The UC Student Association elected its 2016-17 president and other executive officers at a conference Friday.
UC Davis doctoral student Ralph Washington Jr. was chosen to serve as the association’s president, while Brenda Gutierrez will take over as board chair. The elections took place at the UCSA’s annual UC Student Congress conference in Pomona, California.
“If we claim to be one UC and we aim to function as one UC, we need to make sure we’re advocating on behalf of students on all 10 campuses,” Washington Jr. said, adding that UC Merced is sometimes neglected. “I want to make sure one campus isn’t left to languish in the middle of the central valley.”
Washington Jr. said he hopes to improve the experience of underrepresented students of color on UC campuses and make the UCSA more efficient by emphasizing shared values among board members.
Washington Jr. used an example from his field of study: entomology. He said there is a type of termite that builds enormous mounds with complex internal architecture through simple and straightforward actions. He said the UCSA will be able to build similarly durable solutions with more cohesion.
“Entomology allows me to recognize metaphors for human experience,” Washington Jr. said.
He previously served as chair of the UC Davis graduate student association and the graduate co-chair of the UC Council of Student Body Presidents.
Gutierrez, who will serve as board chair, is an undergraduate student at UC Merced.
The president is responsible for representing the UCSA externally by working with the UC Board of Regents, the UC Office of the President and the student governments of various campuses, while the board chair facilitates internal aspects, such as board meetings.
UC Berkeley ASUC External Affairs Vice President André Luu was nominated for vice chair of the UCSA board but did not win the election. Luu will, however, act as the campus’s liaison with UCSA. As one of the voting members on the board, Luu said he hopes to represent UC Berkeley students’ needs and concerns.
Nominees for UCSA executive positions do not publicly campaign for office. The annual conference at which elections take place is primarily meant as a way to train UC students in organizing and leadership. At the conference, students propose and select campaigns for the organization to work on over the next two years.
The UCSA announced two campaigns it will pursue in the upcoming year: Sustain Our Students and Re-IGNITE. The UCSA previously launched a mental health services campaign, #HowAreYou, which it will continue to advocate.
The Re-IGNITE campaign aims to advocate for increased investment in education over incarceration, while Sustain Our Students targets food insecurity and other basic needs of UC students.