ASUCR reviews members of staff and committees, elects new BCOE senator and elections director

ASUCR held their second meeting of the fall quarter at 6:35 p.m. last Wednesday, Oct.10. The Senate discussed the appointment of a new BCOE senator and the selection of a new Elections Director for ASUCR this year.

During public forum Justin Domecillo, a fourth-year English major, mentioned a bylaws workshop covering its first chapter, for the benefit of ASUCR staff and senators. The session was held in the Humanities building on Thursday, Oct. 11.

The microphone was then given to Ariel Alcon Tapia, presenting on behalf of the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC). Tapia discussed the dangers of train tracks around UCR, especially to the students around Blaine and Spruce, who had to cross the train tracks to school every day. Tapia highlighted that the RCTC wants UCR to form a partnership with Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit group aiming to prevent “tragic incidents at highway-rail grade crossing intersections and trespassing at railroad rights-of-way.”

The meeting proceeded with committee reports, beginning with President Pro Tempore Julian Gonzalez listing off his choices for the Legislative Review Committee members: CHASS senator Avi Idea as vice president, CHASS senator Alyssa Tocker, CHASS senator Asia Ou, CHASS senator Chelsea Davenport, CNAS senator Abigail Cortes and CNAS senator Kenneth Vongdi. Vongdi was admitted to the vacant CNAS seat that ASUCR chose to fill last week.

Gonzalez then requested that all legislation for the committee meeting be turned in to all committee members 48 hours in advance (on Friday) for adequate review before in-meeting deliberation. He added that each senator needed to submit at least one piece of legislation before winter quarter.

Gonzalez then mentioned the resolution of President Semi Cole’s “student voter registration initiative,” which had been passed the day before. After the meeting, he requested that Executive Vice President Andrea Cuevas discuss the resolution with Chancellor Kim Wilcox the following Friday to refine the initiative and magnify its effects.

A vote to approve the current staff of External Affairs followed, which resulted in the selection of fourth-year political science major Annel Lopez as chief of staff, fourth-year public policy major Daniel Castaneda as civic engagement director, third-year political science major Javier Ramos as incumbent community director, and third-year transfer and political science major Jordanna Wong as executive assistant. The vote of approval passed unanimously 12-0-0.

The senate then turned its attention to the approval of a BCOE senator position, intended to be filled by Jonathan Thai, a third-year computer science major. After a brief introduction, Thai was admitted to the position unanimously with a vote of 12-0-0 and took his seat at the horseshoe shortly after.

The final item of new business was the election of a new elections director for ASUCR, of which there were three candidates: fourth-year political science major Quan Nguyen, Domecillo and fourth-year economics major Laura Pullen.

The first candidate at the podium was Nguyen. If elected, Nguyen wished to accomplish “two big goals,” which were to increase voter turnout to at least 20 percent, up 5.6 percent from turnout last year and to address the “uninformed false stigma that students hold concerning ASUCR and the elections procedures.”

Nguyen emphasized that social media has huge potential in increasing student turnout, aiming to realize the potential in part with “visually stunning ads to invigorate students to vote” and using social media to “publicize future candidates with infographics and recorded interviews.” He also stated that the “grievances” that students have with ASUCR “stem from wrong facts and misunderstandings of what ASUCR is and is not capable of doing” and wanted to rectify such by making ASUCR’s actions more transparent and available, such as the votes it carries out on Wednesdays.

Domecillo was next at the podium. Domecillo highlighted the issues of online voting and laptopping that UCR experienced last year and claimed that although the former has been removed and the latter banned, the current elections code still discusses both matters to some extent. “The next elections director, whoever they should be,” Domecillo said, “needs to work on amending the elections code as soon as possible,” calling it “tantamount for the success of the referendums.”

Domecillo addressed the “incompatibility” that Costo Hall-affiliated students feel with ASUCR, stating that he could help relieve that tension since he “represents a portion of Costo Hall as a Referendum Student Advisory Committee (RSAC) member” and as elections director could become a direct line for the Hall to contact ASUCR. In general, Domecillo aimed to have all types of students and student groups on campus to be heard by ASUCR this year, something UCR administrators started to handle last year.

The last candidate at the podium was Pullen. She addressed several “key action points,” one of which was that the elections process could be enhanced. She intended to achieve this by creating “fun and informative programs” on campus that encourage students to vote, as well as by reactivating ASUCR’s Instagram account to improve visibility and audience outreach. She also considered the advertisement of election matters on the TVs throughout the campus dorms, gym and other buildings in order to spread the word about voting even further.

Pullen explained her intentions for running in an email to the Highlander. “I saw areas of improvement in the elections process,” Pullen said, “that if improved upon would better accommodate the lack of political parties and laptopping … above all else, I am passionate about serving the student body and I recognize that achieving a 20% voter turnout rate is crucial to maintaining and improving our undergraduate student experience.”

Pullen also wanted to increase ASUCR’s activity with its various committees. One committee she wanted to work with more was the Student Voice Committee (SVC). To figure out why students did not vote last year, she would request that the SVC send out a survey regarding the issue and use the results to increase voter turnout this year. She also planned to work with ASUCR’s Marketing Committee and create an elections video to further increase the chances of sufficient student voters.

After Pullen finished she and all visitors were asked to leave the room for a closed election on who would be the next elections director. With a vote of 9-0-4, Pullen was voted as the new elections director for this year.

In response to the victory, Pullen said that she is “excited to take on the position of Elections Director … I believe that my hard work within ASUCR and on campus contributed to my appointment,” Pullen said; in the past she has served as Senate Secretary for ASUCR and delegate of the SVC. She also “encourage(s) all students who want to improve campus life to make their voice heard by voting in the upcoming ASUCR elections.”

As the new elections director Pullen has taken her first steps in the position by “drafting the 2018-2019 elections timeline and revising the election bylaws that includes (sic) outdated political party and laptopping language.” She’s also aiming to create a “motivated and hard-working Elections Committee team” and will send out applications during the week of Oct. 14.” Pullen is undecided on whether voting will be done online or on paper ballots, and also expects discussion on laptopping to be held in the future.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:52 p.m. ASUCR meets every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in HUB 221, the Senate Chambers.

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