Junior Dennis Yeh calls himself “the anti-slate candidate.”
Running as an independent, Yeh’s platform for AS President focuses on reforming the AS budget, increasing funding for some student organizations, and representing students who he feels have been excluded by AS in previous years. He’s an international studies major with a focus in political science.
Yeh says he wants to avoid “groupthink.” From what he noticed as a member of the AS Judicial Board and as an AS Student Advocate, he believes that slates are conducive for attracting the same type of people who, consequently, produce similar goals. These goals, he says, are not always in touch with directly benefiting all students.
“Being a junior these last three years I’ve seen AS shift in a way that has really gone in a direction, not necessarily a bad direction, but a direction that is more towards niche groups rather than looking out for the entire student body,” Yeh said.
Yeh positions himself as a candidate for an “average student,” who he feels has been overlooked in recent election cycles.
“It turns into where I believe that AS is moving towards trying to bring up underrepresented minorities too much to a point where they’re ignoring a lot of issues that they themselves have brought up in the first place,” Yeh said.
Yeh’s main focus, if elected, would be to reform the AS budget. One way to benefit all students, Yeh believes, is through providing tangible benefits like funding for things that lead directly to the career development of students. He thinks students are unaware of what many of their options are.
“AS actually gives research grants that honestly I’d completely forgotten about until a few months ago when I read through the constitution,” Yeh said. He wants to finance more projects like these and advertise them to students.
In order to allocate more funds towards these projects, he plans on cutting some paid positions in AS by reducing the number of Associate Vice Presidents. This idea stems from his belief that AS is currently overstaffed.
“[What] a lot of students from all walks of life can agree on is something that’s important to the student experience,” Yeh said. “I think allocating a large budget to something more visible to students, something that affects more students in a very tangible way, is something I want to bring to AS”
Other tangible ways to reach and benefit students are through ASCE concerts, Yeh maintains. He wants to bring more premiere artists to campus for students to enjoy.
“During my potential tenure, [I would] rebalance the budget, really looking into what students want. And what students want — I mean, all students just want to have fun,” Yeh said.
Yeh believes ASUCSD misrepresents the amount of power they have, and says he wants to be honest with students about what student government can and cannot do. He thinks that AS is limited in how much it can truly impact issues like parking.
“They’re perpetuating that AS can accomplish a lot of things that they don’t have the power to do,” Yeh said. “Even for very commonsense ideas, they have to go through a three to four year review process. And in the end, sometimes there’s very minimal student input.”
Yeh is currently the Risk Chair of Sigma Chi fraternity, a position he has held since Fall 2015. In this position, he acts as the liaison between fraternity members, law enforcement, and the UCSD administration. His other responsibilities include ensuring safety at social functions and helping individual members with lease agreements and conduct issues. Yeh is also a founding member of the Triton Real Estate Organization.
The issue of visibility, what students can see and expect from AS, is also important to Yeh. His platform includes increasing transparency by pushing AS members to directly retrieve student input.
“I think a lot of people have grown to distrust [AS] strictly through one thing and that’s Sun God. Even though whether it’s administration or AS itself, a lot of students see it as an opaque process, where they seem to be soliciting a lot of student input and a lot of students give input and yet it’s still not really up to par with student expectations,” Yeh said.
To gain students’ trust, Yeh plans to connect with student organizations for more feedback from different groups on campus. He thinks communicating with organizations would be the most effective way to provide different perspectives beyond results from the annual Student Satisfaction Survey. However, he acknowledges that he would not be able to personally speak with all students if elected.
“If you’re trying to fight apathy, you have to go to [the students] and I think the closest you can get to the student body is to reach out and have members of AS reach out to student orgs, even student orgs they’re part of,” Yeh said.
As part of his push to reach more students, Yeh also suggested holding open office hours on Library Walk instead of in the AS quarters on the fourth floor of PC.
Yeh thinks it’s difficult for AS to directly make a difference on issues of housing and food insecurity. However, he sees a role for AS in pressuring administration to mitigate the consequences of enrolling too many students. He also feels that more AS funds could go directly towards resources like the Triton Food Pantry to provide for students.
Fundamentally, Yeh says he wants to “add value to the average student’s time here at UCSD.” He would prefer that AS avoid getting involved in student protests.
“I think that the greatest power of the AS president is to direct funds where he or she sees fit and to save money where it can be saved,” Yeh said.
The 2017-18 AS elections are scheduled for April 10 through 14. Polling stations and online voting will close Friday at 4 p.m.
Shine Cho is the News Editor for The Triton.