Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Header" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-1". Manually set the id to "sidebar-1" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Sidebar Top" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-2". Manually set the id to "sidebar-2" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Sidebar Left" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-3". Manually set the id to "sidebar-3" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Sidebar Right" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-4". Manually set the id to "sidebar-4" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Sidebar Bottom" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-5". Manually set the id to "sidebar-5" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Footer" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-6". Manually set the id to "sidebar-6" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "404 Page" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-7". Manually set the id to "sidebar-7" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Wide" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-8". Manually set the id to "sidebar-8" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Boxes" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-9". Manually set the id to "sidebar-9" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078

Notice: Function register_sidebar was called incorrectly. No id was set in the arguments array for the "Footer Wide" sidebar. Defaulting to "sidebar-10". Manually set the id to "sidebar-10" to silence this notice and keep existing sidebar content. Please see Debugging in WordPress for more information. (This message was added in version 4.2.0.) in /storage/www/flashback/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6078
AS PRESIDENT SOPHIA ARMEN – Flashback 2012-2013

AS PRESIDENT SOPHIA ARMEN

Sophia Armen

STATEMENT

Dear past, present and future student visionaries,

All I can say and all I hope you repeat to yourself as you read this and reflect on your own campus experience is “It ain’t gotta be this way, I will work to make it better.”

My term as Associated Students President 2012-2013 was a dynamic year in the Association, a year of growth, strength, trying moments and survival. It was also a year of many firsts, history we cannot view as meaningless by any means, but part of the legacy of student activism we have inherited and to which we are indebted.

photo 5

I was the first womyn to even run in Associated Students elections for the Presidency in five years, meaning the entire context of elections in my own college career had ceilings and barriers that seemed impenetrable, and a culture that was defined as “unchangeable.” My term also meant that I became the first Armenian womyn to be elected president in the history of the UC system. I state these facts not out of vanity but out of the desperate and urgent necessity to pay homage to those who struggled before me to get me here, and the honest reality of where we are at as a system, and as youth. I speak coming from a place of contradiction as I witnessed and experienced the paradox the University creates especially for those from historically marginalized histories. I speak because 2012-2013 was a year of transformation because of the selfless work of so many dedicated individuals on campus and in the community without whom this university would not run, including students, faculty, staff and workers. My firm commitment to justice and dignity on campus, is a fire that will not be cooled, and I know will only grow from here.

photo 19Since the very beginning, my office knew there was no time to waste as the accessibility and affordability of public higher education was under attack. During the July and August before my term began, UCSB went out in force to the UC Student Association and US Student Association congresses, where UCSB students were instrumental in proposing the year’s campaigns and networking with students across the nation. The situation was dire in higher education, as without the passage of Proposition 30 in the upcoming election, tuition would rise immediately several hundred if not thousands of dollars, an unacceptable future that would mean many students would have to leave school.

photo 21

It was in this atmosphere that my office organized and produced many projects, and while these words do little to express the depth of the resilience, creativity, laughter, compassion, and innovation that was demonstrated by the amazing folks in my office, I will shed light on aphoto 8 very few of our proudest moments. With the help of my passionate Chief of Staff Daniel Rojas and Commissioner Navkiran Kaur, we envisioned the Student Activist Program (S.A.P.), a new addition to the Presidential fellowship that was a group internship of 1st, 2nd years and transfer students to get the 101 on student activism at UCSB. The SAPlings were familiarized with the inter-dynamics of student organizations, trained on campaign and event planning, directly engaged campus administration, were exposed to campus history and structures, and participated in weekly discussions and actions that emphasized their inner knowledge and agency. I am eternally grateful for seeing the growth of so many students in these experiences.

photo 7

The AS Office of the President (ASOP) projects must be seen as collective efforts and I am so honored to have worked with such amazing individuals without whom none of this would have been possible. ASOP organized a successful voter education and registration campaign in collaboration with the show-stopping External Vice President, Local Affiars (EVPSA) office and Volunteer Voter Registration Coalition. We also initiated the “Vote, Your Tuition Depends on It Campaign” plastering the school with posters, going to register voters in the residence halls, and organizing a phone bank with EVPSA. UCSB broke the record for the most registered voters yet again, registering over 11,000 students! Furthermore, we led the efforts to organize the “Walk Out, Teach In” that highlighted the aftermath of the passing of Prop 30.

photo 23

Working with workers, students, and staff, we called on students to walk out of class and gather in the Arbor. We broke down the power structure of the UC system—why tuition had risen 300% in the last four years, the marginalization of the student voice, and the connections between accessibility and race. Also, through the incredible utility of technology, we were able to Skype in a Chilean student activist to our outdoor teach-in who spoke on the turbulent Chilean student movement at the time and its focus on neoliberalism and the privatization of their public school systems. Many student attendees drew parallels between student movements worldwide.

1st Annual Textbook Market - 09Our office was one of the most active terms in recent history planning event after event and putting our full energies into engaging students in meaningful and tangible actions in OUR Association! What started as a small idea turned into an impactful success as the Office of the President held three “Textbook Marketplaces” where students bought and sold their textbooks directly to other students to circumvent outrageous textbook prices. Especially through the work of Commissioner Adeel Lakhani and the Academic Affairs Board, students engaged in this mutually beneficial event that harnessed our collective power and provided very necessary relief especially to low income and middle income students

photo 15The Office of the President also engaged with many issues surrounding representation of womyn and queer students on campus and fighting sexual violence and rape culture at UCSB. Although many were new to protest and direct action, our SAPlings joined the office and members of De Colores, El Congreso, Black Students Union, the Women’s Center, SSR, Take Back the Night and others, for an action in the bike loop in front of Storke Tower condemning sexual assault. Signs held by participants included phrases like “Roofies don’t equal consent,” “Men Against Rape,” “Don’t UC Us?,” “Womyn of Color Against Rape” and “Stop Rape in the Queer Community.”

Bringing more of our campus community directly into the decision-making process of the Association was a top priority of the office. We launched the Transparency and Student Engagement for Action (TEA) Initiative with open office hours, a Presidential meet and greet, and presentations at events across campus. photo 1We gave active support and advocacted for student organizations’ events. Additionally, The Associated Students executives were committed to creating an inclusive and transparent Association and organized an Executive forum entitled “Student Power: Then and Now” as part of the 2012-2013 Human Rights Week. Originally in panel form, the execs then broke from the schedule and with the Living History Coordinator Mahader Tesafai, discussed the achievements of past student activists and facilitated discussion on real problems affecting students from misogynist landlords and Malcolm X Hall to tuition hikes and class availability.

My office drafted and supported dozens of resolutions in support of undocumented students, Black Student Union demands, divesting from fossil fuels, and resisting the UCOP tax. I am proud to say we held firm on where we thought our tuition dollars should and should not go.

The ASOP’s most important commitment was to support student organizations and they were the priority in our funding decisions. We learned to be creative with little and that collaboration and collective power were more important than hording our budget. Lastly, by majority vote, my office became the first Presidency in the UC system to co-sponsor the Resolution to Divest from the Military Occupation of Palestine, which at its height received an astounding 12-11-1 vote in the AS Senate. As an organizer on campus around this issue these last four years, participating in the 13+ hour meetings in the large Corwin Pavilion was an experience I will never forget.

After the succession of Senate meetings around the resolution to support divesting from the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, the office felt there was a desperate need for students to finally have their voices heard around issues of racism and campus climate, especially around issues of Islamaphobia, sexism, and anti-Middle Eastern sentiment in general. We arranged for over 6 administrators to have to sit through a panel of students of color and queer students discussing truly what the reality of campus climate was. We then put folks from the campus administration on the spot to directly answer questions from the audience at our event “Raise Your Voice: Town Hall on Diversity at UCSB.” The last portion was an open mic for any student to express their thoughts on diversity at UCSB, with people sharing powerful and courageous personal testimony that included experiences with micro-aggressions and sexual violence. The event was part of a two day series of Education then Action, as it was preceded by our event entitled “A Call to [Affirmative] Action: Students of Color at the University of California” attended by students and professors, that outlined Proposition 209 and the history of diversity at the University of California.

photo 9We ended the year off strong by joining over 7,000 students from the University of California, California State University and Community College system to protest ongoing budgetary concerns and exclusion of student power at the State Capitol in Sacramento. I was honored to be chosen to speak as only one of two UC students as the closing speaker to this crowd and highlighted that the passing of Prop 30 was not an end to our activism but the beginning. Furthermore, I called on students to not limit our vision in creating a just future: We don’t just want to keep calling for an end to fee increases. We want our right to free and emancipatory education in California.

Even in our very last days we were out in the streets and walkways demanding the UC Regents meet with students to decide how resources should be allocated. I drafted a letter to the UC Regents demanding they hold their next meeting at UC Santa Barbara [Read the letter HERE]. Passing around petitions and staging actions, we educated students and brought attention to our campaign. We condemned the lack of transparency and accessibility that resulted from the Regents strategically picking UCSF a graduate only and isolated campus for their meetings. Furthermore, as evidenced by our gruesome die-in in the Arbor, we called on the Regents to stop silencing student input in the allocation process of the Proposition 30 money that we as student voters largely made happen, pointing to the fact that the current structure of a single student vote on the UC Board of Regents is an illusion of shared governance.

Reminiscing just briefly reminds me how many incredible people and organizations I was blessed to work with. I am indebted to so many and I thank you for your wisdom, inspiration, and perseverance in the face of adversity. I want to first and foremost thank the incredible staff at AS, all of whom have been the foundation of the Association in so many ways. I cannot convey how grateful I am to Executive Director Marisela Marquez, Aaron Jones, and Mahader Tesafai for their constant guidance, support, and needed light-hearted relief in so many moments. A special thanks to my Chief Daniel Rojas, Christy Ly, Navkiran Kaur, Katlen Abu Ata, Annie Alexandrian, Sally Oh and all of my amazing office! Thank you to Elizabeth Robinson, Walid Afifi, Grace Chang, Academic Senate Chair Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Viviana “ViVi” Marsano from the MultiCultural Center, and many others for always reminding me of the humility and vision necessary for organizing. And most importantly, thank you to the students, the lifeblood of the Association to whom I am endlessly grateful for their trust and the gift of the opportunity to serve them. Remember, Whose University, Our University!

As an elder comrade once gifted to me in conversation: the future will be decided by what our generation does and what it does not do.

Indeed, May we have the strength to envision a more just world, May we rise to make it reality.

In solidarity,

Sophia Rakel Armen

President, 2012-2013

photo 22

 

 

 

 

Skip to content