ASUCD senators-elect discuss goals, expectations

Editor’s note: The Aggie interviewed the six newly-elected ASUCD senators. They will be sworn in at the ASUCD Senate meeting Thursday, Nov. 29. The interviews are in alphabetical order by first name.

Alyson Sagala
Fourth-year political science and communication double major
The Aggie: What are your goals as senator?
Sagala: My goals as a senator are to make sure that we are creating a level of representation for students that allows everyone to feel inclusive and welcome and that they feel comfortable coming to Senate meetings, and being able to explicitly voice their opinions to the senators sitting on the table without being afraid that they’ll be laughed out or turned away or told that their concerns are unimportant, which has happened in the past.
The Aggie: How was your campaigning experience?
Sagala: My experience was amazing personally because I received so much support from people I didn’t even know a lot of the time, who just liked what I stood for and was running for. Overall, my campaign experience was really positive. I learned a lot of things, I met a lot of amazing people [and] I became really close with a lot of communities on campus.
The Aggie: What do you think qualifies you to be the student voice by being senator?
Sagala: My dedication. The fact that I feel like I worked extremely hard on this campaign. I network as much as possible to everyone on campus, because I want to make sure everyone’s getting an equal level of representation. I have a very open mind. I may not have been on a commission, but working on a unit gave me a very intimate perspective on how ASUCD functions as far as budget allocations and politics. I also think being able to receive the amount of votes I did get is already a strong factor showing that I was qualified.
The Aggie: What have you taken away from campaigning?
Sagala: Politics is not for the fearful. You have to be really aggressive. Don’t be afraid that people are going to be mean to you, turn you down, yell at you or ignore you. If you’re passionate about something, nothing should stop you. And that’s what I’ve learned the most. I became very passionate about this as the campaign escalated, and I learned not to let anything hinder me from achieving my goals, which was not just be elected but to gain support.

Armando Figueroa
Third-year Chicana/o studies and sociology double major
The Aggie: What is the first thing you want to do about campus?
Figueroa: The first thing I would want to do is to succeed in executing my platforms. One thing I really want to do is augment visibility of administration, and I want to create dialogues. I want to do this as soon as the end of this quarter or the beginning of winter [quarter]. It’s just something I need to work out the logistics of right now, but I’ve talked to some administrators, and they were open about it. I want to create spaces where it may be heated but these dialogues obviously need to be done.
The Aggie: What are you looking forward to after becoming an ASUCD senator?
Figueroa: I’m looking forward to collaboration from different sides of campus that I may or may have not been exposed to already. There may have been instances where people feel like I’m a polarizing figure, but that comes with every ASUCD senator. So one thing I’m very much looking forward to is having arguments and being able to collaborate with the person I disagreed with. If I hold unpopular views on the Senate table, I look forward to having those views challenged.
The Aggie: What is your drive to helping the campus by being a senator?
Figueroa: What drives me to do it is not so much [about] people not caring about political issues. That may drive other people, because they want to inform [them], but my drive is very much that I see the effects, I’ve seen the change, I’ve seen the positive outlooks that I’ve had [and] I’ve seen things go bad to good. My ambition is [for] people to see me as someone who can create that connection and really make sure that students know these issues affect them.
The Aggie: What would you like your campus to know post-election?
Figueroa: There’s more heart in mobilizing a community than there is in resources. Being immersed in a community is so important, because these are your family members. There shouldn’t be any reason we should draw lines. Just because I claim to be underrepresented, [it] doesn’t mean I’m drawing a line. I’m not just representing one group. I very much value community [and] everyone. Love is what got me here. Just speak from your heart and work from your heart.

Felicia Ong
Second-year political science and communication double major
The Aggie: How was the campaign experience?
Ong: During petitioning week, I was honestly very scared. During petitioning, I got to a point where my mental health wasn’t that great … and I then decided to make the best of it. It was a struggle I was glad that I went through. I still don’t believe I was elected. It definitely ensures that if you believe in something [it can happen]; if there’s a will, there’s a way.
The Aggie: Have you always been active in politics?
Ong: I would have to say no. During my freshman year, I was looking for a job and I ended up … getting hired under Adam Thongsavat [former ASUCD president]. I thought that after he left that I would be done, but there were so many different things that he inspired me to look into. A lot of students came up to me saying, ‘I don’t understand. Why do I have to know who the UC Regents are?’ I think it’s because of that lucky coincidence that I continue to be [politically involved] on my campus.
The Aggie: What do you want to do first now that you’re a senator?
Ong: I am going to let students know I’m a resource for them. I might not finish every single project that I have, but there are a lot of issues on our campus that need to be addressed, whether it’s safety — there’s been racist attacks, a rapist incident — and it’s just really taking in students’ concerns and listening to them before I get focused on platforms.
The Aggie: What do you hope to achieve in the long run with the experience of being a senator?
Ong: I don’t think it’s more so my platforms, but it’s mainly ‘Did I serve as an adequate resource for students?’ The purpose of the ASUCD Senate is to make sure every student has their rights. I could accomplish 500 platforms, but it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t help the students.”

Liam Burke
Second-year political science public service major
The Aggie: What do you plan to achieve as senator?
Burke: I plan to achieve primarily my two platforms, which is to implement mid-quarter course evaluations and help the Greek community go green. We’re going to go to the [Academic Senate], talk to them and if they shoot me down or if it takes a while, then I’ll just go around departmentally and talk to professors and department chairs and see if I can get people on board with [implementing mid-quarter course evaluations], because I see a need for it.
The Aggie: Why did you want to run for Senate?
Burke: I had some ideas of things I wanted to fix. I wanted to represent the student body at the Senate table. It’s something I find personally gratifying [and] I like politics. It’s what really interests me, and it’s an experience that I just wanted.
The Aggie: What was the best part about campaigning?
Burke: The best part of the campaign was when I got a friend request on        Facebook from a girl I’d never met. We had a couple of mutual friends, and so I accepted it. Then she messaged me a couple of minutes later and said, ‘Hey, I know I’ve never met you before, but I read your platforms in The Aggie, and I wanted to tell you that I voted for you and I got all my housemates to vote for you, because I read your idea to implement mid-quarter course evaluations and thought it was amazing. So please do that, because that’s a really good idea.’ This is the first time she’s voted in three years as a student and seeing that one of my ideas could inspire somebody to actually participate in something they had not participated in before was really amazing. It made me really proud of all the work I had done and hopefully all the work I can do. It was a touching moment.
The Aggie: What do you look forward to now that you have won?
Burke: Rest. At least until I get sworn in next week [the 29th]. So I’m going to get as much sleep as possible before then, and then I’m going to get to work.

Max Kappes
Fourth-year applied statistics and political science public service double major
The Aggie: What were the best and worst parts of your campaign?
Kappes: I really enjoyed talking to students, finding out what was more important to them. Since I ran under a club-related platform, it was really fun when I ran into club leaders and got to talk to them. They were really into the idea of student organizations uniting and being able to work together. As for the worst part, [it was] lack of sleep … lack of sleep is awful. I slept through way too many alarms.
The Aggie: What cause are you most passionate about?
Kappes: Uniting student organizations. I came from a junior college, and there we had something called the Interclub Council. All student organizations send student representatives and they work together, and a lot of clubs do bring [ideas], they have club days, pumpkin carving contests, all these kind of things. When I came here, I realized there was no infrastructure for that. That’s why I’m here.
The Aggie: What do you hope to achieve as an ASUCD senator?
Kappes: I want to strengthen how student organizations operate in student government. Ultimately I want to increase the involvement of students on campus, and outreach for ASUCD to clubs.
The Aggie: Do you hope to pursue politics in the future?
Kappes: I’m a political science major, but I like numbers, which is kinda rare for political science majors. I’m really interested in campaign sciences, actual political science, that’s where I want to go.

Tal Topf
Second-year psychology and communication double major
The Aggie: How long did it take to prepare platforms and publicity?
Topf: I reached out to Rebecca Sterling [former ASUCD senator] to get involved, probably the second week of the quarter … then I met with Carly Sandstrom and Bradley Bottoms [who started and founded the NOW slate] and that’s when I decided why I wanted to run. We started [getting everything ready for platforms] probably the second or third week of the quarter. But the publicity never ended.
The Aggie: What are the main goals of NOW?
Topf: We want to make sure that every single student has a voice, and that every single group on campus feels that they are being represented. The truth is that 12 people are representing a group of 30,000 students. For us as senators, it’s important that we make decisions without any bias and in the best interest of the students.
The Aggie: What will you do first now that you’re a senator?
Topf: I don’t know the new senators very well, I don’t know the old senators very well, and I think it’s important that we establish ourselves as a table so that we can help the students when we reach out to them. I really want to bond with everyone, and find out what everyone wants out of the experience and make sure that we are all on the same page.
The Aggie: What would you like to tell the student body post-election?
Topf: Thank you! It’s amazing how many people voted.

JOYCE BERTHELSEN and ALYSSA KUHLMAN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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