
– Tutor – International Center
– Vice President of Programming – ICRA
– FIMRC Children’s Health Awareness Day

Alexander Choi (Board the Wing)
– UCSD Golf Team

Campus Wide Senator (choose 8)

Ismail Aboudihaj (We are Tritons)
– UCSD Persian Club

Lior Abrahmson (We are Tritons)
– President – Tritons For Israel
– Intergroup Relations – Muslim-Jewish Student Dialogue

Kirk Richard Freeman (Board the Wing)
– Transfer Representative – ERC

Amanda Jessica Malamud (Board the Wing)
– VP Associated Student Body
– Intern – San Francisco Superior Court

Samir Mohun Mathur (We are Tritons)
– Treasurer – Phi Sigma Pi
– Founder – Undergraduate Marketing Association

Carlos Molina (Board the Wing)
– Chair – Revelle College Council
– Speaker – Revelle College Council

Pasand Kumar Lakireddy (We are Tritons)
– Advocate of D1 Sports

Karen Liang (Board the Wing)
– AS Senator
– Student Council at ERC

Matt Bradbury (Board the Wing)
– ERC AS Senator
– Res Hall Representative – ERC Student Council
Cecilia Xitong Zhou (Students First)
– Corporate Accountability Intern – Office of the President

Noor El-Annan (Students First)
– President – Arab Student Union
– Administrative Assistant – SSC*

Melissa Sara Etehad (Students First)
– Founder – Jewish Students Taking Action for Peace

Annie Yu (Tritons First)
– AS Senator – Marshall College
– Intern – Dean of Marshall College

Shridhar Gambhir (Tritons First)
– Tau Kappa Epsilon
– Greek Ambassador – Greek Housing Commission

Nikhil Gupta (Tritons First)
– Treasurer – Tau Kappa Epsilon
– Director of College Relations – Greek Housing Initiative

Clinton Anthony Rodriguez (Board the Wing)
– Civil Rights Intern – SSC*
– AS Judicial Board Representative – MCC*

Jacob Newell Robinson (Students First)
– Students with Disabilities Coalition

Olivia Cancino (Students First)
– Phi Sigma Rho
– RA – The Village

Ashton Cohen (Board the Wing)
– Community Law Project
– UCSD Pre-Law Society

Rahul Sajnani (We are Tritons)
– Opinion Writer – The Guardian

Arman Sobhani (We are Tritons)
– RA – Sixth College
– HDH Appeals Committee

Shivi Sharma (We are Tritons)
– Honors Intern – UCSD Medical School
– Indian A Capella Team

Lighann Michelle Huang (Tritons First)
– Kappa Alpha Theta
– Habitat for Humanity



  1. Some appointed “student government” positions on campus are just as worrisome. Take for instance UCAB, which does fund some student activities, which has a SAAC Representative on the board. Why should one highly-biased, politically motivated cluster of student organizations get a voting member, when no other group of orgs does? Of course, why does SAAC get so much office space, while the rest of the orgs are shoved together 3 to an office? UCSD is an excellent training ground for government corruption.

  2. Dead on again, Zoom. The referendum that established SPACES is illegal and someone should challenge its legality.

  3. Joe Phenson · ·

    Thank you for the work you have put into the article, this helps clear up a few questions I had.

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