On April 26th, The Daily published an article, co-authored by most of their editorial staff, about the current ASUW board of directors’ candidates. In case you weren’t aware, the article was filled with microaggressions, a racist cartoon, and to put it bluntly, a bitter attitude towards the elections. This year, all board of director candidates are running unopposed and all are a part of the same ticket, UpliftUW. This is also the first time we have seen a majority BIPOC ticket, with more than half of the candidates being women as well.
After seeing the comments made of fellow students, calling them “lazy” and “unprepared” yet also “qualified” at the same time (?? @ The Daily), I was quite disheartened. Sure, election processes and hierarchies in a higher education institution probably isn’t the best for minorities in general, but the bigger picture was that for the first time, BIPOC, women, and people from diverse backgrounds are actually going to have a seat at the table, which is more than what can be said from previous years.
Not only was I disheartened by a student-run newspaper’s seemingly biased critiques against candidates, but also because the energy did not seem to fit what their past endorsement announcement articles have. I read past ASUW endorsement articles by The Daily and none seemed to target individuals’ character as much as this year’s. While there is no way we can compare this now (given that The Daily has since removed the endorsement article from its site), the article nit-picked at candidate’s responses at forums, especially when candidates spoke about working towards fair representation, referring to them as “empty promises” and “filler words.” It’s quite odd that they were this nit-picky about minorities expressing the desire to increase minority representation, yet past non-BIPOC candidates were not called “lazy” or accused of saying things for “social justice points” when their plans were vague on the same issue.
Past articles have indeed included critiques towards candidates, but the tone that this year’s endorsement article had was much different. While past articles did critique the candidate’s characters, they never really used words that put down candidates, seeming to consist more of constructive criticism rather than blatant attacks on students. Last year’s endorsement article when speaking about the candidates for presidency said, “However, The Daily is concerned that these candidates may be unprepared to lead the ASUW.” This year’s endorsement article speaking about all candidates said, “The Daily believes the candidates’ performances in the forums last week were great disappointments.” No one is saying The Daily can’t or shouldn’t provide their opinion on elections, but I think calling student’s performances “disappointments” was unnecessary. Constructive criticism can indeed be given without insulting someone.
As The Daily failed to provide what seemed to be an actual fair and honest review of candidates (perhaps personal vendettas against candidates or the ticket is what caused this?), I decided to sit down with some of the Uplift UW candidates. Another reason I believe candidates were given an unfair review was that I discovered that various Uplift UW members had previous commitments to a community event. A couple of the candidates were speaking at the Daunte Wright vigil the same night that forum was scheduled for. They are active community organizers and members, and since this was an event incredibly crucial to both the community and the candidates, I learned that Uplift UW actually asked prior to the forum to have it moved. As community organizers who have strong ties to BIPOC communities, they wanted to respect their previous commitment to both their own community and the UW by being able to adequately prepare and have all members present. They were denied their request to switch the forum’s time and as a result, many candidates had to speed up their responses in order to be able to still speak at the Daunte Wright vigil. To punish candidates for mourning the loss of yet another black American at the hands of a police officer is simply unfair and unjust. This is what we WANT. We want our leaders to be engaged in the community. We want and NEED leaders who put the community first.
I met with 4 candidates of the Uplift UW ticket, Mustapha, Nicole, Kaitlyn, and Michael, who are respectively running for president, director of internal policy, vice president, and director of campus partnerships. A couple of other candidates popped in between their other commitments: Lukas, Geeta, and Ruba who are respectively running for director of university affairs, director of community relations, and director of programming. I unfortunately did not get a chance to meet with Shewit, who is running for the director of diversity efforts, but since I met with a majority of the ticket, I think views are represented well.
I asked the candidates a total of 5 questions, and though that may not seem like a lot, their answers were jam-packed with, well, answers. Plus, time constraints really only allowed that many questions to be asked. One of the first questions I asked was, “What do you think makes a good leader? And which of those qualities do you think you and your team possess?” As we might all have different definitions of the word, understanding the different goals as a leader and clarifying the type of leader they might be is important.
Michael: “I think my biggest thing, when I talk about leadership, is emotional intelligence. That is my biggest thing and I will forever advocate for it, and although it’s a complex word that encompasses a lot, I think it’s important. As a leader, you have to know how to respond to people, how to communicate with people and how they receive communication. You also have to learn how people take and give criticism. When people come to you with different problems, you have to understand what the root cause of that is and be able to address that. And this all plays into emotional intelligence. This is something I think the ticket is really talented in. Every time that we’ve had a situation, we’ve had to use a lot of emotional intelligence to address it, making sure we take time for ourselves, make sure we know what they might actually be upset about, where discrepancies come into play in situations. I think the ticket is really good at doing this in both personal lives, school and with the election.”
Kaitlyn: “Okay, I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to this question only because in my job this past year I’ve been actively trying to actively disrupt what being a leader means. The way I’ve come to think of leadership is not being associated with a title, not being in a room, it doesn’t have to be in any higher education institution or an institution in general. What I’ve come to think of leadership as is being a part of equitable relationships where you uplift someone else. You have to ask what you can do to support someone who has not been supported and I think that’s what leadership is and what we are hoping to establish next year. We don’t need titles, we don’t need people always at the front of the room, we don’t need any of that we need people to support our students. The word leadership has a lot of root problems that I just really think are important to keep in mind.”
Nicole: “I think just not letting the power of the title overtake you and really remaining humble and just making sure you’re remaining a community member and understanding what the community wants. I think just remembering why you wanted to do this work, I think that’s something really important.”
Ruba: “I think the word leader, even the word means that one person is leading, and others follow. I never see the word in that way or manner. I see it as supporting other people, and I think being a leader is such a privilege you know, being able to support others, making sure their needs are being met, and making sure they’re happy and cared for. It means being there and supporting the community without looking for anything back. In business classes you know, we always talk about how being a leader you receive something back and something UpliftUW and I as an individual really don’t believe. I think it’s stepping up and working towards a common goal with other people.”
I was already incredibly impressed with their answers and the ticket. The fact that almost every individual spoke about how a leader means being a part of the community, not letting power or a title get to you and supporting others, was just honestly so nice to hear. I think a lot of people in any scenario tend to talk about themselves as a leader, and what they gain or lose as an individual. But, in the candidate’s answers, it was abundantly clear that they value supporting the community and putting them first, which is a nice change in such a white, privileged institution. Their answer on what being a leader made me hopeful about finally having students actually representing and putting us first.
Since The Daily reported candidates’ plans on their individual goals being “vague”, “empty-worded” and just overall unclear, I decided to read through the candidate’s profiles on the UpliftUW website. After reading through their goals in their perspective roles, I came up with a question about what their plan of action was, or what they believe things like accessibility or fair representation mean. One of the most important things I’ve learned in my time here at UW was in a philosophy class; we learned just how different each individual’s definition or understanding of a word or concept is. So, I wanted to make sure I understood their interpretation of concepts mentioned in their proposed plan of action.
Question for Mustapha: “You mention collabing with UPASS Chair and Director of Campus Partnerships to expand UPASS programs, what does this mean and look like for you?”
A: “Thank you so much for asking that question. The UPASS program tends to only be talked about when it comes to buses and light rail, but we put a lot of money into that program and we have a lot of ways we can expand our current UPASS program. Like, creating campus shuttles for students with disabilities to ensure they can move around easier on campus and know that the campus is accessible to them. Knowing that students have been away from campus for so long, increasing the number of carpools and other things that will allow students to get to campus on time and easily. UPASS has the funding to fix sidewalks, bus stops, and other things to help students with disabilities to actually be able to move around campus easier. Trying to implement a better way to get feedback from students too about how we can expand the UPASS program more to better serve students since so much funding goes into it. Overall, really just ensuring these funds are being properly distributed in order to better serve students now that we are returning to campus in the Fall.”
Question for Nicole: “It looks like you really want to work on providing better resources for disabled students. What does this entail? Does this include making UW a more accessible campus?”
A: “This is a great question. My approach to making things more accessible and bringing more accommodations to students with disabilities isn’t just about changing records and policies, I want to make it more overall for students. A lot of issues this last year, especially with professors, have been having a clear diagnosis that has to be given by a UW office here that diagnoses students before they’re able to request accommodations. I just completely don’t agree with that because sometimes students can’t get the diagnosis, then they can’t get their accommodations met and that’s something I really want to change next year. On campus, advocating for them in certain areas like improper campus cleanup that doesn’t allow students to easily transport themselves around. And just making sure there’s a better overall understanding of disability rights and what these students are going through because they’re often pushed to the side and I don’t agree with that. I personally don’t have a disability myself, so I want to make sure I’m not speaking for the community, I want to make sure I’m collaborating with the student disability commissions on everything and making sure this is what they want and need and how they want to be seen. I want to make them a priority about these issues, I can’t stand when people make decisions for other communities so whatever I do, I want to make sure that I’m working with them to ensure their needs are being met.”
Question for Ruba: “What kinds of programs are you thinking of implementing to increase student engagement and representation of marginalized students?”
A: “Definitely providing collaborative programming by helping student clubs, student commissions, and facilitate events. Definitely supporting their ideas if there’s something they want to plan. Increasing representation of BIPOC by working with student commissions like the BSU in their demands to the university. I want to bring more students, more BIPOC individuals into commissions by hosting events and programs like healing circles. I do a lot of restorative work in the community and that’s definitely something I want to push forwards next year around UW. Working to get police out of our classrooms and relocating those funds to other things students want and need.” (I think it’s important to mention that Ruba didn’t mention a lot of specifics in regard to programs and events to boost student engagement but, it’s because she, again, is a very busy individual who when she answered this question, was actually in another zoom meeting at the same time. I thought it spoke a lot about her character because while she had other commitments, she still wanted to be sure to attend this meeting to answer questions about her candidacy because she values the opinions and questions of her fellow students.)
Question for Luka: “What would the expansion of holistic admissions to combat inequities that stem from direct to college/ capacity-constrained majors look like? What inequities are these?”
A: “Yes, okay so this is a bit complicated, but, basically expanding holistic admissions to department admissions too. This is a really f**ked up system; and sorry, I want to be informal about this as much as I can because we’re all students here. General admissions are holistic. Which is great, I’m glad they are. And how direct to college or direct to major works is that, and a lot of people don’t know this, but, the department doesn’t determine if you get in direct to major, it’s the general admissions office here at UW. And if you’re in the K-12 track, you are privileged to have holistic admission into direct to college. But, let’s say you weren’t on the K-12 track, maybe you took a gap year which is totally fine or maybe you’re a transfer student and you don’t get into direct to major, well then they have to start taking classes in their desired major and apply to the department. Departments don’t use holistic admissions. The issue is that for folks who aren’t on the traditional K-12 or they didn’t get into direct to college, then they have to apply and they’re only going to be judged on their college GPA rather than holistically. Which looks at what you’ve done and other things. I hope to speak with department chairs at meetings my position entails and try to change things through the FCAS (where any degree requirements change). And we have people on FCAS who agree that holistic admissions need to be expanded and so that’s when we would try to leverage that if departments want to make changes to degree requirements or title of classes or pre-reqs, they need to implement holistic admissions. There’s going to be pushback of course but I think we’re getting more agreement from faculty, people in FCAS who want to expand holistic admissions, so using leverage and our faculty allies to get that done. The long-term goal is to get third-party admissions experts to actually evaluate departments to ensure that departments are all following the same procedure when it comes to holistic admissions because right now, they’re not, and it’s really screwed up. Also, to do away with privileged demands like taking UW specific requirements despite transfer students already have taken that class but because it’s not UW’s, they need to retake it which is unfair.”
Question for Geeta: “You mention trying to provide a smooth transition to in-person classes this fall, what does this entail?”
A: “I think the biggest thing right now for all of us is that they’re saying we’re going back to in-person classes, but we don’t know that for sure or what that means. There’s so much uncertainty right now that I think we’re all approaching that with hesitant optimism. I think ensuring a smooth transition is going to be different meetings with groups, there’s a lot of standing meetings that my position entails, and I need to start with just meeting with these groups and asking them ‘what are your budget constraints’ and ‘what are your goals?’ Finding a way to help facilitate group goals. I’m really seeing this year for our communities as a blank slate in a way because we’ve gone through so much and so much has changed and things that worked a certain way before, might not work anymore. Really talking with groups and connecting them to ASUW senate to get involved and create a meaningful systemic change.”
Question for Michael: “You mention in your campaign page how you plan on prioritizing marginalized groups’ experiences with UWPD. What do you mean by this? How would you ensure these experiences are being heard?”
A: “Abolish them. *laughs* that’s my short answer, to abolish them. But, making sure that UWPD isn’t responding to a mental health crisis, nonviolent disturbances. I’d also like to figure out how we can find housing for students who stay up late and are just more night owls, in louder sections of campus, that are available for people who are more active at night so that we avoid a lot of noise disturbances and unjust sanctions and citations for people, you know, just being awake later because that’s how they function or that’s what works for them. These dorms and housing are not soundproof at all and so it’s really easy to hear noise in the buildings. And you know noise disturbances do tend to target more BIPOC students who might have to operate more at night either because of work or doing things like this where they’re busy during the day and focus on schoolwork at night (like I am). I want to get more BIPOC therapists and psychiatrists, and getting a disabled psychiatrist to bring more representation for students. Implementing a neighborhood watch so that people don’t make calls and get UWPD officers to come down for things like “oh there’s a black person outside wearing a hoodie and headphones” like what? Come on. Having a neighborhood watch to monitor and talk to each other so that we give that power and responsibility on community members.” I asked him if he plans on actively pushing for the abolition of UWPD during his time as director of campus partnerships and his response was, “I am. So, I’m already writing the legislation and I plan to launch Student Protective Services which would abolish UWPD entirely and making sure we have mental health respondents, non-violent respondents. We will have a tactic services team on call, but they’ll have weapons locked up that they have to check out, and all of them have to wear bodycams. They’re on call so the call would come from authority figures that decide tactical services are needed and not just students calling tactical services over things like ‘ugh there’s a black man outside and I feel in danger’. There’s going to be 8 departments that include RA’s as required reporters for things like harassment and following through with that to provide healing for victims.”
Question for Kaitlyn: “How do you plan on increasing student engagement, participation, and involvement of students both in ASUW and on campus?”
A: “Such a good question, yes thank you. I think there’s a lot of ways to do this and basically what I’ve come down to is ASUW cannot serve its student body right now because it is cracked inside right, it’s inequitable inside, and so, there’s kind of a ladder here. To promote student involvement and voices, we need to hold ASUW to its mission statement. ASUW’s mission statement is to protect and serve all students on campus and so by working internally, we’re able to start programming more equitably and inclusively. This can seem intangible and so the way to make it more tangible is if you think of hiring season, right now ASUW is hiring all its employees for next year (except the board of directors). Now the way these happen is just through advertisements on Handshake. And the resources given to employees right now are nothing. Nothing about outreach, not how to communicate with communities, not who to reach out to for these jobs. So, posting these jobs on Handshake is really just aiming towards a crowd that’s already privileged to even know about ASUW and how it works. So, we see the same hiring of the same people and when there’s no outreach you’re not really supporting all students. In order to support all students, you need to have students from everywhere, not just LSJ students who learn about ASUW because that’s what ASUW is starting to look like. Hopefully seeing that increased participation and engagement because you’ll have more ASUW employees that are more representative of the student body and are more inclusive.”
I chose to include what candidates really said when I asked them specific questions about their candidacy plans, rather than condensing or paraphrasing all of it in order to really showcase their individuality. Because this was an informal meeting between students, I wanted their voices to show through their answers, which is something that The Daily’s endorsement article did not provide. Their responses I think were not vague at all. They provided a clear path of action they plan to take to reach their goals, and while I may not know a lot about ASUW or how certain policies and procedures work, it doesn’t sound like they don’t know what their position entails. These candidates know exactly what they are supposed to do, and they know exactly how they plan on achieving their mission once in office. Most of the members on this ticket are community organizers, which seems like is uncommon for the past board of directors’ candidates because they tend to be students already in ASUW. So, to have candidates who vocalized their desire to hear students out and push for fair representation of all was a refreshing breath of fresh air.
When asked why they chose to run and why they chose to run as a ticket, their responses were largely the same: they were tired of the damaged structure at UW and want to see real change with actual representation; they chose to run as a ticket because of the support it provides for each other rather than running as individual and not having that support group. While the ASUW has previously stated that tickets would no longer be recognized, I think it highlights an important aspect of elections: students are not given the support and resources they need. By running as a ticket, these students are providing each other with the support they otherwise would not have gotten from UW, ASUW, or anywhere else. As stated earlier, most of these candidates are active community organizers so they know their agenda. They know what change they want to see, and it seems like they will find a way to make these changes happen that are so desperately needed in a racist, classist and unfair institution.
Meeting with the candidates was great. When meeting with faculty members, leaders, or directors, I feel like the power dynamics are incredibly noticeable and present. But, what I really admired about these students is they didn’t foster any of these power dynamics, nor did they make me feel like an inferior due to my lack of extensive knowledge on ASUW or for being just a “regular student.” Right off the bat, all of these students were so welcoming and just so true to themselves and overall humble. To them, this was a meeting with a community member, a community they’re also a member of, and they made that incredibly clear with their tone, words, and actions. The biggest thing with people in positions of power or people running for a position of power is entitlement, and this was something the entire ticket didn’t display. It was incredibly relieving to see that future representatives of students were really just students themselves too and not just someone who has clout for being in ASUW or running for the board of directors.
All in all, it’s quite clear that The Daily’s portrayal of these candidates as “unprepared”, “lazy’ and other microaggressions, was far from the truth. These candidates have years of experience as community organizers, leaders, and members of ASUW. This is also the first time we see so many BIPOC individuals running for board of directors, which is incredibly crucial given the entirety of the last year. After meeting with Uplift UW, two things are clear: we can expect our leaders to actually be representative of the whole student body and that there are no better people for office next year than these individuals who are vowing to put the community first. As a BIPOC individual myself, I look forward to seeing all that this ticket will accomplish, and I hope that The Daily can recognize their error of publishing an article that attacked students. I’m excited to start seeing systemic change at UW, so lets continue to support our student leaders like these, who are seeking the institutional changes UW very much so needs.