Saturday, June 15

USAC 2024-2025 Candidate Debates: Cultural Affairs commissioner

Kerckhoff Hall is pictured. Debates for Cultural Affairs commissioner took place over Zoom on Wednesday evening. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Two candidates for the Undergraduate Students Association Council Cultural Affairs Commissioner attended a debate Wednesday.

The Elections Board and the Daily Bruin co-hosted a series of debates between candidates in the upcoming USAC election. Two candidates are running for the position of CAC: Lekhna Kumaraswamy, a first-year mathematics/economics student, and Alicia Verdugo, the incumbent and a third-year education and social transformation and sociology student. 

Kumaraswamy, an international student, said she is running on three main platforms – funding, transparency and collaboration with other organizations to better cater events to support diversity. She added that it is crucial for the CAC to help in the healing process of bringing people together rather than apart. 

Verdugo, who has been the office’s commissioner for the past two years, said they found a sense of purpose in office and has experience with other campus organizations since 2022, including the UC Divest Coalition at UCLA. She added that she knows how to create spaces for communities of Black and Indigenous people of color and aims to continue to make these spaces better. 

Kumaraswamy said she will look to overcome challenges regarding tight funding and limited administrative help by working within USAC to make provided funding more effective, acknowledging USAC’s $10 million budget. 

Verdugo said in response to Kumaraswamy that despite inflation, the CAC office has had the same budget since the 1990s and that costs associated with events is USAC’s main issue. Verdugo added that their opponent does not understand costs involved in producing cultural events and that Verdugo has experience with funding issues through being the commissioner this year.

“The one (resolution) I’m most proud of is the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction resolution that I wrote back in February and GSA (the Graduate Student Association) also passed, and recently one to call for the resignation of Gene Block if he does not meet divestment demands,” Verdugo said.

Kumaraswamy in response asked Verdugo if they believed it was fair to call for the abolishment of the UCLA Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, a demand of the “Resolution Calling for the Immediate Resignation of Chancellor Gene Block if He Does Not Meet PSE Divestment Demands, Grant Amnesty to Affected Students, and Waive Medical Bills of Those Hospitalized” passed Tuesday.

Kumaraswamy said in her closing statement that the CAC needs to adopt sensitivity in its operations and that her opponent might not be making the best decision abolishing a cultural institution.

“As cultural affairs, I believe there’s a certain sensitivity that we need to adopt and in saying that taking (away) an educational organization for completely, just what it supports, might not be the best way to go,” Kumaraswamy said. 

Verdugo said they would represent students and that they will not be neutral on issues that affect the student body. She said the CAC should never be neutral and will always need to take a side on issues relating to students – such as the Palestine solidarity encampment at UCLA.   

Students can vote in the election on MyUCLA starting May 10 and ending May 17.

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