AS Endorsements: Refilwe Gqajela for Vice President External Affairs

Refilwe Gqajela. Photo courtesy of Students Determined.

Throughout the course of the election season and her time here at UCSD, Refilwe Gqajela has repeatedly demonstrated that she is both intentional in spaces she works in and always approaches them with a much-needed critical lens.

Although Gqajela does not have a background in student government, her experience working throughout the campus, combined with her impressive knowledge of UC-wide campaigns and issues, have convinced this Editorial Board that she will make a consistently effective Vice President of External Affairs.

THRIVE candidate Adán Chávez’s experience in state-level legislative efforts is impressive, and his demonstrated ability to lobby and communicate with legislators is worth noting, as it’s an important skill for the position. Chávez proved to have an excellent understanding of UC-wide policy, as well as clear experience serving both as the interim Vice President of External Affairs and as the Associate Vice President of Local Affairs. He has lobbied at the state level, and also participated in activism on campus.

Both Gqajela and Chávez have worked in student activism spaces at UCSD. Notably, both worked at campus community centers; she was an intern at the Black Resource Center, while he was an intern at the Raza Resource Centro. Chávez’s main roles have been more in student government.

However, we find that what Gqajela lacks in student government experience, she makes up for in a clear framework for community involvement and activism. Her unique dedication and activism in representing the voices and concerns of various communities on campus is evident through her work within the Immigrant Youth Coalition advocating for sanctuary school status, her goals to elevate attention to mental health resources, her history advocating with community members from BSU and Afrikan Black Coalition against harmful UCOP investments, and her environmental work with the Sustainability Resource Center.

While both candidates spoke about their intention to work on multiple levels, including state-wide, UC system-wide, and on campus, Chávez’s policies focused more on lobbying politicians. Gqajela focused more on bringing system-wide changes back to UCSD and implementing changes here. Chávez’s focus is arguably the more conventional one, and while it fits his slate’s focus on long-term planning, its success relies more on getting cooperation from government officials, rather than directly implementing changes.

The Vice President of External Affairs hold a dual role, as both legislator and organizer. While the Office of External Affairs exists to lobby policy at the state level, it also serves to bolster activism on our campus and understand the needs of the campus communities, so they can be reflected within the UC Student Association (UCSA). While Chávez plans to work with the Organizing Director of the UCSA to provide protest-organizing resources to the campus, Gqajela intends to work with communities already rooted in our campus, like the Student Affirmative Action Committee, with which she has deep ties.

Gqajela has a clear passion for thoughtfully improving UCSD, and so we believe she will continue to strive for transformative change while collaborating with other members of AS and listening to the voices of her constituents. Given that, we’re confident that she can master the learning curve of joining student government.

While we feel that these candidates are well-matched in terms of skills and qualifications, as a board we had to decide what qualities would be more conducive to improving our campus and representing our students at the statewide level. Gqajela’s dedication to uplifting the community in both activism and student retention are exactly what the campus needs in the face of an opaque campus administration.

Vote Refilwe Gqajela for Vice President External Affairs.

To read all of the Editorial Board’s endorsements, click here.

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