Ha’Am reached out to USAC candidates and asked them, if elected, how they would represent the Jewish community at the student government council table.
Introductions and voting solicitations have been redacted. Candidate statements have not been otherwise edited.
Millen Srivastava: “It is my duty as your next USAC President to defend Jewish students who are attacked and put at a disadvantage because of their culture. I’ve worked in three different USAC offices led by Jewish leaders; I’ve watched and been an ally to them through the anti Semitic attacks they’ve combated. I will continue this work to ensure that Jewish students feel safe. I have no tolerance for anti Semitic attacks in USAC, our campus, and our nation as a whole. I will work with administration to ensure that hate speech of any kind will be combated on our campus. I also want to advocate for more kosher meals and bring recognition to Jewish holidays, such as not making attendance mandatory on holidays such as Shabbat and Passover. I will make it a priority in my agenda that Jewish students do not have to put their safety at risk and their culture at a disadvantage to prioritize their education and passions. I would greatly appreciate your vote in this upcoming election.”
Robert Blake Watson: “As IVP, I have connected leaders within Ha’Am to UCLA’s administration, including the Dean of Students, and will be a pro-active council-member next year through continuing to connect concerned students to administration. As President, you have mycommitment to publicize all Presidential Appointments to the Jewish student community, and to ensure that there is representation on thePresidential Search Committee. But, as we all know, this does not get to the root of the problems facing the Jewish community. Recently,USAC’s equivalent at UC Berkeley, ASUC, has been mired in controversy after antisemitic comments equating Judaism with Zionism and withwhite supremacy were made. This is not the first time that Jewish students’ personal stances with respect to the state of Israel have been as dog whistles for Jewishness in its entirety, nor is it the first time that Jewish students’ political beliefs have been used as a cudgel to exclude them student government and campus activism. In 2015, USAC council-members accused a judicial board nominee of being unable to render fair judgments on account of her affiliation with the Jewish community. It is absolutely vital that no community is unfairly targeted or excluded. As your next USAC president, I would aggressively monitor instances of bias at the council table, in the appointments process, and elsewhere.”
Student Wellness Commissioner
Mihika Sridhar: “If elected as your Student Wellness Commissioner next year, I will unequivocally stand against anti-semitism and its various forms: structural, social, and personal. My duty as the Student Wellness Commissioner is to advocate for the health and wellness of every single student on this campus, but especially, to do so in a way that addresses the various disparities caused by institutionalized racism, sexism, and religious discrimination. My platforms Health for Heritage Week, HotBod Hotspots, and Make Title IX Mine are intentionally inclusive of Jewish Bruins and will work to improve Jewish student health in a culturally-conscious way. I will ensure collaborative programming, specific to diverse health needs (mental health, nutrition, etc.) of the Jewish student community, between SWC committees and Hillel, Chabad House, and more. I will also coordinate outreach and publicity in spaces such as these to make sure SWC’s resources and opportunities are accessible to members of the Jewish community. Finally, I will be a firm voice of advocacy on the USAC Council, not just against anti-semitism and bigotry which has no place in any community, but for the equitable treatment and empowerment of Jewish students. “
Ty Pearson: “In the past, the SWC has kept itself removed from being vocally against issues of hatred, racism and anti-Semitism. For example, when tragedy has stricken different campus communities, the SWC has not been actively present in supporting the healing spaces and vigils organized by communities targeted by hate. When the Jewish community was targeted by hate in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, SWC should have reached out to community leaders and organizers to support their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. As SWC I plan to take an active-stance in condemning anti-Semitism and intolerance. Moreover, I will ensure that this is reflected in the programming efforts undertaken by our commission but also in the ways in which I proactively engage with the Jewish community.”
Academic Affairs Commissioner
Oscar Macias: “As the Academic Affairs Commissioner, I plan on taking a role as a learner in order to effectively identify the prevalent issues that our Jewish students face. This learning experience will begin with an educational trip to Israel this summer where I hope to gain deeper knowledge about prevalent Jewish concerns. With this knowledge and by creating a transparent and accessible office, I hope to create strong and effective coalitions with the Jewish student body that will pave the way towards a safe space for our students on campus. As the Academic Affairs Commissioner, our office will not tolerate any kind of anti-Semitic, racist, and hateful speech.”
Naomi Riley: “I want to, first, highlight my commitment to ensuring that my appointments to the Academic Senate are diverse and inclusive through my accessibility platform. As you may already know, the Academic Senate has played a vital role in ensuring that students’ concerns and needs are being adequately taken into account by administration. This essentially means extending the Academic Affairs Commission, and continuing to open up the office so that Jewish students can also feel comfortable enough, not only to serve within the Senate but within the commission as a whole. In terms of political consciousness, I find it extremely important to continuously educate one another about the different communities UCLA has here, and in order to do this, I want to continue to co-program with different organizations across campus to promote that same awareness. This means extending programming to highlight the academic experience as well as the historical experience of Jewish students on campus, similarly to how I helped facilitate an event titled “Central American Counterspaces.” By saying this, I also want to acknowledge how important it is to learn about cultures that are not your own, and so, I am committed to keep learning about your organization and the work you all accomplish here. Lastly, I find it important to acknowledge my own presence within council. I must highlight that though I believe free speech is an important constitutional amendment, I will not ever tolerate hate speech. Therefore, I will continue to be vigilant against anti-Semitism and other problematic forms of discrimination that have always seemed to work its way into the USAC space.
Internal Vice President
Kimberly Bonifacio: “I plan to serve the Jewish community by ensuring that my office is actively reaching out to Jewish organizations. I will ensure that the issues, concerns, and interests of Jewish students are being heard and brought to the USAC Table. I want to open up my office and create partnerships with Jewish student groups to support them with their programming and events. I know that instances these past few years have made the Jewish community on campus feel unsafe and for me, that is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. As the next Internal Vice President, I want to actively work on the safety and security of all Bruins, especially against hate speech. Through the Campus Safety Alliance in the IVP Office, I want to collaborate with student organizations to have workshops and dialogues that inform all students about important issues such as anti-Semitism.”
Cultural Affairs Commissioner
Kelechi Iheanacho: “I plan to serve the Jewish community by ensuring that my commission continues to be a space that welcomes all Bruins to engage in safe spaces for their various identities, and to promote dialogue that informs students about issues faced by various communities, such as anti-Semitism. I come from a community that is traditionally unrepresented by USAC and made to feel unsafe on campus, so I am familiar with this feeling and am determined to ensure that the Cultural Affairs Commission continues to create space on campus for all communities that have experienced alienation or exclusion from spaces they deserve. I am aware of instances on campus and throughout the UC in recent years that have made Jewish students feel unsupported and unsafe, and I personally find this unacceptable. I will not tolerate behavior or speech that infringes upon the identities of our students.”
Lily Shaw: “As your next Facilities Commissioner, it will be my responsibility to provide safe spaces for all groups on campus. My platform, Blank Space serves to provide spaces for organizations and communities that are either seeking long term space for meetings or short term space for programming. Additionally, I will be holding weekly office hours in Kerckhoff 300D where students are more than welcome to come speak with me about any issues they are facing on campus. It will be my duty to help problem solve these issues either within my office or on council if need be. Lastly, I will not tolerate hate speech or anti-semitism on our campus. I will be an advocate for the Jewish community on council and support them however I can.”
Campus Events Commissioner
Tara Steinmetz: “As a Jewish student, I hope that the work I do will always undoubtedly serve Jewish students on this campus. My Jewish identity cannot be separated from how I present myself and therefore, I intend to be a voice of representation for Jewish students, especially when and if I see that our perspectives are not being remembered. Hillel and the Jewish Bruin community at UCLA has been a huge part of my 3 years here and I hope that, as I will likely be the only Jewish student on council next year, I can stand up for the community I care deeply for when necessary and in the face of the anti-semitism that exists on this campus.”
Community Service Commissioner
Jonathan Wisner: “As a council member next year I hope to serve Jewish Bruins first are foremost by not tolerating and addressing antisemitism. As a campus community we must collectively combat hate speech and declare that it has no place on our campus. This is a greater issue on campus and I hope to collaborate with the rest of council and the Jewish community to find ways to address this. Additionally, as Community Service Commissioner, I hope to engage Jewish Bruins involved in service through outreach events such as a State of Service to understand how Jewish Bruins can be best supported and how the Commission can engage more Jewish Bruins in service. I look forward to the upcoming year!”
Transfer Student Representative
Isabel Oraha: “After growing up in an area of San Diego that was lacking in diversity, coming to UCLA has exposed me to an incredibly diverse population of people. Before coming here, I had never met someone observing the Jewish faith. Through the many Jewish students I have met here, I have learned so much about Judaism and still have much to learn. While my seat’s role on council is primarily to serve the interests of transfer students, the transfer student body is incredibly diverse and includes many Jewish students. So in serving transfer students, I am also serving the needs of Jewish students. I understand that there have instances of racism and antisemitism on campus, but as a council member, I will not tolerate these acts. I will make sure to use my platform to speak out against those who attack Jewish students.”
International Student Representative
Shahamah Tariq Khan: “I am honored to be the International Student Representative at the USAC table next year. The community I wish to represent, whose voice I aim to raise is the international-identifying Bruin community. The international community is one of the most diverse on campus ethnically and religiously. As such, Jewish international students are a part of the community I wish to serve. Being a minority religion in this country is never easy. It comes with challenges and roadblocks. Additionally, being an international student from a minority religion is even more challenging. But the students I have known and seen and met on this campus are brave and hopeful. As a council member, I am not here to represent all experiences, but I am here as an ally to all voices, an ally to the Jewish community and their needs. As the International Student Representative, I am here to hear and serve pressing needs of the Jewish community. Another large important role I interpret mine to be is celebrating the diversity on campus. I plan and hope to celebrate and educate the larger Bruin community about Jewish festivities and celebrations and traditions in collaboration with Jewish clubs and organizations on campus. Lastly, the Jewish International Bruin community is the Bruin community and I look forward to working with them and for them to the best of my abilities.”
The other three candidates have not responded to multiple requests from Ha’Am for comment as of the publishing of this article.
Credit to Aaron Boudaie for organizing this article.