Student Advocate Candidates Discuss Office's Role on Campus

Candidates Attempt to Increase Utilization of Resources Available to Students, Inform Voters

Photo: Raul Sanchez
Raul Sanchez

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Photo: Sandra Cohen   Photo: Samar Shah   

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Two of the three candidates running for the office of student advocate in the 2011 ASUC General Election are hoping to increase the visibility of the lesser-known office as well as its relevance in the campus climate.

One of the student advocate's main responsibilities is to provide aid to students involved in disputes with the campus, including but not limited to student conduct disputes. The position is also charged with educating the student body about issues pertaining to student rights, as well as representing the ASUC's position in student conduct discussions.

Over the years, the office has established a tradition of being filled by non-partisan candidates. The last time a party-affiliated executive held the seat was in 2003 under former SQUELCH! party Student Advocate Richard Schulman.

Independent candidate Samar Shah, who is now the chief of staff to the current student advocate and former employee of The Daily Californian Kelly Fabian, said having a nonpartisan student advocate allows case workers in the office who work with students personally on sensitive disputes to maintain an impartial image and to more easily retain institutional knowledge from year to year.

A case worker for two years before becoming chief of staff, Shah said he has been using campaigning to inform students about the office's efforts, though he added that he has also been attempting to do so all year long.

"I'm really taking advantage of the campaign to spread awareness of the office," Shah said. "I definitely realize it's a different battle."

SQUELCH! party Candidate Sandra Cohen, a former Student Action senator, did not respond to requests for comment.

Both Shah and Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate Raul Sanchez said many students they have spoken to are not aware of the existence of the Student Advocate's Office.

However, Sanchez said he has seen a positive response from most of the students he has informed about the office as he campaigns.

If elected, Sanchez said he would try to create weekly meetings that would act as "safe spaces" for undocumented students and underrepresented minorities to express their concerns openly without fear of retribution.

"I am going to reach out to students to let them know that I am here for them," Sanchez said.

He also highlighted his party's desire to mobilize students against Gov. Jerry Brown's $500 million cut to education, a spirit he said he would incorporate into the Student Advocate's Office.

According to Sanchez, being a resource for undocumented and underrepresented students would be an important step in his goal to "tighten that bond between students and the student government."

"We want to make this campus a sanctuary ... where everybody feels comfortable speaking and where everyone accepts each other regardless of race, creed, documented or not," Sanchez said.

In his role as chief of staff, Shah said he has worked with campus administrators on reforms to the campus Code of Student Conduct and would continue that work if elected to office.

To further increase the office's visibility, Shah said he would also reach out to various campus communities in order to make sure they are aware of the various services the office can provide before they need them.

"Unfortunately ... people don't really care about it until that rainy day comes," Shah said.


J.D. Morris is the lead student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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