A Conversation with the Candidates: Chloe Garton for President

Rahul Nanda, 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): Why are you running for president?

Chloe Garton: That's a good question. I think for me, I became so passionate about this because I realized that a lot of my friends have generally really struggled in college, and have had no one to go and talk to about their concerns. For example, CAPS is really hard to access, your teachers are really hard to access, all the resources are really hard to access. I feel like students need someone in their corner. What I've been doing at UCLA in the EVP office and in my other clubs is helping people navigate the bureaucracy of UCLA. I think it made me realize that UCLA students want someone who they can go to no matter what and get help from. I believe I would be a good person to do that. Combined with the fact that I am a really good listener, I think I would be good at that job. 


BPR: Would you be able to describe what you've seen in the past being done by USAC Presidents and how you think they could improve? How has that informed the type of candidate you would like to be?

Chloe Garton: I think that all the past presidents have done great things and there's a lot to learn from them. Obviously, it's challenging to understand the position from an outside perspective. But from my understanding, one thing that I've noticed that I personally want to change is to be more readily accessible to students. I've committed my entire next year to doing this role. If I am elected, I want to drop everything that I'm doing and just be as available as possible, have as many office hours as possible, respond to as many emails as possible, have a feedback form, and more. This way, even if a student is having an issue with anything at UCLA, whether they need a class or resource, I want to be someone who's there to help them figure that out. Further, I am willing to be with students one-on-one, and keep track of these complaints reported by students, so we can create structural reform in the future.

The second thing is I want to avoid hyper-fixating on things that don't directly relate to UCLA students. I think it's important that we understand that the scope of these positions are just at UCLA. There are already like 33,000 students here, and every single one of them is different. And you have to serve all of them. You can't pick and choose which students' voices matter more than others. I want to be someone who's willing to listen to everybody and get every single viewpoint and advocate for every single student equally.


BPR: You stated that the focus on USAC hasn’t exactly been explicitly on UCLA at times. What are some of the specific things you feel USAC should not devote extra attention to?

Chloe Garton: One example is related to American politics. There are a lot of examples that you can go through and it would take a long time to dissect each of them. But generally, there are things that just are outside your control as a UCLA student leader. And there are other better things that you should focus your energy on.


BPR: The next few questions are about leadership. Firstly, obviously your ideas matter. But at the end of the day, people vote for the person they believe best fit for the position. What experience at UCLA do you think has prepared you to take on the role of USAC President?

Chloe Garton: First of all, I want to say, I totally agree with that. I do think that a big part of my campaign is explaining to people that the world is always changing, UCLA is always changing. You don't want someone who has made these fixed promises of what they're going to accomplish without flexibility. You want someone who is able to face issues head on and take it in stride, while being an active listener. I think two ways that have helped to prepare me for that is that I’m a director in the External Vice President's office and I'm a UC Regents Coordinator. I’m first going to talk about UC Regents. The UCs operate constitutionally independent from the California State Government, meaning that a lot of state government rules don't apply to UCLA. This means the people who actually make the laws that the UCs have to abide by are the UC Regents, who are appointed by the governor for 12 year terms. People don't know this, but this means there’s this whole group of people that students do not even know who they are that make very important decisions.

This year, I’ve been figuring out how I can teach or educate students on who the Regents are and how they can contact the Regents, so they can get their voices heard, because obviously, it's such a bureaucratic system. It’s all about making these processes more accessible to students. And also, I work on giving them not necessarily the confidence, but the support they need to be confident in doing this. I know a lot of people, including myself, are nervous to talk to administrators and elected officials. If there's no one there who's going to support them, it makes change difficult to achieve. So the two things I've been working on is educating people on who the Regents are, and training them and supporting them during the public comment process at the UC Regents meetings. That is my biggest form of leadership. This all goes back again to listening and creating space for people to use their voices.

Further, I'm a UC Student Association organizing director. So the UC Student Association is the one student government for all of the UCs. I work with them on a number of different things at every UC to make structural improvements across the system. For example, last year UCSA advocated for increased funding for CAPS, which resulted in over $15 million in funding for CAPS. This year, we've been working on establishing a collegiate recovery program for students struggling with substance misuse and addiction, and getting a full time CRP staffer. These activities have given me a deep understanding of institutionally how the UCs operate and how UCLA operates as an individual institution, which will allow me to navigate that bureaucracy. 


BPR: I wanted to ask whether you have a personal connection to service or advocacy. What sparked your interest in running for this position is because ultimately, you're doing this for UCLA students?

Chloe Garton: This sounds so cheesy, but I feel that way about all of humankind. If you were to go back and ask everyone I know, from middle school until now, you would know that I've basically only done advocacy and service work. It’s been a very important part of my life. I think life can be so hard and isolating and if you don't have people in your corner, who care about you who are trying to help you, it can get very difficult. It's been my personal mission throughout my life to support people, especially those particularly underserved. And that became a big deal for me in high school when I started to get involved in Best Buddies, which is where you get paired with another student who generally has intellectual developmental disabilities one-on-one. And because my high school had one of the biggest chapters in Illinois, I was able to see how challenging things are for some people, and how socially isolated a lot of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are from basic amenities such as prom, homecoming, or other elements of school life. That's when I first started to get involved with advocacy and service in general. That was my biggest thing in high school and I really enjoyed that. That's motivated a lot of my future endeavors.

I also worked on several political campaigns in my neighborhood because I enjoy connecting with people and hearing what they say. Canvassing is literally just going door to door and asking constituents about issues in my community. I was able to ask them, for example, “What do you think about this?” or “What matters to you?” Through this, I am able to educate people on what's happening in their communities and take into account what's important to them, so I can relay that back to candidates and elected officials. Also, not to go on and on, but also because I am very service-oriented, last summer, I worked for Senator Richard J. Durbin, in Washington, D.C. and I was able to witness firsthand what it's like to serve on the most extreme level. What I learned from him is that, one, your job is not to force your political opinions on things, it's to listen to people on what they want, and to serve them. It is to be flexible and open-minded in that aspect and capable of changing your opinions over time as things change. And then also a big thing that Senator Durbin tries to do is connect with people outside of politics so that politics is easier for them because you have respect for each other.

That's something that I really want to do, by making sure that USAC and UCLA in general is an environment that first and foremost students bring respect into to make advocacy stronger. And I think that’ll help to create a more inclusive environment that's conducive to productive social change.


BPR: As well, I wanted to ask about some of your specific ideas. Could you describe some of the main ideas and values that your campaign is built around?

Chloe Garton: I know I’ve said this countless times, but I just want to reiterate again that I know it's impossible to understand the nuanced and diverse experiences of every single student at UCLA. What I really just want to do is be there to listen and understand to support people so people know that if you are having an issue, I will stand behind you. The other thing is I'm not afraid of the UCLA administration. I know Chancellor Gene Block is leaving, but I am not here to get his recommendation letter. What I really want to do is fight for students and support them to do whatever I can to connect them to the resources that they need. The only way that you can do that is by being available and a good listener.

In terms of specific things that I want to get done, I want to work on prioritizing preventative care. I think that all of the dorms at UCLA need to have fentanyl testing strips. Also, the sexual assault support and infrastructure we have here is horrible. I think that Ronald Reagan needs to have rape kits ASAP. I also think that we need to have free transportation to the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center. And it needs to not be policed. We need to have free and supportive transportation to that center. Those are huge goals. An example of a smaller goal is to have an asynchronous voting day. I'm very passionate about students being involved and feeling empowered. I do think that if we did have no classes on voting day, more people would turn up.


BPR: I am going to touch upon a few of those. In your statement, affordability, equity, and accessibility are a few of the things you wanted to focus on. Starting with affordability, I read that you have a goal of raising the minimum wage to $25 per hour. What's some of the processes that you anticipate you have to go through to make sure this is a feasible goal, because raising the minimum wage is not only a lot of money, it is also a very hard task?

Chloe Garton: I know that that's a very challenging goal to reach. But I also do think to aim higher and find a middle ground. And honestly, I do see this as one of the most challenging things at UCLA, just because UCLA is so stingy with money and student funding. But I do think that it's going to take a lot of student organizing, and it's going to take a lot of protests. But I think we really need to get as many students behind it as possible to sign a petition and get on board to protest the administration to say that students deserve to be making more money. UCLA has the money to be doing that, but they're just funneling it into other resources.


BPR: In terms of equity, you said that you wanted to fight for, or “advocate for funding of unpaid internships, support academic reparations and fight alongside the Opportunity For All campaign.” Can you describe what “support”, “fight”, and “advocate” might mean or look like?

Chloe Garton: I don't know if you know about this, but for this summer, the course 195CE, is offering more scholarships than they usually do, which is the first time that they've ever really provided the level of funding opportunities that they have. If that goes well in the summer, then we can definitely set up meetings with them to expand this. Because I know that student organizing is a lot of what has allowed it to get to this point. If it goes well, we can keep meeting with them, and just keep pushing them in that direction. In terms of academic preparation, it is one of those things that it depends on what each individual group needs at that time, and what they need funding for. But I think for me, I understand that there are so many barriers for marginalized groups on campus and USAC can play a big role in providing opportunities that limit those barriers. For example, provide funding for mental health weeks targeted at certain minority groups to ensure that if UCLA or UC Regents isn't going to give them resources, at least UCLA students can financially support them.


BPR: The last part is accessibility. In a more general sense, why is accessibility and safety particularly an area you want to focus on among all the other issues at UCLA? Are there any other issues that you currently see related to accessibility that UCLA can fix?

Chloe Garton: There are 8 million things UCLA needs to fix about accessibility. Unfortunately, these issues are very easy to turn a blind eye to, because you kind of just accept it. That's what I learned in high school, as a lot of people genuinely don't think about accessibility. A lot of people think that they will not interact with someone with specific types of disabilities and because of that, they are not aware of the kind of resources that people with intellectual developmental disabilities might need. And I know that's not what the whole platform is focused on, but that is something I became aware of.

For example, when I would plan events in high school or college, I was thinking we may need things such as a sign language interpreter or making sure the bus company can come here, and that the bus company has a wheelchair ramp that's working. All of these are little fine tuned specific things that you wouldn't think about unless you had experience or personally had an intellectual or developmental disability. Because I have so many friends that have all this experience in that space, I just feel like I'm hyper aware of it. It's really important to me that every student is able to have equal access to an education. And if there are all these barriers in the way to your success, then you're not having an equal opportunity to education as everyone else's. That's why I think accessibility is super important to me. 


BPR: My last question is about UCPD. You said you wanted to reallocate UCPD funding. What are you looking to reallocate funding for? And what do you anticipate some of the challenges to be when you're lobbying the UCPD?

Chloe Garton: There are so many challenges to that. Obviously, the university doesn't want to get rid of the police because they think that they are creating a safe environment and that they're critical to safety infrastructure. As a result, to reallocate funding, we need to fill that role of the UCPD. For me, I think two of the things that can fill that role is to have more crisis response mental health officials. I've worked in that area and I understand how effective mental health responders are, rather than like police officers, because they have the experience of dealing with mentally ill people. For a lot of the incidents that happen at UCLA, the police aren't necessarily the most equipped to handle that, as their training does not focus on that. And so I think having crisis response mental health officials would be a great way to replace some of those police officers. And on top of that, I think that we should reallocate a lot of the funding into reimbursing transportation to the Santa Monica rape test treatment center. 


BPR: Is there anything else you would like to add that would help others understand you as a candidate?

Chloe Garton: I know I blabbed a lot during this. But again, I am a 20 year old UCLA student just like everyone else at this school. I am not perfect. I am not Joe Biden. I haven't been in American politics for 8 billion years. My only goal is to just help students. The only way I think I can do that is by understanding them, listening to them, and being open-minded. I really want to emphasize that if you want someone that is going to listen to you, and who is going to advocate for you, and  who cares about you, then you should vote for me because that is genuinely what I am dedicated to doing. I don’t have any other ulterior motives. That’s really it. That’s me on paper.



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