A Conversation with the Candidates: Faith Choi for External Vice-President

Lauren Kim, 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): Can you introduce yourself? 

Faith Choi: My name is Faith Choi. I'm an out-of-state student from Massachusetts, specifically the Boston area. I'm double majoring in pre-public affairs and molecular cellular developmental biology.


BPR: What is your current role in USAC?

Faith Choi: Right now, I'm working in the office of the President as the Chief of platforms. I regulate all of the platforms, make sure candidates are running, getting events through, achieving their goals. 


BPR: What inspired you to run for the position of EVP?

Faith Choi: Outside of USAC, I'm involved in a club called UAEM: Universities Allied for Essential Medicine. It’s a lot of legislative work. Recently, I filled the position of Legislative Director in that club and this inspired me to run for EVP, since EVP is mostly governmental work and lobbying at the local, federal, and state level, and that's what we do inside that club. I found that really fulfilling to do, to find out that the work that I do as a college student impacts not just at UCLA, but impacts everybody in the community, and even internationally. I think that everybody at UCLA wants to make an impact on the world, and I think I have the connections and personality to make that possible.


BPR: What are your other qualifications or involvements on campus that would transfer to this role?

Faith Choi: I work as Rieber Hall’s President. In that role I'm also a Reslife funding and advisory member. We give a lot of funds for a lot of student organizations on campus to run their events, and we give staffing to the place as well. That gave me the skills of understanding how some of us come with a preconceived notion of what “normal” means to us. But then you realize, once you're in this role that normal means something different for everyone. That's why you can't really assume what's normal. You have to reach out, talk to people, figure out what they want, what they think. Being able to have all these different voices coming from everywhere, but having to make that decision of where we should allocate these funds. You have to become wise about it to make sure that what we fund goes back to the students. 

I founded my own nonprofit in high school. It's still running right now. It's called ‘Giving Tree’ in Boston. It's a nonprofit that I started because I realized everyone has so many different talents to offer, but it's hard to start that without a big platform. My nonprofit allows other students to start their own projects and have the power to impact the community. I'm a huge believer that in the four years that we're at UCLA, we should be giving back to the community. Ucla exists on certain lands that increases the disparity around us, and we should be working to reverse that.


BPR: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing students at UCLA?

Faith Choi: In my life, I am from a family that was once undocumented struggling with poverty. I see how that's a barrier, especially because as Rieber Hall’s President, one big thing we want to do this year was to change the Constitution so that we could change from a stipend pay to an hourly pay. Right now, people who need money can't get involved inside these activities because they need to be working during that time instead of doing other roles that will further their career. So I think one big thing is increasing the platform for undocumented students. That includes having mentors to help them guide them. One big thing I do want to do if I become EVP  is expand Calfresh eligibility to all undocumented immigrants, not just those above 55.


BPR: Could you give me an elevator pitch for your platform?

Faith Choi: Number one, a big thing I want to do is increase the public affordability of the medicines that we create. A lot of the medicines that we create are literally taken from tax money, but they're extremely expensive, like hundreds of dollars for one pill. People pass away before they get to use these medicines because they're so expensive. I want to work with the UC and Technology Offices to make sure that isn't happening because it's our money. 

Another big thing is creating a sexual assault forensic examination on campus. I know the nearest one is around a 15 min drive to the Santa Monica rape treatment center. But for people who are experiencing it, that could be a long ride, especially if it's at a random time at night, then it's gonna take even longer than that. 

And increasing CAPS. Appointments right now for non UC-SHIP holders are $30 per visit. That's crazy. That's $120 to see them 4 times, and that's the maximum I could see them. 

Another big thing is sustainability. I want to dedicate a single day where UCLA only serves chicken. It would decrease our carbon emissions by a lot.


BPR: Can you summarize what your goals are for Bruins Act? 

Faith Choi: It'd be telling our students about the fact that we have opportunities on campus and increasing those opportunities. Since a huge role of EVP is political activism, making sure that we're actually reflecting UCLA as a whole, and not just what UCLA already represents right now. A really big thing that I want to do is meeting with every student leader from every single student organization to make sure that we're hearing everybody. I would want to do this weekly, Since some student groups overlap with each other, having these leaders create committees within like these weekly meetings allows them to work on different bills together. I think this increases the engagement as far as I could possibly think. If I were to get elected I would start this as soon as possible before anybody leaves campus, so that we're able to keep in contact during the summer. 

Another thing is the Bruin Advocacy Grant. I'm assuming that if we have these weekly meetings, we're gonna have to increase those grants. Right now, I believe it's at 24,000 or 23,000 dollars. I’d want to increase that to maybe 32,000.

Another general thing is the Office of the President is limited to around one email per quarter. That doesn't really make much sense to me: since we are in government, we should be able to communicate with the students themselves, so that they know what's going on. I would be working with the UC Administration to make sure that we're able to send more emails. 

I also would like to table at Bruinwalk like every single week. So people could talk to me and my staff. I could talk about what's going on, and how to get involved. I want to create opportunities for people to get involved constantly, so it's not a closed off thing.


BPR: How will the role of EVP ensure that this plan can be properly executed?

Faith Choi: I think before you try to do anything with the group – this is my experience from starting my own nonprofit and keeping it active – is having personal relationships with every single person that you invite. So actually knowing them as a person, and then letting them know, “I see that you're living this experience.” I think if you're friends with them, and then they become part of whatever you're working on, I think it's inevitable that you're gonna make sure that everything's going smoothly. I would set up a system of making sure that everything's going correctly, have a shared calendar with everybody, and have pre-formatted things that make sure action items are always done. 


BPR: Considering that USAC is meant to represent all UCLA students, what is your plan on balancing political involvement and protecting nonpartisanship?

Faith Choi: I think as the EVP, or any USAC office in general, we should always consider the safety of students first. I don't think this means you have to silence anybody for the safety of others. But if students are having actions that are harming other students, then those actions should be punished. Not necessarily the cause, I think in general anything that involves harming other people, or hate against any single group, is not good, and anything that's meant to uplift, I am for. I think decisions should be made wisely to make sure no students are harmed. 


BPR: If you were elected as EVP, what are some concrete things you would do to increase access on campus?

Faith Choi: I want to first talk about bill SB-59. In a lot of restrooms, we have free menstrual products. It's recommended by the state for public buildings, but not something for every single bathroom. I think we should have it in every single bathroom, because those pads are extremely expensive, and it's also extremely necessary as well. And it could be something that some students can't afford.

Right now, the Pell Grant award is around $7,400 ish, and UCLA in-state tuition is 42 thousand. I will work to increase that maximum to at least 15 thousand. 

Also working with UC Academic Technology Transfer offices to make sure that the greed of our University isn't costing lives, especially when these medicines only take a few cents to make. They shouldn't be over a hundred dollars per pill.

Another thing is Making sure that CalFresh increases to all undocumented immigrants.

EVP gives you the platform to gather these voices, and then talk in offices and tell them “Hey, here's an example of what happened at university, they got rid of their patents. They're still making this much revenue. So, you don't have to worry about losing money just because you get rid of your patents. Not only does it make it affordable to go public, but you still make the same amount of money.”  Being a student representative and being able to show we're all against this, and pressuring them to see change. 


BPR: What are some main issues regarding sustainability you would want to address? 

Faith Choi: One very concrete thing that we could do is change some of our faucets. There are the manual ones, and then the ones that are motion sense. I think you could save a lot of water by changing all the ones inside our dorms to motion sensing ones, because I know that sometimes you just forget to turn it off.  But you know, 2 minutes of thousands of students could add up to a lot. 

Right now in my dorm we have the toilet paper that has no dotted lines where you cut it off. That could lead to some students using more than they think, because they're not really sure. So changing to C-fold toilet paper could save a lot on the resources that we use, because, you know, especially in states like California, where droughts are a thing, we should really be saving the water because these natural resources are depletable. 

Especially people who don't come from places that have droughts, they don't understand that these resources have a really big impact on certain families. So for them it's like, “Hey, free water! We paid like thousands of dollars. Why not use a lot of hot water while we can?”

And I think we should make one day Vegan, or two days chicken-only, because the carbon footprint of chicken is way less than beef, pork, or lamb.


BPR: How do your sustainable policies build upon UCLA’s pre-existing efforts? 

Faith Choi: I want to pay attention to what our vendors are also doing. Because Panda Express definitely doesn't use anything sustainable. 

I want to see more compostable things. The things that I'm proposing are things that are very easy to do, and because it will change multiple little things. But they're not small, because there are thousands of students per building, and we have a lot of dorms. These small changes that don't cost much will help us in the long run and help the communities around us that need that water as well.

The current EVP proposed some things like I would want to work on as well. I want to build upon what she has proposed, in terms of transparency and decreasing student power. Administration is taking more power, but at the same time they don't give us transparency with what the student funded budget is being used on. They're always asking me to increase our fees, but they always have 40% of their budget left. They don't tell us what they're doing with it. 


BPR: What is something that you would want students to know about you as a person?

Faith Choi: Anybody who has met me has probably met me because I reached out to them first, to compliment them and ask, “Hey, what's your name?” So just knowing that I have the personality of somebody who will always reach out first and be very inviting, and I always think about people who may not be heard and not just what I think will be most popular. I'm a very outgoing, friendly person, and will consider your needs over my own needs.


BPR: What would you be the most excited to accomplish as EVP?

Faith Choi: I'm so excited about everything that I've listed. But I think what's most rewarding out of all of this, and something that I've seen from these positions is being able to be a leader that gives other people that chance to have a moment. Being able to help UCLA students realize that “Hey, you are a leader,” so that when they go out into the world they're able to take that confidence. To put in simple words, expanding their mindsets to know that so many things are possible. 



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