A Conversation with the Candidates: Adam Tfayli for President

Alina Susu, May 11, 2024

Note: The views expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bruin Political Review, and the publication of this interview does not constitute an endorsement for the candidate. Vote through MyUCLA between May 10th and May 17th.


Bruin Political Review (BPR): All right, so can you tell me your first and last name, what year you are, your major and what position you're running for?

Adam Tfayli: My name is Adam Tfayli, he/him pronouns. I'm a second year human biology and society major. And I'm running for the office of president.


BPR: What inspired you to run for president?

Adam Tfayli: Actually, I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to run. It was always in the back of my head that eventually, it was a goal of mine to reach that level of leadership. But I wasn't sure if this year would be the right year for me. But what convinced me was, five or six of the current USAC council members almost pressured me into doing it, telling me that I was the best person for the job. So I think the drive has always been there. 

For me, I think I'm a natural born leader, and I really want to be a leader on this campus. I love UCLA, I love leading UCLA. And in the past year as a youth council member, one, I've done a great job at being a youth council member and two, I’ve loved it a lot. And I think the combination of all of those things led me to decide to run for the office of the president.


BPR: You said you serve on USAC? What is your position?

Adam Tfayli: I was the International Student Representative.


BPR: What platforms did you run on? And what did you achieve in your time as a council member?

Adam Tfayli: Last year, I had five platforms. And I'm really happy that I was able to accomplish four out of five platforms in the last year. One of my goals was to increase mental health resources for international students. And over the past year, I've had the honor of being able to collaborate with cops, where we've hosted multiple events targeted to international students, and where I've collaborated with cops to help promote the mental health of international students by making sure that there's internationally guided counselors on campus and that they're well educated on the needs and wants of international students. 

Besides that, we've hosted events with them, to help students that are dealing with international conflict worldwide, and how they can be supported and how they could deal with issues that are going on across the world. 

Besides that, I've advocated to the UC Regents for an increase in financial aid and scholarships, and I still am pushing for that. It's something that's ongoing in my office, and we hope that we can continue on doing that. 

Besides that, one of my goals was to increase job and internship opportunities for international students. And I've had the honor and ability to collaborate with the Career Center on multiple events, targeted towards international students, where we provide them guidance on internships, and how to deal with job searching. Being international and being on the Visa system is very, very hard and, besides my original platforms, we had a lot of successes in my year in office. 

We launched the Bruin Buddies program with the Office of General Representatives, where we work with international exchange students and pair them with a full-time resident UCLA student to help guide them through the quarter or year at UCLA. All this was achieved while having the smallest and least funded USAC office that has the lowest intended reach. So personally, I would call it a success. And I think that I learned a lot by being on USAC this year, and I think it's very applicable towards potentially being president next year.


BPR:  How do you think it's applicable? And how do you intend to translate the skills you've gained? 

Adam Tfayli: There's definitely a lot of ways. First and foremost, I had the ability to work very closely with Naomi [Hammonds] this year, and I was able to witness everything she does, how she does it, and what went right and what went wrong. 

So I think by far, being a council member, the most valuable experience you have is just understanding because there's so many procedures and small intricate details that most people don't know USAC does. Ninety percent of our job is small, tedious stuff, like appointments, and office work and, and stuff like that. So being able to see Naomi as she works and seeing what the position entails, helped me a lot in my decision to run for President, and it helped me believe that I'm able to do the job. 

I think that the USAC presidency is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I know, most council members put in 40-50 hour weeks, and yes, it's compensated, but it's definitely not worth the amount of work that they're doing. And so being able to see Naomi and the work she does—at first, that was a bit daunting—led me to make the decision fully to run for President since it's a very big position.

Besides that, I think over the past year of being able to manage my own office, and being able to have my directors and my staff members, and just learning how to manage a big team of diverse people, I think that's very applicable as well, towards my goals and aspirations of becoming USAC President, where I obviously have a bigger office. I think that the skills and experiences that I gained this past year are definitely very applicable to that.


BPR: In your mission statement, you mentioned that you're an immigrant from Lebanon, is that right? How is your identity important to you? What role do you think identity plays at UCLA? And what would it mean to you to become the first international president of USAC?

Adam Tfayli: So for me, identity means everything to me. People often think of identity as the things we do and the clothes we wear and the way we talk. But I think that identity – we are our identity. So it obviously plays a really big part. It's very important to me, being an international student and being from a village of 9000 people. And I think that UCLA encompasses my story perfectly. I think that the University of California and UCLA specifically, is built for people like myself, who aren't necessarily supposed to be the most successful. But it's a system built to drive people like myself to be successful and work their way up through life. And think me being USAC President definitely encompasses that very well. I'm sorry, could you repeat your question? I forgot exactly what you're asking.


BPR: Yeah. What would it mean to you to be the first international USAC President? And how is your identity important to you?

Adam Tfayli: I think, obviously, it would mean a lot to me. But I also think it would signify a big milestone for UCLA and for our student body. USAC has been a thing for over 100 years now. And while international students do make up a small percentage of our population, they're only about 10%. It's so crazy that within this 100 years, there hasn't been one of these people from the 10% of our population that has been President. 

Besides that, I'm also going to be the first Arab president. And given that we have a huge population of Arabs on campus, I think that's a big milestone. Besides that, it would definitely be an honor for me. I think that coming from the place that I come from, it's very unlikely for someone like myself to reach this position, and just even having the chance to run for this position and being qualified enough where this position I think, is an honor. And I definitely don't take it lightly.


BPR:  What platforms are you running on this year? And how do you intend to achieve your goals?

Adam Tfayli: So, I think my platforms this year took on a very similar style of platforms from last year; I like to come up with very achievable and quantifiable platforms. I think that's what enabled me to succeed. And a majority of my platforms from this year are very specific and targeted platforms. And my last few platforms are more general platforms that would match according to the needs of students. 

So, my first one is enhancing campus safety. I think as UCLA becomes more of a global university where students engage in global discourse. And you know, we've had a lot of protests and opinionated stances on campus in the past year, and I believe that we're going to continue having that moving forward. And I believe this is a very good thing. But it's very important that we protect our student body. 

Many people across campus, including myself have been targeted and harassed for their opinions and speaking out in public. And I think that there is no place for that on our campus. So I'm just dedicated to creating a discrimination free environment. And I plan on achieving that in multiple ways. The first one being comprehensive diversity, training for all. UCLA security involves personnel, which includes UCPD and CSO officers and anyone else related to that. Besides that, I hope to establish a minority student safety board, in collaboration with administration where these minority groups can convey their opinions to administration in a more streamlined manner. And besides that, I just want to create a more supportive environment for all our students, especially those that come from minority or more targeted groups. So that's my first platform. 

My second platform is boosting post graduation opportunities. That's something that I did last year with a target of international students in mind. But this year, I hope to expand that to the entire UCLA population. If you were to ask me, what's one of the biggest problems that UCLA faces is that it's a huge university and there aren't enough career resources. I think you can see this when you look at UCLA, as compared to other top 20 universities, you see it has one of the lowest median salaries out of college. And I think this is in large part due to having bad career services on campus. So I hope to continue my work at the Career Center to help boost first of all post-graduation opportunities, and to internship opportunities for our current students. 

My third platform, which is also pretty specific, is streamlining campus services. So at first this came to mind in many different shapes to me, the first one being continuing the project that USAC has taken this year with digital Bruin Cards, and potentially implementing it permanently. The second one is addressing UCLA’s enrollment issues, since we have a lot of enrollment issues. And the last one is addressing campus WiFi. And obviously, this platform can also change according to the students’ needs. For example, now with the decrease in UCLA meal-plan ticket prices, from $9 to almost $4 – these things should be consulted with the student body, and students should have an active role in what goes on with their food, their campus, their resources, and anything like that. This platform is also very malleable, according to the needs of the students. If there's anything on campus that is happening that students had no role in at all, such as UCLA dining swipe program, it's definitely a priority of mine to make sure that the students get a say, and that all decisions made are equitable to the students.

Again, my last two platforms are pretty general: I hope to change them according to the needs of students and according to what's happening on campus. The first one being expanding funding for clubs and organizations. So most people don't know that USAC has millions of dollars in funds that they give out to clubs every year. Even people that are in clubs – I'm in a couple of clubs, myself – and many people in our leadership weren't even aware that there are funding opportunities with these clubs, and there's millions of dollars available for them to host events and plan events. So a goal of mine is just to streamline the access of these resources. I just want to make the opportunities more visible for the students and make the application process a bit easier, since it is pretty hard to receive these funds. And again, it's going to change as we go along throughout the year, it's going to mend according to the needs of the students and organizations. 

And then my last platform, again, is student wellness and health. I just want to promote overall wellbeing for our students, whether it be through expanding our gym facilities or hosting mental health sessions. These last two goals are just more general, broad goals that I hope to implement.


BPR: What do you think differentiates you from other candidates running for president this year?

Adam Tfayli: Thank you for asking. I think there's a huge, huge—I mean this in the most humble way possible—but I think there's a huge gap when it comes to experience between me and other candidates. 

So I'm not going to name names because I think that's rude and disrespectful. But there's only one candidate besides myself running for president that has council member experience. And over the past five years, every single president has been a previous council member. I think that it just goes to show how important it is for the president to have direct executive experience because you can’t manage a team of council members when you haven't been a council member yourself. The job doesn't exist. The last time that we had a non-council member become a president was in 2018, where I believe her name was Claire Fieldman. She won in a very controversial way: she was coercing voters to vote for her. And then when she did win she had a very controversial year, and I would say a very ineffective year. So I think that just goes to show how important it is to have councilmember experiences. 

And besides council-member experience, I do have other experience in representing students. I'm the University-wide, which means the UC-wide, representative to the undergraduate committee on research policy, which means that I represent all nine undergraduate campuses, ultimately 80,000 undergraduates and decisions that are related to research and research policy. And we advise the UC Office of the President on certain research-related decisions. So I think that as well has given me a lot of insights on what it means to be a leader and represent other students. 

Besides that, I'm involved in multiple cultural clubs. I'm on the board of two cultural clubs and involved in many others. So I think I have the ability to represent our diverse population.

 Besides that, I think I've got other good opportunities, other good experiences, such as being an RA, being a researcher assistant, and serving on the Campus Housing Council. So I just think there's a very clear experience gap between me and the other candidates. And I think you can realize this, once you look at the other candidates' platforms, I think that my platforms are very manageable and very achievable. But then you look at some of the other candidates who have platforms that are good, like I agree with these platforms, but they're impossible to achieve. Like as much as I would want to have $25 per hour minimum wage on campus, that's never gonna happen. I think even if the UCLA Chancellor wanted that to happen, it wouldn't happen. There's just very restricted budgeting stuff. And the UCLA President has no oversight over stuff like that. Some have promised lower campus fees, lower tuition, and these things just aren't achievable at all. And I think that just goes to show how much more experienced they are and how much better of a precedent that would be.


BPR:  If students were to take one thing away from your campaign, what would you want it to be?

Adam Tfayli: For my platform specifically, or for me as a person? What type of takeaway?

BPR:  It can be either.

Adam Tfayli: Overall, I think that there's a lot of things that students might not agree with me on. I do have certain political stances that students might not agree on. But I think at the end of the day, my goal, and what I will be focusing on is representing all students and making sure that the students are heard, regardless of any of my platforms, regardless of any of my opinions, or any of my stances or opinions on things going on on campus. First and foremost, I'm a representative of the students. And I will do everything in my power to make sure that students are heard and well received by the administration.


BPR: Is there anything else you want to add?

Adam Tfayli: Not really, no. I think I talked a lot, actually.


Conversations were recorded to ensure accuracy, and writers made slight edits for clarity.